Objective: To compare the effects of manual therapy and stretching exercise on neck pain and disability.
Design: An examiner-blinded randomized cross-over trial.
Patients: A total of 125 women with non-specific neck pain.
Methods: PATIENTS were randomized into 2 groups. Group 1 received manual therapy twice weekly and Group 2 performed stretching exercises 5 times a week. After 4 weeks the treatments were changed. The follow-up times were after 4 and 12 weeks. Neck pain (visual analogue scale) and disability indices were measured.
Results: Mean value (standard deviation) for neck pain was 50 mm (22) and 49 mm (19) at baseline in Group 1 and Group 2, respectively, and decreased during the first 4 weeks by 26 mm (95% Confidence Interval 20-33) and 19 mm (12-27), respectively. There was no significant difference between groups. Neck and shoulder pain and disability index decreased significantly more in Group 1 after manual therapy (p=0.01) as well as neck stiffness (p=0.01).
Conclusion: Both stretching exercise and manual therapy considerably decreased neck pain and disability in women with non-specific neck pain. The difference in effectiveness between the 2 treatments was minor. Low-cost stretching exercises can be recommended in the first instance as an appropriate therapy intervention to relieve pain, at least in the short-term.