Intensive treatment is no benefit for whiplash injury

A study suggests that intensive treatment for whiplash injury is not better than standard care.

The study was published in the Lancet looked at the treatment of more than 2,700 people with mild to moderate whiplash injury.

Additional benefits were not seen for those who had more intensive treatment, which included a rapid return to normal activities.

Whiplash injury costs the UK economy around £3.1 billion a year, mainly due to the expense of treating those with chronic symptoms, which accounts for around 30-50%, and their subsequent need to have time off work.

Long term problems can include pain from the smallest of movement, being unable to work and trouble sleeping.

There has been a debate rumbling since the 1980s on how to deal with whiplash injury, but little research has been carried out to support any specific approach.

Some researchers have suggested that A&E staff be trained to provide more intensive treatment, with more positive messages about recovery and advice on beneficial exercises as well as returning to work and normal activities early.

The University of Warwick researchers compared this approach (active management) with standard care with general exercise and advice sheets.

Patients from 12 NHS hospitals across the country were monitored for a year.

Researchers found that there was no difference in how those with the more intensive care fared compared to those who had the usual treatment for whiplash injury.

Those patients whose symptoms persisted for more than 3 weeks were also invited to take part in physiotherapy trials.

599 patients participated and were randomly assigned to either receive a single advice session with a physiotherapist or a package of 6 physiotherapy sessions.

It was found that those who had the longer course did not get any major benefit. Although initially it seemed those who had more physio recovered quicker, at the 8 and 12 month pints, there was no difference between them and those who had the advice sessions.

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