Patients with persistent whiplash associated disorders (WAD) report upper limb (UL) symptoms and functional difficulties but there is limited information regarding the nature of these complaints. Impairments in motor performance may relate to functional deficits.
To identify symptoms and the degree and nature of UL functional difficulties.
Cross sectional study.
Twenty-four age matched subjects with persistent WAD and healthy controls were surveyed using the Disabilities of the Arm, Shoulder and Hand (DASH), Neck Disability Index (NDI) and Patient Specific Functional Scale (PSFS). A series of case studies on six subjects with persistent WAD and thirteen age and gender matched controls also had their motor performance assessed using a specialised UL testing battery, including reaction time, movement speed, accuracy, co-ordination and tapping speed.
The results suggest that UL symptoms and functional deficits are prevalent in persistent WAD. All individual item scores on the DASH, except one, were significantly higher in the WAD group and the DASH moderately correlated to pain, NDI and PSFS. Four-choice reaction time was the only motor performance measure that was significantly impaired in the WAD compared to control group and this correlated to pain levels.
The findings suggest the DASH is a suitable measure for subjects with persistent WAD and could be administered when high NDI scores are present or the patient specifically reports difficulty with UL activities. Further investigation regarding UL motor performance in subjects with persistent WAD is warranted to determine relationships between symptoms and reported functional deficits.