BACKGROUND: Many patients with chronic whiplash-associated disorders have reduced neuromuscular control of the neck and head. It has been proposed that a new sling exercise therapy may promote neuromuscular control of the neck.

OBJECTIVES: To compare the effects of traditional physiotherapy vs traditional physiotherapy combined with a new sling exercise therapy on discomfort and function in patients with chronic whiplash-associated disorders who have unsettled compensation claims; and to investigate possible additional effects of guided, long-term home training.

DESIGN: A randomized multi-centre trial with 4 parallel groups.

METHODS: A total of 214 patients were assigned randomly to 4 treatment groups, and received either traditional physiotherapy with or without home training, or new sling exercise therapy with or without home training. Outcome measures were pain, disability, psychological distress, sick leave and physical tests.

RESULTS: A total of 171 patients (80%) completed the study. There were no important statistical or clinical differences between the groups after 4 months of treatment. There was a small statistically significant effect at 12-month follow-up in both groups with home training regarding pain during rest (p = 0.05) and reported fatigue in the final week (p = 0.02).

CONCLUSION: No statistically significant differences were found between the traditional physiotherapy group and the new sling exercise group, with or without home training. Since the groups were not compared with a control group without treatment, we cannot conclude that the studied treatments are effective for patients with whiplash-associated disorder, only that they did not differ in our study