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Keywords:

  • Neck disorders;
  • Physical therapy;
  • Primary care

Abstract

Objective

To determine whether manual therapy or pulsed shortwave diathermy, in addition to advice and exercise, provide better clinical outcome at 6 months than advice and exercise alone in primary care patients with nonspecific neck disorders.

Methods

This was a multicenter, 3-arm randomized controlled trial in 15 physical therapy departments. Of the 735 screened patients, 350 were recruited to the study (mean age 51 years) from July 2000 to June 2002. Participants were randomized to advice and exercise plus manual therapy, advice and exercise plus pulsed shortwave, or advice and exercise alone. Assessments were undertaken at baseline, 6 weeks, and 6 months. The primary outcome was the Northwick Park Neck Pain Questionnaire. Analysis was by intention to treat.

Results

Of the participants, 115 were allocated to advice and exercise, 114 to advice and exercise plus manual therapy, and 121 to advice and exercise plus pulsed shortwave; 98% received the allocated treatment. There was 93% followup at 6 months. The mean ± SD fall in Northwick Park score at 6 months was 11.5 ± 15.7 for advice and exercise alone, 10.2 ± 14.1 for advice and exercise plus manual therapy, and 10.3 ± 15.0 for advice and exercise plus pulsed shortwave. There were no statistically significant differences in mean changes between groups.

Conclusion

The addition of pulsed shortwave or manual therapy to advice and exercise did not provide any additional benefits in the physical therapy treatment of neck disorders.