Epidemiological studies of neck pain are based on questionnaires and surveys, which may overestimate the frequency of the condition. Nevertheless, it is clear that nonspecific neck pain including whiplash places a heavy burden on individuals, employers, and healthcare services.
About two-thirds of the population will experience neck pain at some time in their lives [7, 8], with the condition being most common in middle age, and in women . The reported prevalence of neck pain varies widely between studies, but has a mean point prevalence of 7.6% (range 5.9-38.7%) and a mean lifetime prevalence of 48.5% (range 14.2-71%) . A UK survey found that 18% of 7669 adults had neck pain at the time of the survey, but when symptomatic people were re-questioned 1 year later (58% responded), half were still symptomatic . A Norwegian survey of 10,000 adults also reported that 34% of responders had experienced neck pain in the previous year . Neck pain is second only to back pain in frequency of musculoskeletal consultation in primary care.
Although whiplash injury is very common throughout the world, the incidence of reported symptoms and patients who go on to chronic disability or to seek compensation varies greatly between countries and even between different regions or social groups within the same country. There is no consistency in the literature about the epidemiology and natural history of whiplash, partially because of the poor quality of studies [12, 13]but more specifically because of the complex interactions between the individual, legal, economic, and societal factors, which may influence presentation and outcome [12, 13]. In some countries, like Lithuania and Greece where there is no litigation or compensation culture, chronic whiplash is very rare and outcome is universally favorable [14, 15]. In other countries like the USA, Canada, The Netherlands, Australia and the UK, much higher proportions of patients develop chronic whiplash and suffer prolonged disability . Internationally, whiplash lasting for over 6 months varies between 2% and 58% [13, 17] but typically lies between 20% and 40% .
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