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Complement Ther Med. 2013 Feb;21(1):1-7. doi: 10.1016/j.ctim.2012.11.003. Epub 2012 Dec 7.

Strain-counterstrain to treat restrictions of the mobility of the cervical spine in patients with neck pain: a sham-controlled randomized trial.

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Institute of General Practice, Techni-sche Universität München, Munich, Germany.



Strain-counterstrain is an osteopathic technique which is widely used for treating mobility restrictions in the neck. We aimed to investigate whether a single strain-counterstrain intervention is more effective than a sham intervention in improving restricted cervical range of motion in patients with neck pain.


61 adult patients with neck pain and restricted cervical mobility were randomly allocated to receive either a single strain-counterstrain intervention or a sham treatment. After outcome measurement all patients received full individualized osteopathic treatment. Mobility of the cervical spine was measured by a blinded observer using the Cervical Range of Motion (CROM) tool. In addition, patients rated pain intensity and assessed the treatment effect. The main outcome measure was the sum of changes in mobility restriction (in %) after treatment compared to normal mobility.


All patients completed the study. Mobility restriction decreased by 2.0% (SD 6.9%) in the group receiving strain-counterstrain treatment and 0.6% (SD 5.7%) in the group receiving sham treatment (mean difference 1.5%, 95% confidence interval -1.7 to 4.8%; p=0.35). There were no significant differences between groups for secondary outcomes. After receiving the full osteopathic treatment the group initially receiving strain-counterstrain improved by another 4.2% (7.0%; p=0.003) and the group initially receiving sham by another 5.6% (SD 6.8%; p<0.001).


Strain-counterstrain as a single intervention did not have immediate effects on mobility and pain over a sham treatment. Future studies should probably focus on the investigation of full osteopathic treatment.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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