Background: Given the prevalence of chronic nonspecific neck pain (CNSNP) internationally, attention has increasingly been paid in recent years to evaluating the efficacy of therapeutic exercise (TE) in the management of this condition.
Purpose: The purpose of this study was to conduct a current review of randomized controlled trials concerning the effect of TE on pain and disability among people with CNSNP, perform a meta-analysis, and summarize current understanding.
Data sources: Data were obtained from MEDLINE, Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature (CINAHL), EMBASE, Physiotherapy Evidence Database (PEDro), and Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL) databases from their inception to August 2012. Reference lists of relevant literature reviews also were tracked.
Study selection: All published randomized trials without any restriction regarding time of publication or language were considered for inclusion. Study participants had to be symptomatic adults with only CNSNP.
Data extraction: Two reviewers independently selected the studies, conducted the quality assessment, and extracted the results. Data were pooled in a meta-analysis using a random-effects model.
Data synthesis: Seven studies met the inclusion criteria. Therapeutic exercise proved to have medium and significant short-term and intermediate-term effects on pain (g=-0.53, 95% confidence interval [CI]=-0.86 to -0.20, and g=-0.45, 95% CI=-0.82 to -0.07, respectively) and medium but not significant short-term and intermediate-term effects on disability (g=-0.39, 95% CI=-0.86 to 0.07, and g=-0.46, 95% CI=-1.00 to -0.08, respectively).
Limitations: Only one study investigated the effect of TE on pain and disability at follow-up longer than 6 months after intervention.
Conclusions: Consistent with other reviews, the results support the use of TE in the management of CNSNP. In particular, a significant overall effect size was found supporting TE for its effect on pain in both the short and intermediate terms.