If you've had a whiplash injury, you may also have experienced reduced movement or other functioning in your neck, shoulders and/or upper back area. Can you expect to make a full recovery - i.e. will you get back to the way you were before the accident?
The short answer is - I don't know. But one thing you may want to look at in terms of your recovery is your how much fear of movement you have. Researchers from the University of Washington, Department of Rehabilitation, divided 191 people who had experienced whiplash associated disorders (and still had symptoms 3 months before the study began) into 3 treatment groups. The first group got an information booklet that talked about whiplash associated disorders and why getting back to your usual activities is so important for your recovery. The 2nd group was privy to didactic discussions and the 3rd received actual treatment and diagnostic imaging. The treatment was called "exposure desensitization to feared activities" and as the name suggests was about exposing the patients in that group to movement and things to do that they were scared of due to their whiplash symptoms.
The researchers found that reducing the fear of movement predicted improvement in neck disability more than anything else. Groups 2 and 3 - i.e. those patients who had actual treatment sessions, did the best, with the Group 3 participants faring best of all. Reduction in pain and depression also led to improvements in neck functioning.
And a review of 221 studies publishing in Spine Journal in 2008 found that about 50% of people with whiplash associated disorders report symptoms a year after the inciting incident. This review also found that more pain and disability right after the accident and more symptoms resulted in a slower recovery over time. The researchers report that psychological factors such as your coping style, your mood, and fear of movement were much more powerful predictors of recovery than factors relating to the collision itself.
Carroll LJ, Holm LW, Hogg-Johnson S, Côté P, Cassidy JD, Haldeman S, Nordin M, Hurwitz EL, Carragee EJ, van der Velde G, Peloso PM, Guzman J; Bone and Joint Decade 2000-2010 Task Force on Neck Pain and Its Associated Disorders. Course and prognostic factors for neck pain in whiplash-associated disorders (WAD): results of the Bone and Joint Decade 2000-2010 Task Force on Neck Pain and Its Associated Disorders. Spine (Phila Pa 1976). 2008 Feb 15;33(4 Suppl):S83-92. doi: 10.1097/BRS.0b013e3181643eb8.
Robinson JP, Theodore BR, Dansie EJ, Wilson HD, Turk DC.The role of fear of movement in subacute whiplash-associated disorders grades I and II. Pain. 2012 Dec 1. pii: S0304-3959(12)00624-0. doi: 10.1016/j.pain.2012.11.011. [Epub ahead of print]