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Glendale, CA 91206
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Putting a Whip on Treatment Guidelines for Whiplash Injury

Posted on: 03/12/2002
Do you wonder if you're getting the best treatment for your injury or condition? Doctors and physical therapists wonder this, too. They work hard to keep up on the latest information for the many problems they treat.

One way to make sure all patients get the best care is to use clinical practice guidelines. These are helpful in giving health care workers information on a specific disease, illness, or injury. In turn, this leads to better treatment decisions and improved treatment results. Clinical practice guidelines go a long way in making sure everyone gets the same up-to-date care.

Unfortunately, not every health care problem has practice guidelines. Some illnesses and injuries are still being studied to find the best treatment. Such is the case with injury from whiplash. Many forms of treatment are currently offered for whiplash because there are no guidelines for the management of this problem.

A group of health care workers in the Netherlands wanted to set guidelines for treating whiplash. Since there are very few scientific answers about whiplash injury, some of the guidelines are based on opinion rather than research. Sometimes this is a necessary first step until more research can be done.

A panel of seven experts drafted the first clinical practice guidelines for whiplash. The panel included three different types of medical doctors, a psychologist, a surgeon, a medical advisor, and a member of the Whiplash Association (to represent patients). The first step was to consult available research. The panel studied reports of what works and what doesn't in the treatment of whiplash.

Using this information, the panel laid out several steps:

  • History Taking: Ask the patient about symptoms; difficulty doing tasks at home, work, or school; previous treatment for this problem; work history.

  • Physical Examination: Perform a posture exam; measure motion, strength, and function; test for balance, sensation, and sense of position.

  • Diagnosis: Combine the history and physical exam in making a diagnosis.

  • Treatment Plan: The treatment plan is divided into five different phases based on the healing and recovery process. The goal is to return to normal activities quickly and prevent long-term problems.

Health care workers rely on clinical practice guidelines to help them evaluate and treat patients. When there is no known guideline for a specific problem, researchers try to create one. In the case of whiplash injury, new guidelines are now available from the Netherlands. These give the latest information about whiplash and help therapists make the best treatment decisions.

Gwendolijne G. M. Scholten-Peeters, MScMT, et al. Clinical Practice Guidelines for the Physiotherapy of Patients With Whiplash-Associated Disorders. In Spine. February 15, 2002. Vol. 27. No. 4. Pp. 412-422.

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