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J Rheumatol. 2009 Feb;36(2):390-7. doi: 10.3899/jrheum.080376.

Effectiveness of specific neck stabilization exercises or a general neck exercise program for chronic neck disorders: a randomized controlled trial.

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  • 1Physiotherapy Department, Deeside Community Hospital, Aston, Flintshire, UK.



In a cohort of primary care patients with chronic neck pain, to determine whether specific neck stabilization exercises, in addition to general neck advice and exercise, provide better clinical outcome at 6 weeks than general neck advice and exercise alone.


This was a multicenter randomized controlled trial in 4 physical therapy departments. Seventy-four participants (mean age 51.3 yrs) were randomized to specific neck stabilization exercises with a general neck advice and exercise program (n = 37) or a general neck advice and exercise program alone (n = 37). They attended a 1-hour clinical examination, followed by a maximum of 4 treatment sessions. Assessments were undertaken at baseline, 6 weeks, and 6 months. The primary outcome was the Neck Pain and Disability Scale (NPDS). Analysis was by intention to treat.


Seventy-one (96%) participants received their allocated intervention. There was 91% followup at 6 weeks and 92% followup at 6 months. The mean (SD) 6-week improvement (reduction) in NPDS score was 10.6 (20.2) for the specific exercise program and 9.3 (15.7) for the general exercise program. There were no significant between-group differences in the NPDS at either 6 weeks or 6 months. For secondary outcomes, participants in the specific exercise group were less likely to be taking pain medication at 6-week followup (p = 0.02). There were no other significant between-group differences.


Adding specific neck stabilization exercises to a general neck advice and exercise program did not provide better clinical outcome overall in the physical therapy treatment of chronic neck pain.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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