Standard physiotherapy is just as good as intense physiotherapy when it comes to reducing the pain of chronic whiplash.
Results of a new trial of treatments suggest that expensive, intense physiotherapy sessions do not show any additional benefit over a single physiotherapy session of education and advice with phone follow-up.
“The need for an extended course of treatment for whiplash is being challenged”
The researchers from Australia looked at 172 patients who had suffered a motor vehicle accident resulting in chronic whiplash, dividing them into two groups − an advice group and an exercise group.
All of them had been involved in an accident over three months before the trial began, but no more than five years had passed since being injured.
Participants in the advice group received a single half-hour consultation with a trained physiotherapist who went over a pamphlet that provided information on whiplash-related disorders, suggestions on how to self-manage pain, and a simple exercise routine.
Those in the exercise group, meanwhile, received a more complex treatment, including twenty individually tailored physiotherapy sessions lasting one hour each, spread over the course of twelve weeks.
These sessions included a comprehensive exercise programme, posture re-education, stretching training and exercises, scapular training, aerobic exercise, and strength training to aid recovery.
Both groups reported a reduction in pain at 14 weeks, six months, and 12 months after the first session. However, the researchers observed no clinically meaningful differences between the two sets of patients.
“The need for an extended course of treatment for whiplash-associated disorders is being challenged,” said study author Dr Zoe Michaleff, from the University of Sydney.
“Our study provides further evidence that prolonged expensive clinical interventions for chronic whiplash injury are no more effective than briefer treatment programs that teach the patient how to self-manage their pain,” she said.
The findings add to previous studies on the subject, which have reported minimal additional benefit of longer physiotherapy programmes over briefer physiotherapy programmes for acute whiplash-associated disorders.