The Effect of High Velocity Low Amplitude Cervical Manipulations on the Musculoskeletal System: Literature Review

Cureus. 2020 Apr 15;12(4):e7682. doi: 10.7759/cureus.7682.


In manual therapy, high velocity low amplitude (HVLA) cervical manipulation techniques are frequently used, but often the physiological and biomechanical effects that can be obtained are not completely clear. The techniques are mostly used for the treatment of biomechanical joint dysfunction, but little is yet known about the possibility of using them in order to achieve better performance on healthy subjects. The objective of the study is to describe how cervical manipulation can impact on a musculoskeletal disorder. A systematic search was carried out on the Pubmed electronic database from the beginning of January to March 2020. Two independent reviewers conducted the screening process through the PRISMA diagram to determine the eligibility of the articles. The inclusion criteria covered randomized controlled trial (RCT) manuscripts published in peer-reviewed journals with individuals of all ages from 2005 to 2020. The included intervention was thrust manipulation or HVLA directed towards the cervical spine region. After reviewing the literature, 21 of 74 articles were considered useful and relevant to the research question. The results of the research show that HVLA techniques, on subjects with musculoskeletal disorders, are able to influence pain modulation, mobility and strength both in the treated area and at a distance. Cervical manipulations are effective in management of cervicalgia, epicondylalgia, temporomandibular joint disorders and shoulder pain. With regard to results on strength in healthy subjects, given the divergent opinions of the authors, we cannot yet state that manipulation can significantly influence this parameter. Cervical manipulations can also have risks for the patient if applied when not appropriate but the frequency of complications due to vertebral manipulation are very low. However, the manipulation techniques might be limited by low patients tolerance or the presence of contraindications. In addition, the optimal number of manipulations to be performed and the long-term benefits produced are unknown.

Keywords: cervical manipulation; hvla; neck pain; osteopathic; pressure pain threshold; thrust techniques.

Publication types

  • Review