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BMJ. 1989 Oct 21;299(6706):1006-8.

Early mobilisation and outcome in acute sprains of the neck.

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  • Accident and Emergency Department, Royal Victoria Hospital, Belfast, Northern Ireland.



To assess the long term effect of early mobilisation exercises in patients with acute sprains of the neck after road accidents.


Single blind randomised prospective study of patients receiving physiotherapy, advice on mobilisation, or on an initial period of rest followed up after two years by postal questionnaire.


Accident and emergency department in urban hospital.


247 Consecutive patients (mean age at injury 30.6 years) presenting within 48 hours after injury with no pre-existing disease of the neck or serious skeletal injury. Of these, 167 patients responded to the questionnaire; 77 who responded but had not completed their treatment or review course were included in the analysis as a fourth group (non-attenders).


Presence of symptoms after two years.


Of the 167 patients (68%) responding, the percentage of patients still with symptoms was not significantly different in those receiving rest or physiotherapy (46%, 12/26 v 44%, 24/54), but that in those receiving advice on early mobilisation was significantly lower (23%, 11/48, p = 0.02). Of the 104 patients without symptoms, 94 (90%) recovered within six months and 62 (60%) within three months. Patients without symptoms who received advice or physiotherapy wore a collar for a significantly shorter time than those with persistent symptoms (mean duration 1.4 (SD 0.7) months v 2.8 (1.6) months, p = 0.005 and 1.6 (1.1) months v 1.8 (1.3) months, p = 0.006 respectively).


Advice to mobilise in the early phase after neck injury reduces the number of patients with symptoms at two years and is superior to manipulative physiotherapy. Prolonged wearing of a collar is associated with persistence of symptoms.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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