Manipulation and mobilisation for mechanical neck disorders.

A. R. Gross, J. L. Hoving, T. A. Haines, C. H. Goldsmith, T. Kay, P. Aker, G. Bronfort

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

108 Scopus citations


BACKGROUND: Neck disorders are common, disabling, and costly. The effectiveness of manipulation and mobilisation remains unclear. OBJECTIVES: To assess whether manipulation and mobilisation, either alone or in combination with other treatments, relieve pain or improve function/disability, patient satisfaction, and global perceived effect in adults with mechanical neck disorders (MND). SEARCH STRATEGY: Computerised bibliographic databases including CENTRAL, MEDLINE, EMBASE, MANTIS, CINAHL, and ICL, were searched without language restrictions from their respective starting dates to March 2002. SELECTION CRITERIA: The studies had to be randomised (RCT) or quasi-randomised and investigate the use of manipulation or mobilisation as a treatment for mechanical neck disorders. DATA COLLECTION AND ANALYSIS: Two independent reviewers conducted citation identification, study selection, data abstraction, and methodological quality assessment. Using a random effects model, relative risk and standardised mean differences were calculated. The reasonableness of combining studies was assessed on clinical and statistical grounds. In the absence of heterogeneity, pooled effect measures were calculated. MAIN RESULTS: Of the 33 selected trials, 42% were high quality trials. Single sessions of manipulation or multiple sessions (3 to 11 weeks) of manipulation or mobilisation, or manipulation and mobilisation showed a nonsignificant benefit in pain relief when assessed against placebo, control groups or other treatments for acute/subacute/chronic MNDs with or without headache. There was strong evidence of benefit favouring multimodal care over a waiting list control for pain reduction [pooled SMD -0.85 (95% CI: -1.20 to -0.50)], improvement in function [pooled SMD -0.57 (95% CI: -0.94 to -0.21)] and global perceived effect [SMD -2.73 (95% CI: -3.30 to -2.16)] for subacute/chronic MND with or without headache. The common elements in this care strategy were mobilisation and/or manipulation plus exercise. There was moderate evidence of no difference in effect when multimodal care was compared to various other treatments. REVIEWER'S CONCLUSIONS: Multimodal care has short-term and long-term maintained benefits for subacute/chronic MND with or without headache. The common elements in this care strategy were mobilisation and/or manipulation plus exercise. The evidence did not favour manipulation and/or mobilisation done alone or in combination with various other physical medicine agents; when compared to one another, neither was superior. There was insufficient evidence available to draw conclusions for neck disorder with radicular findings.The added benefit of exercise needs to be further explored. Factorial design would help determine the active treatment agent(s) within a treatment mix. Phase II trials would help identify the most effective treatment characteristics and dosages. Greater attention to methodological quality is needed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalCochrane database of systematic reviews (Online)
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2004
Externally publishedYes


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