Exercise Helps Pain from Chronic WhiplashAre the extra aches and pains from exercise worth it when you already have chronic pain from a whiplash injury? Patients in this study said, Yes. Improvements in overall pain and function were enough to put up with muscle pain and increased headache pain.
Pain and disability from whiplash-associated disorders (WAD) is a common problem without a good solution. No treatment has been successful in helping these patients. In this study, exercise and advice were compared to advice alone as a possible treatment method.
The advice-only group was given information by a physical therapist about the nature of whiplash injuries. They were told that physical activity causing pain was not going to further damage their necks. They were encouraged to keep moving despite the pain. Follow-up contact was made by phone with each advice-only participant two more times during the study.
The exercise group did a six-week program of exercises supervised by a physical therapist. Exercises were designed for each person individually. There was an aerobic component such as walking or biking and stretching and strength training exercises. Patients in the exercise and advice group were also given a home program to continue after the study was over.
The authors report two main findings in this study. First, exercise and advice worked better than just advice early on. Pain was less intense and less bothersome and function improved. However, there was no difference between the two groups at the end of 12 months, so the effect was short-term.
Secondly, patients with high levels of pain and disability were helped the most both at six weeks and at 12 months. Exercise and advice is helpful in the short-term, but especially for more severe patients.
This information may help doctors and physical therapists guide patients with WAD. Preventing chronic pain and the associated social and economic costs may be a final outcome of this study.
Mark J. Stewart, et al. Randomized Controlled Trial of Exercise for Chronic Whiplash-Associated Disorders. In Pain. March 2007 Vol. 128. No. 1-2. Pp. 59-68.
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