Can there really be a link between Whiplash and Fibromyalgia?

It’s estimated that up to 50% of whiplash associated disorder (WAD) patients develop chronic symptoms. These symptoms include neck and upper back pain, headache, dizziness, emotional and cognitive disturbance, referred pain, and physical dysfunctions. Fibromyalgia (FM) is a condition that is also characterized by long-term, persistent symptoms.  Such symptoms include chronic widespread musculoskeletal pain, sleep disturbance, cognitive disturbance, fatigue, and physical dysfunctions. Both Whiplash and Fibromyalgia patients share similar chronic, debilitating signs and symptoms. Why is this so?

In one study, researchers evaluate cognitive loss, central sensitization, and health-related quality of life (QoL) in chronic whiplash patients. Fibromyalgia patients and individuals without any known chronic conditions, serve as a control group. Participants in both the WAD and FM group exhibited significant cognitive impairment, central sensitization, and decreased health-related QoL.  This suggests that brain injury plays a significant role in each condition.

In WAD injuries, the mechanism of injury causes cognitive loss.  Cognitive loss is the brain’s inability to process information. This appears to arise from the brain slamming into the inside of the skull. In a classic rear-end collision, the brain first hits the back of the brain casing. Then follows by rebounding into the front of the skull. This causes a concussion.

A 2011 study found that among 58 women who admit to the emergency room for a whiplash injury, three met the clinical criteria for Fibromyalgia three years later.  Again, another 2011 study found that among 326 whiplash patients with persistent neck pain lasting longer than three months, up to 14% met the criteria for Fibromyalgia. Based on these findings, it’s clear that the whiplash process is a strong contributing factor for developing Fibromyalgia. Indeed, a 2015 study that looked at the health history of 939 Fibromyalgia patients identified trauma as a precipitating factor in 27% of cases.

While we typically associated whiplash with motor vehicle accident, such injuries can also occur in sport accident, physical assaults, and falling. It is possible that a greater percent of Fibromyalgia cases may be due to trauma the participant simply wasn’t able to recall. Emotional trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder have also been related with an elevated risk for Fibromyalgia. The disease process for Fibromyalgia is hard to understand.  In cases when the cause is not recalled, it’s possible the condition could be the result of a cumulation of factors, including whiplash.

Nonetheless, it’s clear that chronic Whiplash and Fibromyalgia are potentially debilitating conditions.  Seeking treatment after a trauma, such as a motor vehicle collision, is important for mitigating the risk for chronic symptoms. The good news is that both Fibromyalgia and Whiplash patients respond very well to chiropractic careDr Lamperski is trained to examine, diagnose, and treat those presenting with Fibromyalgia and whiplash. Studies have reported that the the addition of spinal adjustment aids in recovery in acute and chronic whiplash, as well as Fibromyalgia.

Dr. Travis Lamperski is a Board Certified Chiropractic Physician.  Dr. Lamperski opened Palm Beach Chiropractic & Rehabilitation in 2016.  The conditions treated range from orthopedic injuries such as lumbar disc herniations and shoulder rotator cuff tendinitis to Personal Injury cases.  Reach the office at 561-708-5700 and at