Reducing the pain of whiplash by treating the stress-related symptoms alongside conventional physiotherapy is the aim of research at Griffith University.
With the aid of a $600,000 National Health and Medical Research Council grant, the study will test a cognitive behavioural approach called Stress Innoculation Training (SIT) which teaches various coping strategies to manage stress-related anxiety.
The team from Griffith, University of Queensland and Maastricht University in the Netherlands, propose to integrate SIT with the current clinical guideline recommended physio intervention and deliver it by physiotherapists for early management of whiplash injuries.
“Approximately 50 per cent of those who suffer a whiplash injury will develop chronic pain and disability and up to 30 per cent significant mental health problems,” says Professor Michele Sterling from the Griffith Health Institute.
Physio alone not effective
“Physio alone has often not proved effective, with many stress-related responses often associated with poor recovery from the condition.
“The primary aim of this study is to investigate the effectiveness of an intervention aimed at reducing early stress responses (SIT), as compared to a standard physiotherapy exercise approach for individuals with a whiplash injury.
“The SIT will be carried out by our team of physios and will comprise relaxation techniques and problem solving techniques for everyday life stresses.”
The randomised controlled trial is seeking 100 people over the age of 18 who have sustained a whiplash injury during the previous four weeks and who can attend 10 treatment sessions in 6 weeks at a centre in either Brisbane, Gold Coast, Mackay or Toowoomba.
The effect of the treatments will be measured in terms of pain and disability and will be gleaned via online follow up sessions with participants.
“It will be interesting to shed some more light on the question of why some people recover well from whiplash injuries and some don’t,” says Professor Sterling. “Some people’s life stresses can be compounded by whiplash and the stress associated with the accident.”