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The role of the trigemino cervical complex in chronic whiplash associated headache: a cross sectional study

Watson, D.H. and Drummond, P.D. (2016) The role of the trigemino cervical complex in chronic whiplash associated headache: a cross sectional study. Headache: The Journal of Head and Face Pain, 56 (6). pp. 961-975.

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Objective: To investigate signs of central sensitization in a cohort of patients with chronic whiplash associated headache (CWAH). Background: Central sensitization is one of the mechanisms leading to chronicity of primary headache, and thus might contribute to CWAH. However, the pathophysiological mechanism of CWAH is poorly understood and whether it is simply an expression of the primary headache or has a distinct pathogenesis remains unclear. Thus, the factors involved in the genesis of CWAH require further investigation. Methods: Twenty-two patients with CWAH (20 females, 2 males; age 25-50 years, mean age 36.3 years) and 25 asymptomatic participants (13 females, 12 males; age 18-50 years, mean age 35.6 years) rated glare and light-induced discomfort in response to light from an ophthalmoscope. Hyperalgesia evoked by a pressure algometer was assessed bilaterally on the forehead, temples, occipital base, and the middle phalanx of the third finger. The number, latency, area under the curve, and recovery cycle of nociceptive blink reflexes elicited by a supraorbital electrical stimulus were also recorded. Results: Eight and 6 CWAH patients had migrainous and tension-type headache (TTH) profiles, respectively; the remainder had features attributable to both migraine and TTH. Patients in the whiplash group reported significantly greater light-induced pain than controls (8.48 ±.35 vs 6.66 ±.43 on a 0-10 scale; P =.001). The CWAH patients reported significantly lower pressure pain thresholds at all sites. For stimuli delivered at 20 second intervals, whiplash patients were more responsive than controls (4.8 ±.6 blinks vs 3.0 ±.6 blinks in a block of 10 stimuli; P =.036). While R2 latencies and the area under the curve for the 20 second interval trials were comparable in both groups, there was a significant reduction of the area under the curve from the first to the second of the 2-second interval trials only in controls (99 ± 8% of baseline in whiplash patients vs 68 ± 7% in controls; P =.009). The recovery cycle was comparable for both groups. Conclusions: Our results corroborate previous findings of mechanical hypersensitivity and photophobia in CWAH patients. The neurophysiological data provide further evidence for hyperexcitability in central nociceptive pathways, and endorse the hypothesis that CWAH may be driven by central sensitization.

Publication Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation: School of Psychology and Exercise Science
Publisher: Wiley
Copyright: © 2016 American Headache Society
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