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Whiplash and Physical Therapy: Is physical therapy an effective method of reducing pain associated with whiplash?

1 May 2009


In 1928 the term whiplash was introduced by H. E. Crowe and was defined as “the effects of sudden acceleration-deceleration forces on the neck and upper trunk due to external forces exerting a lash-like effect” (Rosenfeld et al 2000). Sixty-seven years later in 1995 the Quebec Task Force redefined whiplash as “an acceleration-deceleration mechanism of energy transfer to the neck which may result from rear-end or side impact, predominantly in motor vehicle collisions but also from driving accidents, and from other mishaps. The energy transfer may result in bony or soft tissue injuries (whiplash injuries) which in turn may lead to a wide variety of clinical manifestations (whiplash associated disorders) (Spitzer et al 1995). Despite the descriptive definitions, treatment for whiplash has varied over the past 91 years. Over the past 20 years the more popular forms of whiplash treatment have included (but not limited to) active mobilization, therapeutic exercise, soft collar, “act-as-usual,” pamphlet information, education and advice. Of these popular forms of treatment, physical therapists can provide education and advice, perform active joint mobilizations and instruct the patient with specific exercises to assist with the patient’s whiplash condition. Therefore my clinical question is: Is physical therapy a more effective form of reducing pain for patients with whiplash injuries than soft collar use, “act-as usual,” general practitioner advice or pamphlet information?


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