STUDY DESIGN: Randomized clinical trial.
BACKGROUND: Little is known about the efficacy of providing manual therapy in addition to cervical and scapulothoracic stabilization exercises in people with mechanical neck pain (MNP).
OBJECTIVES: To compare the effects of stabilization exercises plus manual therapy to those of stabilization exercises alone on disability, pain, range of motion (ROM), and quality of life in patients with MNP.
METHODS: One hundred two patients with MNP (18-65 years of age) were recruited and randomly allocated into 2 groups: stabilization exercise without (n = 51) and with (n = 51) manual therapy. The program was carried out 3 days per week for 4 weeks. The Neck Disability Index, visual analog pain scale, digital algometry of pressure pain threshold, goniometric measurements, and Medical Outcomes Study 36-Item Short-Form Health Survey were used to assess participants at baseline and after 4 weeks.
RESULTS: Improvements in Neck Disability Index score, night pain, rotation ROM, and the Medical Outcomes Study 36-Item Short-Form Health Survey score were greater in the group that received stabilization exercise with manual therapy compared to the group that only received stabilization exercise. Between-group differences (95% confidence interval) were 2.2 (0.1, 4.3) points for the Neck Disability Index, 1.1(0.0, 2.3) cm for pain at night measured on the visual analog scale, -4.3 degrees (-8.1 degrees, -0.5 degrees) and -5.0 degrees (-8.2 degrees, -1.7 degrees) for right and left rotation ROM, respectively, and -2.9 (-5.4, -0.4) points and -3.1 (-6.2, 0.0) points for the Medical Outcomes Study 36-Item Short-Form Health Survey physical and mental components, respectively. Changes in resting and activity pain, pressure pain threshold, and cervical extension or lateral flexion ROM did not differ significantly between the groups. Pressure pain threshold increased only in those who received stabilization exercise with manual therapy (P<.05).
CONCLUSION: The results of this study suggest that stabilization exercises with manual therapy may be superior to stabilization exercises alone for improving disability, pain intensity at night, cervical rotation motion, and quality of life in patients with MNP.