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Ann Intern Med. 2012 Jan 3;156(1 Pt 1):1-10. doi: 10.7326/0003-4819-156-1-201201030-00002.

Spinal manipulation, medication, or home exercise with advice for acute and subacute neck pain: a randomized trial.

Author information

1
Northwestern Health Sciences University, Pain Management and Rehabilitation Center, Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA. gbronfort@nwhealth.edu

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

Mechanical neck pain is a common condition that affects an estimated 70% of persons at some point in their lives. Little research exists to guide the choice of therapy for acute and subacute neck pain.

OBJECTIVE:

To determine the relative efficacy of spinal manipulation therapy (SMT), medication, and home exercise with advice (HEA) for acute and subacute neck pain in both the short and long term.

DESIGN:

Randomized, controlled trial. (ClinicalTrials.gov registration number: NCT00029770)

SETTING:

1 university research center and 1 pain management clinic in Minnesota.

PARTICIPANTS:

272 persons aged 18 to 65 years who had nonspecific neck pain for 2 to 12 weeks.

INTERVENTION:

12 weeks of SMT, medication, or HEA.

MEASUREMENTS:

The primary outcome was participant-rated pain, measured at 2, 4, 8, 12, 26, and 52 weeks after randomization. Secondary measures were self-reported disability, global improvement, medication use, satisfaction, general health status (Short Form-36 Health Survey physical and mental health scales), and adverse events. Blinded evaluation of neck motion was performed at 4 and 12 weeks.

RESULTS:

For pain, SMT had a statistically significant advantage over medication after 8, 12, 26, and 52 weeks (P ≤ 0.010), and HEA was superior to medication at 26 weeks (P = 0.02). No important differences in pain were found between SMT and HEA at any time point. Results for most of the secondary outcomes were similar to those of the primary outcome.

LIMITATIONS:

Participants and providers could not be blinded. No specific criteria for defining clinically important group differences were prespecified or available from the literature.

CONCLUSION:

For participants with acute and subacute neck pain, SMT was more effective than medication in both the short and long term. However, a few instructional sessions of HEA resulted in similar outcomes at most time points.

PRIMARY FUNDING SOURCE:

National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, National Institutes of Health.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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