The Nosologic Status of the Whiplash Syndrome: A Critical Review Based on a Methodological Approach

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Study designEmpirical studies concerning the whiplash syndrome are reviewed from the point of view of epidemiologic methodology.ObjectiveTo assess the nosologic status of the whiplash syndrome.Summary of background dataAlthough a large number of studies concerning the syndrome exist, there is still controversy concerning the existence of the syndrome.MethodsThe manner in which each study contributes to the validity of the syndrome is determined on the basis of the methodologic design (descriptive, case-control, cohort, and intervention/experimental) of the study.ResultsWhereas the face validity of the syndrome is excellent, the descriptive, construct, and predictive validity are rather poor. In particular, convincing empirical evidence for a causal link (construct validity) between the trauma mechanism and chronic symptoms is sparse.ConclusionsCarefully conducted studies designed to assess the degree to which head and neck trauma contribute to the development of chronic pain, particularly head and neck pain, are urgently needed.

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