Question:I've been going to physical therapy for a whiplash injury in my neck. I notice there are several other people there with the same problem. Wouldn't it make more sense to combine us together in a group instead of treating us each one at a time? Seems like it would save time and money.
Answer:There has been much debate over the years about the use of groups versus individual treatment. Insurance companies often do not cover group sessions, but only private therapy between therapist and patient. There are reasons for this decision.
On the one hand, if all you need is group supervision, then you could get that kind of service at a health club or with a fitness group. The cost would be far less. A disadvantage to this method is that the trainer is not as highly trained as a physical therapist. But supposedly, you don't need this much guidance.
The therapist takes into account your vital signs, past medical health, and personal risk factors for diseases and illnesses. The therapist also reviews potential side effects of medications you may be taking. Exercise is prescribed specifically for you based on your age, general health, and the presence of other problems like heart disease or diabetes. Exercise can improve some conditions but can also make others worse if not applied properly.
In Canada, where there is universal health coverage, fitness and rehab groups are available for patients after a whiplash injury. In a recent Canadian study, groups of acute whiplash patients were compared. Some were in a group fitness program at a health club. Others were in a multidisciplinary outpatient group at a private clinic. A third group were treated one-on-one in an individualized in-patient hospital program.
The results showed that individualized treatment influenced recovery in a positive way. The rate of recovery was much faster for the in-patient group treated during the first two months after the accident. Recovery was twice as slow for the outpatient group compared to the other groups.
The authors of that study suggested that there isn't enough evidence to support group fitness or group rehab for whiplash injuries. More research is needed in this area to find the best way to treat whiplash.J. David Cassidy, PhD, DrMedSc, et al. Does Multidisciplinary Rehabilitation Benefit Whiplash Recovery? In Spine. January 1, 2007. Vol. 32. No. 1. Pp. 126-131.
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