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Whiplash Associated Disorders. J. Scott Bainbridge, MD Denver Back Pain Specialists www.denverbackpainspecialists.com. Definition.

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Whiplash associated disorders

Whiplash Associated Disorders

J. Scott Bainbridge, MD

Denver Back Pain Specialists



  • Quebec Task Force on Whiplash-Associated-Disorders redefined the term in 1995 as “an acceleration-deceleration mechanism of energy transfer to the neck which may result from rear-end or side impact, predominately in MVAs, and from other mishaps.


  • The energy transfer may result in bony or soft tissue injuries (whiplash injury), which may in turn lead to a wide variety of clinical manifestations (whiplash Associated Disorders)”.

Wad scope of problem
WAD – Scope of Problem

  • Yearly Incidence 4/1,000 (.8-8)

  • $3.9 billion/yr in USA, $29 b w litigation

  • 4-42% of pts w MVA related neck injuries with sx several yrs later

Quebec classification
Quebec Classification

  • Grade 0: No neck c/o or PE signs

  • Grade I: Neck c/o pain, stiffness or tenderness but no PE signs

  • Grade II: Neck c/o AND mskl signs

  • Grade III: Neck c/o AND neuro signs

  • Grade IV: Neck c/o AND fracture or dislocation

Mva spectrum beyond wad
MVA – Spectrum Beyond WAD

  • Cervicothoracic

  • Other Musculoskeletal

  • Brain Injury, Post Concussive Syndrome

  • Other Neurological

  • Vestibular Dysfunction

  • Psychological

  • Social/Economic/Litigation

Motion analysis of c spine during whiplash loading
Motion Analysis of C-Spine During Whiplash Loading

  • Kaneoka, et al; Spine 24:8 pp 763-770

  • 10 males – sled glided back into damper at 4 km/hr

  • Cineradiography of C-spine

  • Each vertebra’s rotational angle and C5-6 instantaneous axes of rotation quantified

  • SEMG of SCM and C-paraspinals

Pathological forces
Pathological Forces

  • 8 km/hr 5 mph

  • 135 N


  • Facet: synovial fold (meniscoid) impingement, facet capsular subcatastrophic failure, capsular failure w/wo fracture or subluxation, microfracture – cart/bone

  • Disc rim lesions/herniation, anterior vs. posterior

  • Neural

  • Muscular

  • Start or speed degenerative cascade

Degenerative cascade
Degenerative Cascade

  • Three Joint Complex

    • Two Zygapophyseal joints (facets joints)

    • Intervertebral disk

  • pathologic changes in one part results in changes in other segments


Degenerative cascade segmental dysfunction
Degenerative Cascade – Segmental Dysfunction

  • reactive z-joint synovitis

    • Inflammation & joint pain

Degenerative cascade segmental dysfunction1
Degenerative Cascade – Segmental Dysfunction

  • articular cartilage z-joint degeneration

Degenerative cascade instability phase
Degenerative Cascade – Instability Phase

  • Annular fibers less competent

  • Disc protrusions

Uncovertebral joints joints of luschka
Uncovertebral Joints - Joints of Luschka

  • Uncinate processes hook posterolaterally between one vertebra & the base of the next

  • With shearing stresses to anular tissue, degenerative spurs begin to develop in teenage years

  • Spurring can cause foraminal stenosis

Degenerative cascade instability phase1
Degenerative Cascade – Instability Phase


Foraminal narrowing

Degenerative cascade stabilization phase
Degenerative Cascade – Stabilization Phase

  • foraminal stenosis

  • radiculopathy

  • central spinal stenosis

Degenerative cascade stabilization phase1
Degenerative Cascade – Stabilization Phase

  • ankylosis of motion segment

  • multilevel degenerative changes & spondylosis

Cervical z joint pain
Cervical Z Joint Pain

  • Prevalence of chronic cervical z-joint pain after whiplash injuries: 60% (Lord, Spine, 1996)

  • Z Joint pain referral patterns characterized with provocative injections (Dwyer)

  • Imaging is unremarkable

  • Confirm suspicions with dx intra-articular z-jt injections or medial branch blockade


Z-joint Referral Patterns




Thoracic Z-joint Referral Patterns










Posterior Tear facet joints.”

with epidural




Grubb, Kelly. facet joints.”

Spine 25:1382-1389, 2000

Cervical Discography

Pain Referral Patterns

173 discograms,

404 positive


>50% with >3 positive discs






Provocative cervical discography slipman nass 2002

C2-3 facet joints.”

Provocative Cervical DiscographySlipman NASS 2002



Provocative cervical discography slipman nass 20021

C5-6 facet joints.”

Provocative Cervical DiscographySlipman NASS 2002



Treatment acute
Treatment - Acute facet joints.”

  • Oral Steroids?

  • NSAIDs?

  • Immobilize?

  • Early Therapy?


Treatment facet joints.”

Facet Joints

Treatment of facet injury
Treatment of Facet Injury facet joints.”

  • Manual Therapy

  • Postural Education

  • Neuromuscular Reeducation/Stability

  • Cervical Traction

  • Spinal Injections

  • Surgical Stabilization

Manual therapy
Manual Therapy facet joints.”

  • Grade 1: Small amplitude, beginning range

  • Grade 2: Large amp, resistance free

  • Grade 3: Large amp into resistance (MET)

  • Grade 4: Small amp well into resis (HVLA)

  • Grade 5: Past end-range

Spinal injection nerve ablation
Spinal Injection/Nerve Ablation facet joints.”

  • Intraarticular Corticosteroid

  • Facet Denervation (Lord,et al; NEJM 1996; 335:1721-6)

Treatment of disk disorders
Treatment of Disk Disorders facet joints.”

  • Posture/ Spine Stability Training

  • Cervical Traction

  • Treat Assoc Muscle/Facet Disorders

  • Spinal Injections

  • Surgical (ACDF, other); Treatment for axial neck pain?

Surgical intervention
Surgical Intervention facet joints.”

  • Neurological Compromise

  • Axial Pain?

Treatment of muscle disorders
Treatment of Muscle Disorders facet joints.”

  • Massage: CMT, self, theracane

  • Postural Educ

  • Neuromuscular Reeducation/Stability

  • Biofeedback

  • Trigger Point Injections/Acupuncture

  • Botulinum Toxin: Botox/Myoblock

Movement dysfunction dynamic stability and muscle balance of the cervical spine

Movement Dysfunction facet joints.” Dynamic Stabilityand Muscle Balanceof the Cervical Spine

Segmental dysfunction
Segmental Dysfunction facet joints.”

Movement dysfunction
Movement Dysfunction facet joints.”

Local stability segmental control
Local stability segmental control facet joints.”

  • The segmental stability of the spine is dependent on recruitment of the deep local stability muscles

  • The spine will fail if local activity is insufficient even if the global muscles work strongly

  • 1 –3 % MVC  muscle stiffness significantly increases stability

  • 25% MVC = optimal stiffness & stability

    (Cholewicki & McGill 1996, Crisco & Panjabi 1991,

    Hoffer & Andreasson 1981)

Inhibition facet joints.”

  • Inhibition: failure of normal recruitment

    • poor recruitment under low threshold stimulus

    • delayed recruitment timing

    • altered recruitment sequencing

      Inhibition ‘off’

Afferent input recruitment
Afferent Input & Recruitment facet joints.”

  • Recruitment is partially due to the influence of proprioceptive activity

  • Proprioceptive afferent (γ loop) input is essential for tonic (low threshold) recruitment

  • Sensation of effort is linked to recruitment

    • (Eccles et al. 1957, Grimby & Hannerz 1976)

Proprioception and pathology
Proprioception and Pathology facet joints.”

  • Whiplash patients have significant  in ability to reposition head after movement

    • worse with mid range movement than end range

    • worse in direction of injury mechanism (flex/ext)

  • Kinesthetic accuracy improves with specific proprioceptive exercise

    (Loudow et al 1997, Revel et al 1991 1994, Heikkla & Astrom 1996)

Evidence of local dysfunction
Evidence of Local Dysfunction facet joints.”

  • Uncontrolled segmental translation

  • Segmental change within cross-sectional area

  • Altered pattern of low threshold recruitment

  • Motor recruitment timing deficit

    • (review: Comerford & Mottram 2001)

Control of neutral low load recruitment in neutral

Test for ability of anterior local stability muscles to control neutral (longus & RCAnt)

Control of Neutrallow load recruitment in neutral

Deep cervical flexor dysfunction

Control control neutral (longus & RCAnt)

Can control greater range of 2mm Hg increments (up to 28 from baseline of 20) than WAD

Less superficial muscle activity


Can only control low increments (from baseline of 20 up to 23)

Less consistent duration of hold

More superficial muscle activity

Deep cervical flexor dysfunction

Jull 2000

Deep cervical flexor dysfunction1
Deep cervical flexor dysfunction control neutral (longus & RCAnt)

  • identified in different pathological situations

    • Whiplash Associated Disorder (Jull 2000)

    • Post-concussional headache (Treleaven et al 1994)

    • Cervical headache (Watson & Trott 1993,Jull et al 1999)

    • Mechanical neck pain

      (Silverman et al 1991, White & Sahrmann 1994, Jull 1998)

Dysfunction in global mobility system
Dysfunction in control neutral (longus & RCAnt)Global Mobility System

  • Myofascial shortening which limits physiological and / or accessory motion

  • Overactive low load or low threshold recruitment

  • Reacts to pain and pathology with spasm

Dysfunction related to pathology
Dysfunction related to pathology control neutral (longus & RCAnt)


  • Able to hold head flexed and maintain position against light resistance

    Cervical pain

  •  cervical lordosis

  • Inability to hold head flexed in supine

    • Lose position into chin poke &  lordosis due to long weak longus cervicus that is compensated for by excessive scalenae and sterno-mastoid

      • (White & Sahrmann 1994)

Relative stiffness relative flexibility sahrmann 2002
Relative Stiffness/Relative Flexibility control neutral (longus & RCAnt)(Sahrmann 2002)

  • If 1 joint muscles lack ability to adequately shorten or are “weak” - they allow excessive motion

  • If 2 joint muscles lack extensibility or are overactive- they limit normal motion which must be compensated for elsewhere in the movement system

Dysfunction related to pathology1

Normal control neutral (longus & RCAnt)

Flex / ext ROM

C5-6 (18o)

C4-5 (17o)


C5-6 (3.2mm)

C4-5 (3.2mm)

(Dvorak 1988, White et al 1975)


Flex / ext ROM

C5-6  (8o)

C4-5  (23o)


C5-6  (1mm)

C4-5  (6mm)

(Singer et al 1983)

Dysfunction related to pathology

Cervical discogenic pathology

Treatment summary
Treatment Summary control neutral (longus & RCAnt)

Dual approach:

  • Treat the pathology

  • Identify and correct the dynamic stability dysfunction which may precipitate pathology

  • Control of neutral by integration of local stabilisers into global function

  • Retrain dynamic control of the direction of stability dysfunction (especially rotation)

  • Retrain tonic, through range control of the global stabilisers

  • Actively regain extensibility of the global mobilisers

Alternative approaches
‘Alternative’ Approaches control neutral (longus & RCAnt)

  • Tai Chi

  • Alexander technique

  • Yoga

  • Pilates

  • Physio ball (Swiss ball)

  • Feldenkrais

Treat whole person
Treat Whole Person control neutral (longus & RCAnt)

  • Psychology

  • Work

  • Family

  • Secondary Gain Dynamics