The Effectiveness of conservative management for acute Whiplash Associated Disorder (WAD) II : a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials

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Objective To evaluate the effectiveness of conservative management (except drug therapy) for acute Whiplash Associated Disorder (WAD) II. Design Systematic review and meta-analysis of Randomised Controlled Trials (RCTs) using a pre-defined protocol. Two independent reviewers searched information sources, decided eligibility of studies, and assessed risk of bias (RoB) of included trials. Data were extracted by one reviewer and checked by the other. A third reviewer mediated any disagreements throughout. Qualitative trial and RoB data were summarised descriptively. Quantitative syntheses were conducted across trials for comparable interventions, outcome measures and assessment points. Meta-analyses compared effect sizes with random effects, using STATA version 12. Data Sources PEDro, Medline, Embase, AMED, CINAHL, PsycINFO, and Cochrane Library with manual searching in key journals, reference lists, British National Bibliography for Report Literature, Center for International Rehabilitation Research Information & Exchange, and National Technical Information Service were searched from inception to 15th April 2015. Active researchers in the field were contacted to determine relevant studies. Eligibility Criteria for Selecting Studies RCTs evaluating acute (<4 weeks) WADII, any conservative intervention, with outcome measures important to the International Classification of Function, Disability and Health. Results Fifteen RCTs all assessed as high RoB (n=1676 participants) across 9 countries were included. Meta-analyses enabled 4 intervention comparisons: conservative versus standard/control, active versus passive, behavioural versus standard/control, and early versus late. Conservative intervention was more effective for pain reduction at 6 months (95%CI: -20.14 to -3.38) and 1-3 years (-25.44 to -3.19), and improvement in cervical mobility in the horizontal plane at <3 months (0.43 to 5.60) compared with standard/control intervention. Active intervention was effective for pain alleviation at 6 months (-17.19 to -3.23) and 1-3 years (-26.39 to -10.08) compared with passive intervention. Behavioural intervention was more effective than standard/control intervention for pain reduction at 6 months (-15.37 to -1.55), and improvement in cervical movement in the coronal (0.93 to 4.38) and horizontal planes at 3-6 months (0.43 to 5.46). For early (<4 days) versus late (>10 days) interventions, there were no statistically significant differences in all outcome measures between interventions at any time. Conclusions Conservative and active interventions may be useful for pain reduction in patients with acute WADII. Additionally, cervical horizontal mobility could be improved by conservative intervention. The employment of a behavioural intervention (e.g. act-as-usual, education and self-care including regularly exercise) could have benefits for pain reduction and improvement in cervical movement in the coronal and horizontal planes. The evidence was evaluated as low/very low level according to the Grading of Recommendations Assessment, Development and Evaluation system.


Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0133415
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 21 Jul 2015


  • Exercise therapy, Meta-analysis, Disabilities, Randomized controlled trials, Mental health therapies, Strength training, Behavior, Physiotherapy