A cheap half-hour advice session with a physiotherapist works just as well as an intensive, 12-week course of 20 personal physiotherapy visits for chronic whiplash patients, Australian researchers have found.
The unexpected results from the George Institute and The University of Queensland study, published in the The Lancet medical journal, is likely to reverberate around the world.
Interested parties include insurance companies, those involved in developing future health policy, GPs and people who have failed to get well after whiplash injuries from car accidents.
The study involved some of the world’s most respected whiplash and musculoskeletal researchers: Professor Gwen Jull, Professor Michele Sterling and Professor Chris Maher.
The team compared two approaches to treating car crash victims with whiplash. One treatment comprised 20 one-hour, tailored and supervised exercise sessions over a 12-week period.
The other treatment comprised a simple educational booklet and one, half-hour meeting with a physiotherapist to teach the patient to exercise on their own.
Senior author Professor Chris Maher, of The George Institute and The University of Sydney, said pain and activity improved in both treatment groups, but there were no differences between groups.
“This study backed the use of physiotherapy, but showed that brief physiotherapy programs are as effective for chronic whiplash as more intensive programs,” he said.
“Traditionally physiotherapy involved long courses of one-to-one care. More recently, it’s become clear that to deliver physiotherapy more efficiently traditional treatments need to be reconfigured from long programs of care to effective, simple treatments where the patient is actively involved.”
“It is about being smart so we can stretch the health dollar and reach more people.”
The trial involved 172 people and was funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia and the third party insurance regulators in the states where the trial was conducted (Motor Accidents Authority of New South Wales and the Motor Accidents Insurance Commission of Queensland).
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