Some might call it a shortcoming of the medical profession. Others do call it an opportunity for the industry to address. The issue in question is what is known as motor vehicle collision-related widespread pain.
The problem, one pain research statistician says, is that the condition is subject to diagnostic error that can result in the patient suffering unremitting pain as much as a year after the accident that caused the injury in the first place.
Many readers may be aware of the association between car accidents and victims suffering whiplash. But what the researcher from the University of North Carolina seems to suggest is that what presents as whiplash in the aftermath of a crash may be just the first sign of bigger issues that may be sustained a year later or more.
According to this woman’s research, more than 4 million adults go to the emergency room in the U.S. every year after a car accident. Most go home and recover, but a subset of them goes on to endure substantial pain and possible loss of function.
To explore the issue the researcher and her colleagues assembled a pool of 895 car crash victims who went to the ER and were sent home. They then followed up with evaluations at six weeks, six months and at one year. Most patients recovered fully within six months. But 78 reported that pain intensified in the weeks just after the crash and that it remained constant and widespread one year later.
The results of this study are apparently yet to be published in a peer-reviewed journal, but the researcher says she believes the work should prod doctors to be more attentive to the issue of persistent widespread pain and to begin treatment early, instead of expecting the pain to resolve on its own.