Mechanisms underlying chronic whiplash: Contributions from an incomplete spinal cord injury?

James M. Elliott*, Julius P.A. Dewald, T. George Hornby, David M. Walton, Todd B. Parrish

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Objective: To explore the association between findings on advanced, but available, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) sequences of the cervical spinal cord and muscular system, in tandem with biomechanical measures of maximum volitional plantar flexion torques as a proxy for a mild incomplete spinal cord injury. Design: Observational case series. Setting: University research laboratory. Subjects: Three patients with chronic whiplash and one patient with history of whiplash injury but no current symptoms. Methods: We measured lower extremity muscle fat, morphological changes in descending spinal cord pathways with advanced MRI applications and maximal activation of the plantar flexors. Results: Larger magnitudes of lower extremity muscle fat corresponded to altered spinal cord anatomy and reductions in the ability to maximally activate plantar flexor torques in the three subjects with chronic whiplash. Such findings were not present in the recovered participant. Conclusions: The potential value of MRI to quantify neuromuscular degeneration in chronic whiplash is recognized. Larger scaled prospective studies are warranted before stronger conclusions can be drawn.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1938-1944
Number of pages7
JournalPain Medicine (United States)
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 1 2014


  • MRI
  • Neck (Pain)
  • Neurology
  • Spinal Cord
  • Whiplash

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine


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