The objective of the present study is to compare the frequency and nature of expected 'whiplash' symptoms in Lithuania (a country where the late whiplash syndrome is rare or unknown) with that in Canada.
A symptom checklist was administered to 2 subject groups selected from local companies in Kaunas, Lithuania, and Edmonton, Canada, respectively. Subjects were asked to imagine having suffered a neck sprain (whiplash injury) with no loss of consciousness in a motor vehicle accident, and to check which, of a variety of symptoms, they would expect might arise from the injury. For symptoms they anticipated, they were asked to select the period of time they expected those symptoms to persist.
In both the Lithuanian and Edmontonian groups, the pattern of symptoms anticipated closely resembled the acute symptoms commonly reported by accident victims with acute neck sprain, but while up to 50% of Edmontonians also anticipated symptoms to last months or years, very few Lithuanian subjects selected any symptoms as likely to persist.
In Lithuania, despite the documented occurrence of neck sprain symptoms in some 50% of individuals following motor vehicle accidents, there is a very low rate of expectation of any sequelae from this injury. What current or previous aspects of society that underlie this remain uncertain. This lack of expectation of chronicity in Lithuania may, in part, determine the low prevalence of the late whiplash syndrome there. Further studies of symptom expectation as an etiologic factor in the late whiplash syndrome are needed.