The influence of home exercise programs for patients with non-specific or specific neck pain: a systematic review of the literature

J Man Manip Ther. 2016 May;24(2):62-73. doi: 10.1179/2042618613Y.0000000047.


Study design: Systematic review of randomized controlled trials (RCT).

Objectives: To examine the effects of a therapeutic home exercise program (HEP) for patients with neck pain (associated with whiplash, non-specific, or specific neck pain, with or without radiculopathy, or cervicogenic headache) on pain, function, and disability. Our secondary aim was to describe the design, dosage, and adherence of the prescribed HEPs.

Background: Neck pain is a leading cause of disability that affects 22-70% of the population. Different techniques have been found effective for the treatment of neck pain. However, there is conflicting evidence to support the role of a therapeutic HEP to reduce pain, disability, and improve function and quality of life (QOL).

Methods: A systematic review in accordance with the preferred reporting items for systematic reviews and meta-analyses (PRISMA) statement for reporting systematic reviews. The full-text review utilized the Maastricht-Amsterdam assessment tool to assess quality among RCTs.

Results: A total of 1927 subjects included within seven full-text articles met our specific search strategy. It was found that HEPs with a focus on strength and endurance-training exercises, as well as self- mobilization, have a positive effect when used in combination with other conservative treatments or alone.

Conclusions: Home exercise programs that utilize either self-mobilizations within an augmented HEP to address specific spinal levels, or strengthening, and/or endurance exercise are effective at reducing neck pain, function, and disability and improving QOL. The benefit of HEPs in combination with other conservative interventions yields some benefit with a range of effect sizes.

Keywords: Home exercise program; Neck pain; Non-specific neck pain; Outcomes; Systematic review.

Publication types

  • Review