Evidence-Based Spine-Care Journal 2013; 04(01): 030-041
DOI: 10.1055/s-0033-1341605
Systematic Review
Georg Thieme Verlag KG Stuttgart · New York

The Outcomes of Manipulation or Mobilization Therapy Compared with Physical Therapy or Exercise for Neck Pain: A Systematic Review

Josh Schroeder
1  Department of Spine Surgery, The Hospital for Special Surgery, New York, New York, United States
Leon Kaplan
2  Department of Orthopedic Surgery, Spine Unit, Hadassah Hebrew University Medical Center, Jerusalem, Israel
Dena J. Fischer
3  Spectrum Research, Inc., Tacoma, Washington, United States
Andrea C. Skelly
3  Spectrum Research, Inc., Tacoma, Washington, United States
› Author Affiliations
Further Information

Publication History

21 October 2012

05 December 2012

Publication Date:
01 May 2013 (online)


Study Design Systematic review.

Study Rationale Neck pain is a prevalent condition. Spinal manipulation and mobilization procedures are becoming an accepted treatment for neck pain. However, data on the effectiveness of these treatments have not been summarized.

Objective To compare manipulation or mobilization of the cervical spine to physical therapy or exercise for symptom improvement in patients with neck pain.

Methods A systematic review of the literature was performed using PubMed, the National Guideline Clearinghouse Database, and bibliographies of key articles, which compared spinal manipulation or mobilization therapy with physical therapy or exercise in patients with neck pain. Articles were included based on predetermined criteria and were appraised using a predefined quality rating scheme.

Results From 197 citations, 7 articles met all inclusion and exclusion criteria. There were no differences in pain improvement when comparing spinal manipulation to exercise, and there were inconsistent reports of pain improvement in subjects who underwent mobilization therapy versus physical therapy. No disability improvement was reported between treatment groups in studies of acute or chronic neck pain patients. No functional improvement was found with manipulation therapy compared with exercise treatment or mobilization therapy compared with physical therapy groups in patients with acute pain. In chronic neck pain subjects who underwent spinal manipulation therapy compared to exercise treatment, results for short-term functional improvement were inconsistent.

Conclusion The data available suggest that there are minimal short- and long-term treatment differences in pain, disability, patient-rated treatment improvement, treatment satisfaction, health status, or functional improvement when comparing manipulation or mobilization therapy to physical therapy or exercise in patients with neck pain. This systematic review is limited by the variability of treatment interventions and lack of standardized outcomes to assess treatment benefit.

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