Objective: To determine if combining intermittent cervical traction with conventional physical therapy methods is more effective than using conventional approaches alone in the improvement of the grip strength and treatment of the patients with unilateral cervical 7 (C7) radiculopathy.
Design: Randomized controlled trial (RCT).
Setting: An outpatient physical therapy clinic, University of Social Welfare and Rehabilitation Science, Iran.
Patients: A sample of convenience of 30 patients with unilateral C7 radiculopathy participated in this study. Patients were assigned randomly to a control (N = 15, mean age = 46.93 +/- 5.32) and an experimental group (N = 15, mean age = 47.53 +/- 5.6).
Interventions: Electrotherapy/exercise treatment for control group and combined cervical traction and electrotherapy/exercise for experimental group. Ten physical therapy sessions, three times a week for each group.
Main outcome measures: Grip strength as an appropriate objective parameter was measured before treatment and after 5 and 10 treatment sessions.
Results: Statistical analysis (paired t-test) revealed significant increase in grip strength after 10 treatment sessions in control (p < 0.01) and experimental group (p < 0.01) compared with pretreatment score. In the ANCOVA, controlling for pretest scores, no significant difference was found between the two groups in the after 10 treatment sessions grip score (p = 0.65). However, the change in grip strength after five sessions was significantly greater for the experimental group than for the control group (p = 0.04).
Conclusions: The application of cervical traction combined with electrotherapy and exercise produced an immediate improvement in the hand grip function in patients with cervical radiculopathy.