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Extra whiplash treatment 'not cost-effective'

Normal care for whiplash is as effective as more expensive and thorough treatment, a new study has suggested

Research published in The Lancet claims the rate of recovery from whiplash is not affected by active management consultations, which include exercise, pain management, helping patients resume their normal activities as soon as possible and speaking to them in a positive way about their progress.

And Sarah Lamb, from the University of Warwick, who led the research, said they also found that although physiotherapy did help those with whiplash, anything more than one session in which the patient was given advice did not offer value for money.

The study comes after other organisations, including NICE, called for staff working in hospital emergency departments to be trained in giving active management consultations, saying this could improve recovery rates

Researchers looked at 3,851 adults suffering from acute whiplash injuries from 12 hospitals across the UK. Of those involved in the study, 2,253 patients were given active management while the remainder received routine care.

Those who still experienced symptoms of whiplash after 21 days were also asked to take part in a further study on the effectiveness of physiotherapy. A total of 599 patients either saw a physiotherapist once for an advice session or they were chosen to attend up to six appointments.

Everyone involved in the study then answered Neck Disability Index questionnaires about how pain affected them in their day-to-day life. The answers given by both patients receiving active management and routine care were broadly similar.

Those given extra sessions of physiotherapy were found to have recovered slightly better after four months than those who had attended a single appointment for advice. But by the time they had reached eight months and 12 months after the injury occurred the levels of recovery between the two groups were the same, although those given extra physiotherapy had taken four fewer days off across the year.

The report concluded that as active management consultations and physiotherapy appointments cost the NHS more than usual care and single advice sessions, they were not cost-effective treatments for whiplash.

Readers' comments (1)

  • This research may be totally unreliable as many people make lucrative insurance claims for whiplash when there is no such injury at all. As there is no objective test to make such a diagnosis, I would view all research in this field, as questionable.

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