Do Auto Accidents Increase the Risk of Widespread Pain?

November 12, 2014 in STSMPT

Auto accidents, especially auto accidents with whiplash injuries, may increase the risk of chronic widespread (WP) pain by 40% or more.   Physical therapy can help control pain after auto accidents and improve long-term outcomes, especially in cases of whiplash associated disorder.


Patients often attribute the onset of WP to a past physical trauma such as an auto accident, especially auto accidents with spinal injuries.  Among patients with whiplash associated disorders, the prevalence of widespread pain has been measured as high as 21% early after the motor vehicle collision.1   In a study published by the Annals of Rheumatic Disease, Dr. Wynne-Jones and colleagues explored the question of whether motor vehicle accidents increased the risk of new onset widespread pain.2


Wynn-Jones et al. surveyed 465 people in motor vehicle crashes and 132 people who had not been in crashes.  They asked about new onset WP that began six months after the auto accident or later. The researchers found that people in automobile accidents proved 40% more likely to have new onset widespread pain.


For auto accidents, physical therapy in the acute phase of the injury is an important tool for enhanced pain control and improved outcomes.  Compared to late therapy and no therapy, therapy within 96 hours of the auto accident creates better pain outcomes and better function outcomes.3


Keep us in mind for helping you or your loved ones recover fully from accidents and beat chronic widespread pain.



  1. Holm L, Carroll L, Cassidy J, et al. Widespread pain following whiplash-associated disorders: incidence, course, and risk factors. J Rheumatol. 2007; 34 (1): 193-200.
  2. Wynne-Jones G, Macfarlane G, Silman A, Jones Does physical trauma lead to an increase in the risk of new onset widespread pain? Ann Rheum Dis. 2006; 65: 391-393.
  3. Rosenfeld M, Seferiadis A, Carlsson UJ, et al. Active intervention in patients with whiplash associated disorders improves long term prognosis. A randomised controlled clinical trial. Spine 2003, 28, 2491-2498.

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