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NEWS ITEMS - News-2014

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VUB studies show that problems with concentration, memory, and reactions are genuine.

Whiplash reduces natural pain alleviation in the victim’s body

Researchers at the Free University of Brussels under the direction of Professor Jo Nijs have confirmed that the problems experienced by people with chronic whiplash are genuine. Moreover, the body’s own pain alleviation diminishes increasingly from the first month after the accident. These findings have recently appeared in scientific journals such as The Lancet and Clinical Rheumatology.

A neck jerk trauma or whiplash is a neck injury which is often the result of a rear-end collision in the car. Thankfully, most people recover naturally from a whiplash, certainly if they receive the correct treatment i.e. professional advice and supervision by a therapist or physiotherapist without additional treatment.

However, if the victim doesn’t recover naturally, the medical world is often baffled. The patient is in increasing pain and has other complaints such as loss of concentration, faulty short-term memory etc. In contrast to those complaints, this condition gives little away when it comes to tests with the help of medical conceptualisation, or at least not enough to explain the patient’s often complex complaint image. In the meantime, extensive scientific research in Belgium and abroad has shed some light on the matter to help us explain chronic whiplash syndrome.

Most people with chronic whiplash have an overstrung central nervous system. This explains the growing pain complaints and the hypersensitivity to various stimulants such as daylight and stress. The Free University of Brussels has recently shown that the body is no longer capable of activating its own pain alleviation. As early as the first month after the accident, the body starts to experience problems in setting its natural pain alleviation in motion.
Furthermore, about 40% of Belgian patients with chronic whiplash also suffer from post-traumatic stress. This concurs with observations that the biological stress systems in the bodies of people with chronic whiplash are often no longer capable of reacting properly to (daily) stress factors. The reduced concentration, short-term memory problems, and slower reaction times are other ‘brain problems’ which are characteristic of whiplash and have been objectified recently in studies at the Free University of Brussels.
“Chronic whiplash-associated disorders: to exercise or not?”
Nijs J, Ickmans K.
The Lancet, Early Online Publication, 4 April 2014; doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(14)60130-6.

“Interrelationships between pain processing, cortisol and cognitive performance in chronic whiplash associated disorders”
Meeus M, Van Oosterwijck J, Ickmans K, Baert I, Coppiters I, Roussel N, Struyf F, Pattyn N, Nijs J.
Clinical Rheumatology 2014: in press.

“Changes in pain modulation occur soon after whiplash trauma but are not related to altered perception of distorted visual feedback”
Daenen L, Nijs J, Cras P, Wouters K, Roussel N.
Pain Practice 2014: in press.

“Evidence for central sensitization in chronic whiplash: A systematic literature review”
Van Oosterwijck J, Nijs J, Meeus M, Paul L.
European Journal of Pain 2013;17:p.299-312.
More information:
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Sicco Wittermans – Press relations, Free University of Brussels,
tel. 0032-(0)2-6292137 or 0032-(0)473-964137