Virtual reality and motor control exercises to treat chronic neck pain: A randomized controlled trial


MUSCULOSKELETAL SCIENCE AND PRACTICE, vol.62, 2022 (SCI-Expanded) identifier identifier identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Volume: 62
  • Publication Date: 2022
  • Doi Number: 10.1016/j.msksp.2022.102636
  • Journal Indexes: Science Citation Index Expanded (SCI-EXPANDED), Scopus
  • Keywords: Neck pain, Virtual reality, Pain threshold, Proprioception, Exercise, Anxiety, Quality of life, RELIABILITY, STABILITY, VALIDITY, PATIENT
  • Hacettepe University Affiliated: Yes


Aim: To compare the effects of virtual reality (VR) and motor control (MC) exercises. Methods: Forty-one participants with chronic neck pain (CNP) were randomized into the VR or MC group. Both groups performed 18 sessions over 6 weeks. The primary outcomes were pain intensity (visual analogue scale), pain pressure thresholds (PPTs), joint position sense error (JPSE), and muscle performance. The secondary outcomes were the Profile Fitness Mapping Questionnaire (ProFitMap-Neck), Hospital Anxiety-Depression Scale (HADS), and quality of life (SF-36). Data were analysed using T-Tests, and Fisher's Exact Test. Mean (standard deviation), median (interquartile range), effect size and %95 confidence interval (CI) were reported. Results: The results of Independent T-Tests showed that VR was advantageous in terms of PPTs of the C1/C2 and C5/C6 articular pillar bilaterally and large effect size (Cohen's d > 0.8, p < 0.05). Moreover, VR was more effective in decreasing JPSE (Cohen's d > 0.08; mean difference changes between-2.91 and-1.24, %95 CI-4.47 to 0.80) and functional limitation (ProFitMap-Neck) (Cohen's d = 0.7, mean difference 8.27, %95 CI 0.20 to 16.35). The results of T-Tests demonstrated that neither intervention was superior in terms of pain intensity, muscle performance, symptoms (ProFitMap-Neck), HADS, or SF-36 (Cohen's d < 0.5). Conclusions: VR can be applied for improving proprioception and for decreasing cervical articular pain in CNP patients. In addition, VR may be more effective for decreasing functional limitations in patients. Clinicians can choose MC exercises with or without VR for improving pain, muscle performance, symptoms, anxiety/depression, and quality of life.