The efficacy of manual therapy and exercise for treating non-specific neck pain: A systematic review
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© 2017 - IOS Press and the authors. All rights reserved. OBJECTIVE: To review and update the evidence for different forms of manual therapy (MT) and exercise for patients with different stages of non-specific neck pain (NP). Data sources: MEDLINE, Cochrane-Register-of-Controlled-Trials, PEDro, EMBASE. METHOD: A qualitative systematic review covering a period from January 2000 to December 2015 was conducted according to updated-guidelines. Specific inclusion criteria only on RCTs were used; including differentiation according to stages of NP (acute - subacute [ASNP] or chronic [CNP] ), as well as sub-classification based on type of MT interventions: MT1 (HVLA manipulation); MT2 (mobilization and/or soft-tissue-techniques); MT3 (MT1 + MT2); and MT4 (Mobilization-with-Movement). In each sub-category, MT could be combined or not with exercise and/or usual medical care. RESULTS: Initially 121 studies were identified for potential inclusion. Based on qualitative and quantitative evaluation criteria, 23 RCTs were identified for review. Evidence for ASNP: MODERATE-evidence: In favour of (i) MT1 to the cervical spine (Cx) combined with exercises when compared to MT1 to the thoracic spine (Tx) combined with exercises; (ii) MT3 to the Cx and Tx combined with exercise compared to MT2 to the Cx with exercise or compared to usual medical care for pain and satisfaction with care from short to long-term. Evidence for CNP: STRONG-evidence: Of no difference of efficacy between MT2 at the symptomatic Cx level(s) in comparison to MT2 on asymptomatic Cx level(s) for pain and function. MODERATE to STRONG-evidence: In favour of MT1 and MT3 on Cx and Tx with exercise in comparison to exercise or MT alone for pain, function, satisfaction with care and general-health from short to moderate-terms. MODERATE-evidence: In favour (i) of MT1 as compared to MT2 and MT4, all applied to the Cx, for neck mobility, and pain in the very short term; (ii) of MT2 using sof-tissue-techniques to the Cx and Tx or MT3 to the Cx and Tx in comparison to no-treatment in the short-term for pain and disability. CONCLUSION: This systematic review updates the evidence for MT combined or not with exercise and/or usual medical care for different stages of NP and provides recommendations for future studies. Two majors points could be highlighted, the first one is that combining different forms of MT with exercise is better than MT or exercise alone, and the second one is that mobilization need not be applied at the symptomatic level(s) for improvements of NP patients. These both points may have clinical implications for reducing the risk involved with some MT techniques applied to the cervical spine.
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