Different recovery patterns are reported for those befallen a whip-lash injury, but little is known about the variability within subgroups. The aims were (1) to compare a self-selected mildly affected sample (MILD) with a self-selected moderately to severely affected sample (MOD/SEV) with regard to background characteristics and pain-related disability, pain intensity, functional self-efficacy, fear of movement/(re)injury, pain catastrophising, post-traumatic stress symptoms in the acute stage (at baseline), (2) to study the development over the first year after the accident for the above listed clinical variables in the MILD sample, and (3) to study the validity of a prediction model including baseline levels of clinical variables on pain-related disability one year after baseline assessments.
The study had a prospective and correlative design. Ninety-eight participants were consecutively selected. Inclusion criteria; age 18 to 65 years, WAD grade I-II, Swedish language skills, and subjective report of not being in need of treatment due to mild symptoms. A multivariate linear regression model was applied for the prediction analysis.
The MILD sample was less affected in all study variables compared to the MOD/SEV sample. Pain-related disability, pain catastrophising, and post-traumatic stress symptoms decreased over the first year after the accident, whereas functional self-efficacy and fear of movement/(re)injury increased. Pain intensity was stable. Pain-related disability at baseline emerged as the only statistically significant predictor of pain-related disability one year after the accident (Adj r² = 0.67).
A good prognosis over the first year is expected for the majority of individuals with WAD grade I or II who decline treatment due to mild symptoms. The prediction model was not valid in the MILD sample except for the contribution of pain-related disability. An implication is that early observations of individuals with elevated levels of pain-related disability are warranted, although they may decline treatment.