Inclusion of thoracic spine thrust manipulation into an electro-therapy/thermal program for the management of patients with acute mechanical neck pain: a randomized clinical trial

Man Ther. 2009 Jun;14(3):306-13. doi: 10.1016/j.math.2008.04.006. Epub 2008 Aug 8.


Our aim was to examine the effects of a seated thoracic spine distraction thrust manipulation included in an electrotherapy/thermal program on pain, disability, and cervical range of motion in patients with acute neck pain. This randomized controlled trial included 45 patients (20 males, 25 females) between 23 and 44 years of age presenting with acute neck pain. Patients were randomly divided into 2 groups: an experimental group which received a thoracic manipulation, and a control group which did not receive the manipulative procedure. Both groups received an electrotherapy program consisting of 6 sessions of TENS (frequency 100Hz; 20min), superficial thermo-therapy (15min) and soft tissue massage. The experimental group also received a thoracic manipulation once a week for 3 consecutive weeks. Outcome measures included neck pain (numerical pain rate scale; NPRS), level of disability (Northwick Park Neck Pain Questionnaire; NPQ) and neck mobility. These outcomes were assessed at baseline and 1 week after discharge. A 2-way repeated-measures ANOVA with group as between-subject variable and time as within-subject variable was used. Patients receiving thoracic manipulation experienced greater reductions in both neck pain, with between-group difference of 2.3 (95% CI 2-2.7) points on a 11-NPRS, and perceived disability with between-group differences 8.5 (95% CI 7.2-9.8) points. Further, patients receiving thoracic manipulation experienced greater increases in all cervical motions with between-group differences of 10.6 degrees (95% CI 8.8-12.5 degrees) for flexion; 9.9 degrees (95% CI 8.1-11.7 degrees) for extension; 9.5 degrees (95% CI 7.6-11.4 degrees) for right lateral-flexion; 8 degrees (95% CI 6.2-9.8 degrees) for left lateral-flexion; 9.6 degrees (95% CI 7.7-11.6 degrees) for right rotation; and 8.4 degrees (95% CI 6.5-10.3 degrees) for left rotation. We found that the inclusion of a thoracic manipulation into an electrotherapy/thermal program was effective in reducing neck pain and disability, and in increasing active cervical mobility in patients with acute neck pain.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Acute Disease
  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Combined Modality Therapy
  • Electric Stimulation Therapy / methods*
  • Female
  • Hot Temperature / therapeutic use*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Manipulation, Spinal / methods*
  • Neck Pain / therapy*
  • Pain Measurement / methods
  • Range of Motion, Articular
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Thoracic Vertebrae*
  • Treatment Outcome