Onset of Neck Pain After a Motor Vehicle Accident: A Case-control Study


Onset of Neck Pain After a Motor Vehicle Accident: A Case-control Study

Wiles NJ, Jones GT, Silman AJ, Macfarlane GJ

From the ARC Epidemiology Unit and the
Unit of Chronic Disease Epidemiology,
Division of Epidemiology and Health Sciences,
University of Manchester,
Manchester, United Kingdom

OBJECTIVE:   To assess the relative contribution of constitutional (individual) factors, pre-accident health, psychological and workplace psychosocial factors, and accident related (mechanical) factors in the development of neck pain (whiplash) following a motor vehicle accident.

METHODS:   We conducted a case-control study of drivers (ages 17-70 yrs) who reported a motor vehicle accident to their insurance company. A self-report mailed questionnaire retrospectively collected information on the driver’s pre- and post-accident health, details of the accident, and other exposure data. Case/control status (post-accident neck pain) was ascertained using a preshaded manikin.

RESULTS:   In total, 26% of drivers reported post-accident neck pain. Women, younger individuals, and those with a history of neck pain were more likely to report neck pain following their accident (OR 1.50, 95% CI 0.98, 2.28; OR 1.62, 95% CI 0.96, 2.74; OR 1.75, 95% CI 1.09, 2.81, respectively). In addition, a number of accident related and psychosocial factors were independently associated with reporting post-accident neck pain: collision from behind (OR 2.55, 95% CI 1.41, 4.62); vehicle stationary at impact (OR 1.93, 95% CI 1.12, 3.33); collision severity (upper vs lowest tertile: OR 16.1, 95% CI 8.64, 30.1); not being at fault (OR 2.61, 95% CI 1.49, 4.59); and monotonous work (OR 2.19, 95% CI 1.19, 4.04). Based on these 8 factors, the likelihood of having neck pain increased from 7% with < 2 risk factors to 62% with > 5.

CONCLUSION:   Development of neck pain after a motor vehicle accident is a complex phenomenon resulting from the combined effects of constitutional, mechanical, and psychosocial factors. Using 8 such variables it is possible to identify those at high risk of developing neck pain.