Manual therapy for neck pain: An overview of randomized clinical trials and systematic reviews
Canadian Memorial Chiropractic College, Toronto, ON, Canada. Europa medicophysica
Manual therapy for neck pain enjoys a long history, with increasing popularity in recent times. The evidence base for manual therapies for neck pain consists of a reasonably large body of clinical trials, an even greater number of systematic reviews and, more recently, a number of practice guidelines. We have conducted several systematic reviews pertaining to the evidence base for both acute and chronic neck pain as well as for the outcome of control groups of chronic neck pain subjects in clinical trials of conservative therapies. In this review, we first provide background material on the definition and characterization of manual therapies as well as on the epidemiology of neck pain. We then review our recent systematic reviews on manual therapies for acute and chronic neck pain without whiplash. Finally, we provide brief, original reviews of, first, the literature on the treatment of whiplash injury by manual therapies followed by the current practice guidelines pertaining to manual therapies for neck pain. While there are several publications, especially those registered with the Cochrane Collaboration, that are currently the authoritative evaluations of the use of manual therapies for neck pain, the present review is designed to present a broad overview of the topic with a distinctive approach emphasizing the analysis of change scores in the clinical trials. It is hoped that this will benefit researchers and clinicians alike in their management of neck pain patients.
Available from: John J Triano
- "A variety of conservative treatments are available for chronic mechanical NP. One commonly used treatment, spinal manipulation, is recommended by several evidencebased guidelines for patients without severe or progressive neurological deficits        . There is a wide range of terms often grouped under the heading of spinal manipulation that currently show limited differences with respect to clinical effectiveness but are mechanically distinct. "
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ABSTRACT: BACKGROUND CONTEXT: No clinical trial of spinal manipulation for chronic neck pain (NP), for either single or multiple intervention session(s), has used an effective manual sham-manipulation control group. PURPOSE: Validate a practical sham cervical high-velocity low-amplitude spinal manipulation. STUDY DESIGN/SETTING: Randomized experimental validation study in an institutional clinical research laboratory. PATIENT SAMPLE: Eligible subjects were males and females, 18 to 60 years of age with mechanical NP (as defined by the International Association for the Study of Pain Classification) of at least 3 months' duration. Subjects with arm pain, any pathologic cause of NP, or any contraindication to spinal manipulation were excluded. OUTCOME MEASURES: The primary outcome was the patient's self-report or registration of group allocation after treatment. Secondary outcomes were numerical rating scale-101 for NP, range of motion (ROM; by goniometer), and tenderness (by pressure algometry). METHODS: Eligible subjects were randomly allocated to one of two groups: real cervical manipulation (RM) or sham cervical manipulation (SM). All subjects were given two procedures in sequence, either RM+SM or SM+SM. Immediately after the two procedures, subjects were asked to register any pain experienced during the procedures and to identify their treatment group allocation. Force-time profiles were recorded during all procedures. Secondary clinical outcome measures were obtained at baseline, 5 and 15 minutes after the intervention, including ROM, self-report of pain, and local spinous process tenderness. Data for each variable were summarized and tested for normality in distribution. Summary statistics were obtained for each variable and statistically tested. RESULTS: Sixty-seven subjects were randomized. Data from 64 subjects (32 per group) were available for analysis. There were no significant differences between the groups at baseline. One adverse event occurred in the "real" group, which was a mild posttreatment pain reaction lasting less than 24 hours. In the RM group, 50% of subjects incorrectly registered their treatment allocation; in the sham group, 53% did so. For the SM group, none of the procedures resulted in cavitation, whereas in the RM group, 87% of procedures resulted in cavitation. There were no significant changes between groups on pain, tenderness, or ROM. Force-time profiles of the RM and SM procedures demonstrated fidelity with significant differences between components as intended. CONCLUSIONS: The novel sham procedure has been shown to be effective in masking subjects to group allocation and to be clinically inert with respect to common outcomes in the immediate posttreatment stage. Further research on serial applications and for multiple operators is warranted.
Available from: Aaron A Puhl
- "Clinical trials of spinal manipulation for neck pain have been published since the early 1980's. Numerous reviews of these trials have been published in the ensuing years [1-3]. The lack of a valid control group has been a consistent criticism of this body of studies [1-5]. "
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ABSTRACT: To characterize the types of control procedures used in controlled clinical trials of cervical spine manipulation and to evaluate the outcomes obtained by subjects in control groups so as to improve the quality of future clinical trials
A search of relevant clinical trials was performed in PubMed 1966-May 2010 with the following key words: "Chiropractic"[Mesh] OR "Manipulation, Spinal"[Mesh]) AND "Clinical Trial "[Publication Type]. Reference lists from these trials were searched for any additional trials. The reference lists of two prior studies, one review and one original study were also searched. Accepted reports were then rated for quality by 2 reviewers using the PEDro scale. Studies achieving a score of >50% were included for data extraction and analysis. Intra-group change scores on pain outcomes were obtained. For determining clinically important outcomes, a threshold of 20% improvement was used where continuous data were available; otherwise, an effect size of 0.30 was employed
The PubMed search yielded 753 citations of which 13 were selected. Eight (8) other studies were identified by reviewing two systematic reviews and through reference searches. All studies scored >50% on the PEDro scale. There were 9 multi-session studies and 12 single-session studies. The most commonly used control procedure was "manual contact/no thrust". Four (4) studies used a placebo-control (patient blinded). For two of these studies with VAS data, the average change reported was 4.5 mm. For the other control procedures, variable results were obtained. No clinically important changes were reported in 57% of the paired comparisons, while, in 43% of these, changes which would be considered clinically important were obtained in the control groups. Only 15% of trials reported on post-intervention group registration.
Most control procedures in cervical manipulation trials result in small clinical changes, although larger changes are observed in 47% of paired comparisons. The vast majority of studies do not result in subject blinding; the effect of unmasking of control subjects in these studies makes the interpretation of the existing clinical trials challenging. The greatest majority of trials do not report on post-intervention blinding. A small number of candidate procedures for effective control interventions exist. Much more research is required to improve this important aspect of clinical trial methodology in cervical manipulation studies.
Available from: Tony Bohman
- "Regarding massage therapy, the evidence from systematic reviews is strong that it is an effective treatment for low back pain [9,13]. It has, however, not been possible to draw any conclusions in evidence-based reviews on the effect of massage on neck pain because of contradictory results and a lack of studies of high quality [11,14]. "
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ABSTRACT: Back and neck pain are very common, disabling and recurrent disorders in the general population and the knowledge of long-term effect of treatments are sparse. The aim of this study was to compare the long-term effects (up to one year) of naprapathic manual therapy and evidence-based advice on staying active regarding non-specific back and/or neck pain. Naprapathy, a health profession mainly practiced in Sweden, Finland, Norway and in the USA, is characterized by a combination of manual musculoskeletal manipulations, aiming to decrease pain and disability in the neuromusculoskeletal system.
Subjects with non-specific pain/disability in the back and/or neck lasting for at least two weeks (n = 409), recruited at public companies in Sweden, were included in this pragmatic randomized controlled trial. The two interventions compared were naprapathic manual therapy such as spinal manipulation/mobilization, massage and stretching, (Index Group), and advice to stay active and on how to cope with pain, provided by a physician (Control Group). Pain intensity, disability and health status were measured by questionnaires.
89% completed the 26-week follow-up and 85% the 52-week follow-up. A higher proportion in the Index Group had a clinically important decrease in pain (risk difference (RD) = 21%, 95% CI: 10-30) and disability (RD = 11%, 95% CI: 4-22) at 26-week, as well as at 52-week follow-ups (pain: RD = 17%, 95% CI: 7-27 and disability: RD = 17%, 95% CI: 5-28). The differences between the groups in pain and disability considered over one year were statistically significant favoring naprapathy (p < or = 0.005). There were also significant differences in improvement in bodily pain and social function (subscales of SF-36 health status) favoring the Index Group.
Combined manual therapy, like naprapathy, is effective in the short and in the long term, and might be considered for patients with non-specific back and/or neck pain.
Current Controlled Trials ISRCTN56954776.
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