Physical Therapy vs. Self Care for Whiplash

April 13, 2014
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Physical Therapy vs. Self Care for Whiplash Up to half of all whiplash patients are plagued with chronic symptoms, and ongoing research seeks to identify affordable, effective methods of preventing chronic pain. The standard treatment for whiplash often includes comprehensive, long-term physical therapy. While these treatments have been shown to be beneficial, researchers from the University of Australia wondered if patients could get some of the same benefits with more minimal visits and an at-home exercise program.

What they discovered was that patient education, coupled with at-home exercise programs, can be equally as effective as longer, more intensive physical therapy treatments in many patients. The results could potentially reduce healthcare costs for millions of auto-injury patients with chronic pain.

The study included 172 patients suffering from whiplash after an auto accident who were randomly assigned to either a physiotherapy or an advice-only group. The patients in the first group were given 20 one-hour physical therapy sessions over the course of 12 weeks. The second group received a single 30-minute session of patient education and physical, along with an at-home exercise program. After 14 weeks of care, there were no clinical significant differences between the groups.

While patients can benefit from physical and exercise, combining these treatments with spinal adjustments may hasten recovery, since research shows that chiropractic can reduce symptoms for 93% of whiplash patients. Faster recovery times and fewer visits could help to cut medical costs associated with auto injuries. Research shows that patients receiving chiropractor adjustments for neck pain have lower medical costs and speedier healing compared to patients being seen by a physician or physiotherapist alone.



Michaleff ZA, et al. Comprehensive physiotherapy exercise programme or advice for chronic whiplash (PROMISE): a pragmatic randomised controlled trial. The Lancet 2014; pii: S0140-6736(14)60457-8. doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(14)60457-8.

Woodward MN, Cook JCH, Gargan MF, Bannister GC. Chiropractic treatment of chronic ‘whiplash’ injuries. Injury: International Journal of the Care of the Injured 1996;27(9):643-645.

Korthals-de Bos IB, et al. Cost effectiveness of physiotherapy, manual therapy, and general practitioner. British Medical Journal 2003. doi: 

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