Does nerve inflammation lead to chronic pain following whiplash?

Disease - Chronic page

Lead applicant - Dr Andrew Dilley

Organisation - University of Sussex 

Type of grant - Full Application Disease 

Status of grant - Active from 1 September 2020

Amount of the original award - £435,650.00

Start date - 01 September 2020 

Reference - 22465

Public Summary  

What are the aims of this research?

This research aims to establish if nerve inflammation contributes to the symptoms of Grade 2 Whiplash Associated Disorder (WAD2), where approximately 50% of patients develop chronic pain symptoms, but have no sign of nerve injury. Researchers will try to determine if clinical tests are able to identify those patients with inflamed nerves, understand whether the presence of nerve inflammation can be used to identify patients who will develop chronic pain, and understand the progression of nerve inflammation from acute to chronic.

Why is this research important?

Current treatments for patients with WAD2 are ineffective, reflecting the lack of understanding of the cause of symptoms. It is difficult to predict which patients will develop chronic pain, and there-fore how to manage these patients appropriately. Recent work has shown that nerves may be in-flamed which may contribute to chronic pain.

In this study, participants will undergo a series of tests to measure inflammation and pain, including a clinical assessment, blood test, nerve imaging, neck disability questionnaires (repeated after 6 months), and a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan. This will help uncover if acute nerve inflammation predicts development of chronic pain.

How will the findings benefit patients? 

With more than 500,000 incidences of whiplash annually and approximately half of these individu-als developing chronic pain, there is clearly a significant need for improved treatment. A better un-derstanding of the mechanisms of acute whiplash and its evolution into a chronic pain condition, could help to inform patients appropriately about their condition and offer earlier treatment to reduce the incidence of chronic symptoms.