Traditionally, whiplash diagnosis are not involving laboratory tests. Research of the biological mechanisms involved in whiplash and similar head-neck trauma have been lacking. This is due to the complexity of the injury as well as the associated condition of chronic pain and a range of other disorders.

However, in 2013 something happened. The international research journal “Pain Research & Treatment”, published a small but successful pilot trial. The study objective was to find a way in which the doctor can take a hair test, for a laboratory analysis to provide a clear answer as to whether it is a whiplash-related disease condition. This way featuring potential new biomarkers for whiplash injury.

The trial showed that after a whiplash or similar neck trauma, the composition of a human hair is changed with regard to the embedding of the stress hormone cortisol.

As hair grows exactly exactly 1 cm a month, one can compare the hair composition before and after the accident. If three months have elapsed, the newest 3 cm hair will have a different occurrence of the cortisol drug than a hair that grew out before the accident.

So patients should save their hair as documentation, especially if having hair from “before the accident” for comparison. Remember to mark the length at the time of accident on your hair. It could one day become the proof of a real physical disorder.

In addition to contributing to a more secure diagnosis, the method has the advantage that it can also be used to exclude that the patient was stressed before the accident, and for that reason unable to work more than a few days a week or not at all.

Such a lab test is what many patients are wishing for, especially when seeking compensation from insurance companies. The experiment was small but very promising. Research has to start somewhere.

Source: (original literature, PubMed, full publication): “Hair-normalized cortisol Waking Response as novel biomarker … .following Acute Trauma … by Walton et al 2013”

NOTE to physicians: This experiment is based on the results of a number of other studies,  demonstrating hypothalmic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis dysfunction in patients with musculoskeletal pain in chronic whiplash.

Source: (PubMed) including full publication: