Does the Use of Electrotherapies Increase the Effectiveness of Neck Stabilization Exercises for Improving Pain, Disability, Mood, and Quality of Life in Chronic Neck Pain?: A Randomized, Controlled, Single-Blind Study

Spine (Phila Pa 1976). 2018 Oct 15;43(20):E1174-E1183. doi: 10.1097/BRS.0000000000002663.


Study design: This study was a prospective, randomized, controlled study.

Objective: The aim of this study was to determine whether transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) or interferential current (IFC) increase the effectiveness of neck stabilization exercises (NSEs) on pain, disability, mood and quality of life for chronic neck pain (CNP).

Summary of background data: Neck pain is one of the three most frequently reported complaints of the musculoskeletal system. Electrotherapies, such as IFC and TENS, have been applied solo or combined with exercise for management of neck pain; however, the efficacy of these combinations is unclear.

Methods: A total of 81 patients with CNP were included in this study. Patients were randomly assigned into three groups regarding age and gender. First group had NSE, second group had TENS and NSE, and third group had IFC and NSE. Pain levels [visual analogue scale (VAS)], limits of cervical range of motion (ROM), quality of life (short form-36), mood (Beck depression inventory), levels of disability (Neck Pain and Disability Index), and the need for analgesics of all patients were evaluated before treatment, at 6th and 12th week follow-up. Physical therapy modalities were applied for 15 sessions in all groups. All participants had group exercise accompanied by a physiotherapist for 3 weeks and an additional 3 weeks of home exercise program.

Results: According to the intragroup assessment, the study achieved its purpose of pain reduction, ROM increase, improvement of disability, quality of life, mood and reduction in drug use in all three treatment groups (P < 0.05). However, clinical outcomes at 6th and 12 th week had no significant difference among the three groups (P > 0.05).

Conclusion: TENS and IFC therapies are effective in the treatment of CNP patients. However, they have no additional benefit or superiority over NSE.

Level of evidence: 2.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Chronic Pain / therapy*
  • Electric Stimulation Therapy / methods
  • Exercise / physiology
  • Exercise Therapy*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neck Pain / therapy*
  • Pain Measurement
  • Physical Therapy Modalities
  • Quality of Life
  • Single-Blind Method
  • Transcutaneous Electric Nerve Stimulation / methods
  • Treatment Outcome*
  • Young Adult