Whiplash Injury and Surgically Treated Cervical Disc Disease




Key Points from Dan Murphy, D.C.

 1) The purpose of this study was to determine if whiplash injury predisposes to surgically proven cervical disc degeneration.

2) 11% of the whiplash-injured patients required cervical disc surgery, while only 5% of the control population required cervical disc surgery. Therefore, the cervical disc surgery rate was more than doubled in the whiplash-injured group.

3) Although both the whiplash injury group and the control population were age matched, the mean age for surgery in the whiplash-injured group was 45 years and for the control non-injured group it was 55 years. This 10-year difference was “significantly less.”

4) “This study demonstrates an increased association between whiplash injury and cervical disc disease.” These authors reference a number of studies that make these points:

A) Acute post-traumatic cervical angular kyphosis developed into frank cervical spine degenerative change within 5 to 7 years. (1974)

B) The prevalence of degenerative changes in the cervical spine in patients with whiplash in their 4th and 5th decade were equivalent to those found in the control population that were 10 and 20 years older. (1991)

C) MRI findings of cervical hyperextension injuries showed separation of the cervical disc from the endplate, anterior annular tears, occult anterior vertebral endplate fractures, and anterior longitudinal ligament injuries at multiple levels. (1991)

D) A study was “unable to demonstrate that psychosocial stress played any role in the outcome of whiplash injury.” (1991)

E) Four studies “demonstrated that patients continued to experience symptoms after settlement of litigation, suggesting that financial gain played little part.” (1964, 1965, 1975, 1990)

5) “These data suggest that the symptoms and signs of whiplash injury cannot be attributed solely to psychological factors and the organic pathology is a more constant explanation.”

6) “This study provides further evidence that whiplash injury causes structural changes predisposing to premature degenerative disc disease.”


Dr. 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, www.danmurphydc.com.

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