Neck Disability: 30-Years Post Whiplash


Review by Dan Murphy, D.C


Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery – British Volume,
Volume 92-B, Issue 6, pp. 853-855
J. Rooker, M. Bannister, R. Amirfeyz, B. Squires, M. Gargan, G. Bannister

Key Points

  1. This is the longest study of whiplash-injured patients that I have seen in the PubMed database: a 30-year follow-up study. The results are: tablemurphy
  2. Between 15.5 year and 30 years, neck disability had improved in 45.5% of patients, remained the same in 45.5% of patients, and deteriorated in 9.1% of patients.
  3. 45.5% of whiplash-injured patients had made a full recovery 30 years after being injured.
  4. About 15% of whiplash-injured patients have significant symptoms and impairments 30 years after being injured.
  5. Although most whiplash-injured patient will have reached maximum improvement by 2 years after injury, this study shows that some (9.1%) are continuing to deteriorate 30 years after being injured.
  6. At two years after injury, about 50% of whiplash-injured patients are completely recovered, and about 50% will have ongoing symptoms. 4.5% of whiplash-injured patients will suffer from severe symptoms 2 years after injury.
  7. Whiplash-injured patients with a disability often develop an abnormal psychological profile.
  8. Age related spinal degeneration advances with age. In this study, 30 years after being injured, 91% of the whiplash-injured patients either improved or remained the same between 15 and 30 years after being injured. This suggests that chronic whiplash symptoms are not linked to age-related advancing of spinal degeneration.

Once again, this study shows that a significant number of those injured in whiplash trauma will suffer with chronic symptoms. Thirty years after being injured:
45% are completely recovered.
40% retain nuisance symptoms.
15% have significant symptoms and impairments, requiring ongoing treatment.

Psychological distress is common in the chronic group.
It is not unusual for maximum improvement to take 2 years.
Most patients with chronic symptoms at 2 years will continue to have chronic symptoms 30 years later.


dan-murphyDr. Dan Murphy graduated magna cum laude from Western States Chiropractic College in 1978. He received Diplomat status in Chiropractic Orthopedics in 1986. Since 1982, Dr. Murphy has served part-time as undergraduate faculty at Life Chiropractic College West, currently teaching classes to seniors in the management of spinal disorders. He has taught more than 2000 postgraduate continuing education seminars.  Dr. Murphy is a contributing author to both editions of the book Motor Vehicle Collision Injuries and to the book Pediatric Chiropractic. Hundreds of detailed Article Reviews, pertinent to chiropractors and their patients, are available at Dr. Murphy’s web page,

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