Sterling M, Treleaven J, Jull G.
Department of Physiotherapy,
The University of Queensland,
St Lucia, Australia
Involvement of nerve tissue may contribute to the persistence of pain following a whiplash injury. This study aimed to investigate responses to the brachial plexus provocation test (BPPT) in 156 subjects with chronic whiplash associated disorder (WAD) with and without associated arm pain and 95 asymptomatic control subjects. The range of elbow extension (ROM) and visual analogue scale (VAS) pain scores were measured.
Subjects with chronic WAD demonstrated significantly less ROM and higher VAS scores with the BPPT than the asymptomatic subjects (P<0.001). These effects occurred bilaterally. Within the whiplash population, subjects whose arm pain was reproduced by the BPPT demonstrated significantly less ROM on both the symptomatic and asymptomatic sides when compared to the whiplash subjects whose arm pain was not reproduced by the BPPT (P=0.003) and significantly less ROM and higher VAS scores than those whiplash subjects with no arm pain (P=0.003, 0.01). Only the whiplash subjects whose arm pain was reproduced by the BPPT demonstrated differences between the symptomatic and asymptomatic sides. These generalized hyperalgesic responses to the BPPT support the hypothesis of central nervous system hypersensitivity as contributing to persistent pain experienced by WAD patients.