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New Test Flies in the Face of Whiplash Patients

Posted on: 05/12/2004
Chronic whiplash-associated disorders (WAD) are poorly understood. Scientists think a loss of motor control is a big part of the problem. Patients can't sense where the neck is during movement. The neck muscles get overloaded. The patient can get neck pain, headache, and blurred vision. Dizziness and memory problems can also occur.

A new test is being used for disordered sense of movement in the upper neck. Physical therapists from Iceland report on this test in two groups of patients. The first group had chronic WAD. The second (control) group had no history of neck pain or whiplash.

A special device called a 3Space Fastrak system was used to measure position sense in the head and neck. The Fastrak was hooked up to a computer to record the head and neck positions. A new software program was written just for this study. The researchers call the program "The Fly." Three movement patterns were carried out three times each.

Each subject used the eyes to follow a cursor moving across the computer screen. They made a second cursor follow the first by moving their heads. The results were recorded and then measured for each person in the study. The data show that the whiplash group had the worst results. The control group got better results with each trial. The WAD group got worse with each new trial.

The authors report that this new test can be used to tell which patients have WAD. They suggest that the information about movement from the neck receptors in patients with WAD is unreliable. The next step is to study the speed of movement. The neck, eye, and inner ear systems may respond differently depending on the speed of head and neck movement. The final tool may be one that can be used to find patients who try to fake results for personal or financial gain.

Eythor Kristjansson, PT, MNFF, et al. A New Clinical Test for Cervicocephalic Kinesthetic Sensibility: "The Fly." In Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. March 2004. Vol. 85. No. 3. Pp. 490-495.

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