Open Access Open Badges Research article

Multidimensional associative factors for improvement in pain, function, and working capacity after rehabilitation of whiplash associated disorder: a prognostic, prospective outcome study

Felix Angst1*, Andreas R Gantenbein1, Susanne Lehmann1, Françoise Gysi-Klaus1, André Aeschlimann1, Beat A Michel2 and Frank Hegemann1

Author Affiliations

1 Rehabilitation Clinic “RehaClinic”, Bad Zurzach, Switzerland

2 Department of Rheumatology, Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, University Hospital of Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland

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BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders 2014, 15:130  doi:10.1186/1471-2474-15-130

Published: 16 April 2014



Whiplash associated disorders (WAD) have dramatic consequences for individual and public health. Risk factors for better and worse outcomes are important to optimize management. This study aimed to determine short- and mid-term associative co-factors of neck pain relief, improved physical functioning, and improved working capacity (dependent variables) in patients suffering from whiplash associated disorder who participated in a standardized, inpatient pain management program.


Naturalistic, observational, prospective cohort study. Outcome was measured by standardized assessment instruments. Co-factors covered sociodemographics, comorbidities, social participation, affective health, and coping abilities. Stepwise, multivariate linear regression analysis was performed at discharge and at the 6-month follow-up.


All regression models explained high proportions of variance (53.3% – 72.1%). The corresponding baseline level was significantly associated with a change in every dependent variable (explained variances: 11.4%-56.7%). Pain relief significantly depended on improved function and vice-versa (3.4%-14.8%). Improved ability to decrease pain was associated with pain relief at discharge (9.6%). Functional improvement was associated with decreased catastrophizing (19.4%) at discharge and decreased depression (20.5%) at the 6 month follow-up.


Pain relief, improved physical function and working capacity were associated with each other. Improved coping (catastrophizing and ability to decrease pain) and reduced depression may act as important predictors for pain relief and improved function. These findings offer toe-holds for optimized therapy of chronic WAD.

Whiplash; Prediction; Pain; Function; Coping; Catastrophizing