Purpose: An evidence-based clinical practice guideline was developed to ascertain the risks and benefits for manipulation or mobilization in treating mechanical neck disorders with or without radicular findings or cerviogenic headache. Pain, function, patient satisfaction and adverse events were appraised.
Methods: The practice guideline development cycle/model and Cochrane reviewing process, critiquing past reviews, randomized trials and surveys were used.
Results: Manipulation and mobilization alone showed similar effects as placebo, wait period, or control group, and appeared similar in benefit for pain relief. While high-technology exercises were superior to manipulation alone for improving long-term pain scores, manipulation plus low-technology exercise had the same effect. Patient satisfaction scores favoured manipulation plus low-technology exercise over manipulation alone, and high-technology exercise alone. Multi-modal care including some combination of manipulation or mobilizations and exercise was superior to control, other physical medicine methods, and rest. Based on weak evidence, estimates for serious complication for manipulation ranged from one in 20,000 to five in 10,000,000.
Recommendations: Stronger evidence suggests a multi-modal management strategy using mobilization or manipulation plus exercise is beneficial for relief of mechanical neck pain. Weaker evidence suggest less benefit to either manipulation/mobilization done alone than when used with exercise. The risk rate is uncertain.