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Can patient education prevent whiplash from leading to chronic neck pain?

PainSci » bibliography » Brison et al 2005
Tags: neck, head/neck, spine

Three articles on PainSci cite Brison 2005: 1. The Complete Guide to Low Back Pain2. The Complete Guide to Neck Pain & Cricks3. Mind Over Pain

PainSci notes on Brison 2005:

This is one of a few studies showing a benefit to education for neck pain specifically. Researchers showed a reassuring educational video to more than 200 patients with “whiplash associated disorders” (i.e. whiplash injuries that become chronic neck cricks), and found that they had less severe symptoms than patients who received no educational intervention. The effectiveness of education probably depends a lot on the type of neck pain and the type of education, making it very hard to study. A recent review of the scientific literature found that most such studies are negative (see Haines or Ainpradub), but I believe that there are still reasons to be optimistic about education for pain problems. Above all, it depends on the type and quality of the education! The right education may be effective, and the wrong could even be harmful. The fact that some education has been shown to be beneficial is promising.

original abstract Abstracts here may not perfectly match originals, for a variety of technical and practical reasons. Some abstacts are truncated for my purposes here, if they are particularly long-winded and unhelpful. I occasionally add clarifying notes. And I make some minor corrections.

STUDY DESIGN: Concealed allocation, multicenter, single-blind, randomized controlled clinical trial.

OBJECTIVE: To assess the efficacy of an educational video in the tertiary prevention of persistent WAD symptoms following rear-end motor vehicle collisions (MVCs).

SUMMARY OF BACKGROUND DATA: Whiplash-associated disorders (WAD) are an important and costly health problem. There is a lack of high quality evidence surrounding efficacy of treatments for WAD. Existing research supports active interventions and early return to regular activities.

METHODS: Consecutive patients presenting to four tertiary care emergency departments following rear-end MVCs were eligible. Following informed consent, patients were allocated, using central randomization, to receive an educational video plus usual care or usual care alone. The video provided reassurance, and advice about posture, return to regular activities, exercises, and pain-relief methods. Data were collected by telephone using standardized questionnaires. The primary outcome was presence of Persistent WAD Symptoms at 24 weeks postinjury, based on the frequency and severity of neck, shoulder, or upper back pain. The absolute difference in proportion of patients with persistent WAD symptoms and rate ratios were calculated. Changes in pain scores were compared using the Mann-Whitney U test.

RESULTS: The intervention (n = 206) and control (n = 199) groups were similar at baseline (mean age 38.4 years; 64% female). Overall, the proportion of subjects with Persistent WAD Symptoms decreased from 89.1% at baseline to 33.6% at 24 weeks after injury. At 24 weeks, the proportion of subjects with persistent WAD symptoms in the intervention group was 7.9% (95% CI, -2.0, 17.8) lower than the control group. The median improvement in pain score at 24 weeks was 3 for the intervention group and 2 for the control group (P = 0.016).

CONCLUSION: The presence of persistent WAD symptoms following simple rear-end MVCs was high in this sample. The video group demonstrated a trend toward less severe WAD symptoms. We recommend evaluating other educational interventions that could reduce WAD symptoms.

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