Pharmacological and Interventional Management of Pain After Whiplash Injury

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Whiplash-associated disorder (WAD) is a group of symptoms and clinical manifestations resulting from rear-end or side impact. Despite the wide use of medications in WAD, the published research does not allow recommendations based on high evidence level. It may be meaningful to use nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs in the acute posttraumatic phase. In chronic WAD, the use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs is more concerning due to potential gastrointestinal and renal complications with prolonged use and lack of evidence for long-term benefits. Antidepressants can be used in patients with clinically relevant hyperalgesia, sleep disorder associated with pain, or depression. Anticonvulsants are unlikely first-choice medications, but can be considered if other treatments fail. The use of opioids in patients with chronic pain has become the object of severe concern, due to the lack of evidence for long-term benefits and the associated risks. Extreme caution in prescribing and monitoring opioid treatment is mandatory. Nerve blocks of the zygapophyseal (facet) joints have validity for the diagnosis of facet joint pain, which is one of the possible manifestations of WAD. One randomized sham-controlled trial and several high-quality prospective studies support the efficacy of radiofrequency neurotomy for the treatment of facet joint pain. The efficacy of trigger point treatments is uncertain. They can be offered due to possible efficacy and limited risks. Any medication or procedure has to be considered in the frame of a comprehensive patient evaluation. As for any chronic pain condition, concomitant consideration of rehabilitation and psychosocial interventions is mandatory.

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