Fibromyalgia incidences are low in acute whiplash injury. Fibromyalgia is a chronic pain condition, which affects women more than men. Little is known about the exact cause of fibromyalgia, but there are many circulating theories behind the cause.
Research suggests that fibromyalgia results in a change in the central nervous system, which increases pain perception. Genetics, emotional stress, physical trauma, or infection can contribute to this change.
One study found that experiencing whiplash injury could result in some cases of fibromyalgia. The researchers of the study found that one-quarter of the participants reported experiencing a serious physical trauma which triggered fibromyalgia. Infections, too, contributed to fibromyalgia, including flu, pneumonia, and Epstein-Barr virus.
Further analysis found that fibromyalgia linked to motor vehicle accidents occurs more suddenly. When physical trauma is involved, fibromyalgia patients generally have more limited physical function, compared to patients of fibromyalgia without physical injury, as a factor for a more gradual onset.
Fibromyalgia can negatively impact a person’s quality of life, as chronic pain may limit their abilities to work and participate in everyday activities. Even getting out of bed may be a difficult task some days for fibromyalgia patients.
In an alternative study published in RMD Open, the researchers concluded that it was unlikely that car accidents and the resulting whiplash injury could contribute to fibromyalgia. Prevalence of fibromyalgia in the general population is 2.2 percent, whereas the occurrence of fibromyalgia one year after whiplash injury is 0.8 percent.
Researcher Robert Ferrari evaluated consecutive whiplash patients who entered a primary care facility within 14 days of injury. Dr. Ferrari consulted a total of 268 patients at the three-months, six-months, and one-year mark. They were asked if they felt they had recovered from their injuries and assessed for fibromyalgia.
At three months, six months, and one year, 62 percent, 76 percent, and 82 percent, respectively, reported recovery from injuries. Additionally, at three months, none of the patients met the criteria for fibromyalgia. At six months, three patients met the criteria, but had other conditions. And at the one-year mark, two patients met the criteria with no other explanation for their symptoms.
Dr. Ferrari wrote, “The results are not surprising, as 80% of the acute whiplash-injured participants had recovered at 1 year. This leaves only 20% who could be at risk for fibromyalgia. When one examines the non-recovered participants, however, even though they have chronic pain and disability, they often report very localized pain disorders, such as chronic headache, chronic neck pain only, or even chronic low back pain only.”
Although it may still remain debatable whether or not fibromyalgia is linked with physical trauma, there is still evidence to support it, and so it should not be ruled out completely.
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