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Whiplash can lead to chronic pain, and it can be predicted

Whiplash is typically thought of as a frustrating but ultimately short-term injury that heals in a few days or weeks. However, some researchers have found that it can actually lead to chronic pain in roughly one out of every four cases. It can last for months in some cases, years in others, and it can even be disabling.

For those who are wondering how serious their injuries are, there may be a way to tell. Some doctors have been using MRI imaging systems in the first 14 days after the accidents, and, through the data that they gather, they can predict who will heal quickly and who will have chronic pain. They can also determine who could be disabled and who could have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Never before has this been predicted so far in advance.

What the scientists discovered was that the MRI could be used to look at the ratio of fat to water in a person's muscles. When increased amounts of fat moved to the neck muscles, researchers could see that they were suffering from rather rapid atrophy of those muscles, which meant the chances of long-term impacts were higher.

Some may argue that body type would play a role, but the researchers say that the size and shape of the body doesn't seem to factor in. People of all body types show the same results, and they are consistent.

With whiplash, spinal cord injuries, and the like, the presence of chronic symptoms can have a huge impact on necessary treatments, the use of medication, a person's ability to work, and many other factors that can play into how much compensation is needed after an accident in Ontario.

Source: Northwestern University, "Predicting Chronic Pain in Whiplash Injuries," Marla Paul, accessed Oct. 15, 2015

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