Effectiveness of Neural Mobilisation Techniques in the Management of Musculoskeletal Neck Disorders with Nerve-Related Symptoms: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis with a Mapping Report

Pain Med. 2021 Oct 11;pnab300. doi: 10.1093/pm/pnab300. Online ahead of print.


Objective: The objective was to assess the effectiveness of neural mobilisation (NM) techniques in the management of musculoskeletal neck disorders with nerve-related symptoms (MND-NRS).

Methods: We conducted a systematic review with meta-analysis, using pain intensity, disability, perceived function, cervical range of motion and mechanosensitivity as the main outcome measures.

Results: The systematic review included 22 studies (n = 978). More favourable outcomes were observed for NM on pain intensity compared with control interventions (standardised mean differences (SMDs) -0.92; 95% CI - 1.66--0.18), but not compared with other treatments (OTs) (SMD 1.06; 95% CI - 0.02-2.15). Regarding neck pain intensity, no significant differences were found in favour of NM compared with OTs (SMD 0.37; 95% CI - 0.35-1.1). However, between-treatment differences were found in favour of OT on arm-pain intensity (SMD 0.57; 95% CI 0.08-1.05). In addition, the grouped MA did not show statistically significant differences between NM and OT outcomes on the cervical range of motion (SMD 0.16; 95% CI - 0.06-0.38). However, compared with no intervention, NM was associated with significantly improved outcomes in cervical rotation (SMD 0.91; 95% CI 0.61-1.22). Similar results were found regarding disability (SMD -0.08; 95% CI - 0.36--0.20, and SMD -1.44; 95% CI - 2.28--0.6, respectively). Finally, NM was associated with more favourable outcomes on mechanosensitivity compared with OT (SMD 0.79; 95% CI 0.15-1.42) and greater improvements in function compared with no intervention (SMD 0.89; 95% CI 0.16-1.62).

Conclusions: NM appeared to be effective to improve overall pain intensity when embedded in a physiotherapy treatment in the management of MND-NRS. When compared with no intervention, it was effective to improve neck rotation, disability, and function. However, it was not superior to other types of treatments in improving overall pain intensity, neck pain intensity, arm pain intensity, cervical range of motion and disability, except for mechanosensitivity.

Keywords: Meta-analysis; Neck disorders; Nerve-related symptoms; Neural mobilization; Pain intensity.