Chronic neck pain common among car crash victims, but most don't sue

A UNC-led study finds chronic pain to be common among people involved in car accidents. However, most people in the study who reported persistent neck pain were not engaged in litigation six weeks after their accident.

Chronic neck pain common among car crash victims, but most don't sue click to enlarge Samuel McLean, MD, MPH, is first author of the study.

Media contact: Tom Hughes, (919) 966-6047,

Friday, January 17, 2014

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – A new study led by University of North Carolina School of Medicine researchers is the first large prospective study to evaluate musculoskeletal pain outcomes after motor vehicle collision in the U.S.

Nearly 4 million individuals in the U.S. come to hospital emergency departments for evaluation after motor vehicle collision each year. More than 90 percent of these individuals are discharged to home after evaluation.  Results of the study, which enrolled individuals from eight emergency departments in four states, indicate that persistent pain is common in this population.  Six weeks after their accident, more than 70 percent of individuals reported persistent musculoskeletal pain in one or more body regions. More than one third of study participants reported pain in four or more body regions.
Among 948 individuals enrolled in the study, only 17 percent had contacted a lawyer for planned litigation six weeks after their accident. Among the majority of individuals who were not planning litigation, persistent pain was still common:  28 percent had persistent moderate or severe neck pain, 13 percent had widespread musculoskeletal pain in seven or more body regions, and 4 percent had a fibromyalgia-like syndrome.

The study was conducted by a multidisciplinary team of investigators from eight institutions. Samuel McLean, MD, MPH, associate professor of anesthesiology and emergency medicine at UNC, is first author of the study. UNC co-authors on the study include Andrey Bortsov, MD, PhD, from the Department of Anesthesiology, and Gary Slade, BDSc, PhD, and Eric Bair, PhD.

The study was published online on Friday, Jan. 17, 2014, by the journal, Pain.

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