Division of Physiotherapy,
School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences,
The University of Queensland,
St. Lucia 4072, Australia
The development of chronic symptoms following whiplash injury is common and contributes substantially to costs associated with this condition. The currently used Quebec Task Force classification system of whiplash associated disorders is primarily based on the severity of signs and symptoms following injury and its usefulness has been questioned.
Recent evidence is emerging that demonstrates differences in physical and psychological impairments between individuals who recover from the injury and those who develop persistent pain and disability. Motor dysfunction, local cervical mechanical hyperalgesia and psychological distress are present soon after injury in all whiplash injured persons irrespective of recovery.
In contrast those individuals who develop persistent moderate/severe pain and disability show a more complex picture, characterized by additional impairments of widespread sensory hypersensitivity indicative of underlying disturbances in central pain processing as well as acute posttraumatic stress reaction, with these changes present from soon after injury.
Based on this heterogeneity a new classification system is proposed that takes into account measurable disturbances in motor, sensory and psychological dysfunction. The implications for the management of this condition are discussed.