The results of a new trial of treatments shows no additional benefits of multiple exercise intensive physical therapy sessions over a single physical therapy session of education and advice with phone follow-up for the treatment of chronic whiplash-related pain. According to a Science Daily news report, the findings are in line with previous studies on the subject that have reported minimal additional benefit of longer physical therapy programs over briefer programs for acute whiplash-associated disorders. Participants of the Australian study were solicited in Sydney and Brisbane.

The study included participants who had suffered a motor vehicle accident that resulted in chronic whiplash, and recruited patients had the accident no sooner than 3 months prior to signing up for the study and no later than 5 years after the accident. Patients were enrolled between September 2009 and February 2012. A total of 172 people were enrolled in the study, and participants were randomly divided into two groups. The advice group received a single half-hour consultation with a trained physical therapist that provided information on a simple exercise routine and the self-management of pain.

Participants in the exercise group received a more complex treatment, including 20 individually tailored physical therapy sessions lasting one hour each over the course of 12 weeks. The sessions included a comprehensive exercise program, stretching training and exercises, posture re-education, scapular training, aerobic exercise, and strength training. The primary outcome of the study was reduction in pain, while secondary outcomes included self-reported recovery, improvement in flexibility, and pain during the previous 24 hours.

In an online written comment, Jo Nijs and Kelly Ickmans of Belgium write, “The study by Michaleff and colleagues advances our understanding of whiplash-associated disorders and provides physiotherapists with clear information about how to treat patients with chronic whiplash-associated disorders. These findings should not be interpreted as encouragement to abandon exercise therapy in these patients: the question is how and when to exercise people with chronic whiplash-associated disorders.”

Source: Science Daily