The effect of neck-specific exercise with, or without a behavioral approach, on pain, disability, and self-efficacy in chronic whiplash-associated disorders

The objective of this study was to compare the effect on self-rated pain, disability, and self-efficacy of 3 interventions for the management of chronic whiplash-associated disorders: physiotherapist-led neck-specific exercise (NSE), physiotherapist-led NSE with the addition of a behavioral approach, or Prescription of Physical Activity (PPA). A total of 216 volunteers with chronic whiplash-associated disorders were enrolled in this randomized, assessor blinded, clinical trial of 3 exercise interventions. Self-rated pain/pain bothersomeness (Visual Analogue Scale), disability (Neck Disability Index), and self-efficacy (Self-Efficacy Scale) were evaluated at baseline and at 3 and 6 months. The proportion of patients reaching substantial decrease in pain bothersomness (at least 50% reduction) was more evident (P<0.01) in the 2 NSE groups (29% to 48%) compared with the PPA group (5%) at 3 months. At 6 months 39% to 44% of the patients in the 2 neck-specific groups and 28% in the PPA group reported substantial pain reduction. Reduction of disability was also larger in the 2 neck-specific exercise groups at both 3 and 6 months (P<0.02). Self-efficacy was only improved in the NSE group without a behavioral approach (P=0.02). However, there were no significant differences in any outcomes between the 2 physiotherapist-led NSE groups.

In this study NSE resulted in superior outcomes compared with PPA, however the observed benefits of adding a behavioral approach to the implementation of exercise in this study were inconclusive.

Neck Pain

Out of all 291 conditions studied in the Global Burden of Disease 2010 Study, neck pain ranked 4th highest in terms of disability and 21st in terms of overall burden.

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