Role of Manual Therapy for Neck Pain and Quality of Life in Head and Neck Cancer Survivors: A Systematic Review

Indian J Palliat Care. 2022 Jan-Mar;28(1):99-112. doi: 10.25259/IJPC_10_2021. Epub 2021 Dec 18.


Background: Pain is the one the most dreadful side effects of head and neck cancers and cancer related treatments affecting patients during and after the treatment adding to the problems affecting their ability to speak, swallow, breath and feeding. Manual therapy is standard set of physiotherapy treatments used for alleviating neck pain. It has found to be effective in small subset of cancer patients for relieving pain.

Objectives: To highlight the use of various manual therapy techniques focusing in decreasing neck pain and improving quality of life in Head and Neck Cancer survivors that may suggest its safe utilisation in oncology rehabilitation.

Materials and methods: Electronic search was conducted in PubMed, Google Scholar, CINAHL, Pedro, and COCHRANE databases. Reference lists of the included studies and relevant reviews were manually searched. Studies that met the inclusion criteria were evaluated using McMaster critical review form for quantitative studies. A descriptive synthesis was undertaken due to the heterogeneity of the included studies.

Results: Seven studies were assessed for risk of bias that comprised of three clinical trials, one case series and three case reports that applied Maitland's mobilisation, Myofascial release, Muscle Energy Techniques to head and neck cancer survivors in various clinical settings. The outcomes highlighted decrease in pain, improvement in cervical range of motion and quality of life.

Conclusion: This review recommends application of manual therapy to head and neck cancer survivors. However, authors caution application of manual therapy in terms of choosing a particular technique. Further, well designed larger sample size with randomisation and double blinding would help to generate better evidence for head and neck cancer survivors.

Keywords: Head and neck neoplasms; Musculoskeletal manipulations; Neck pain; Quality of life; Soft tissue mobilisation.

Publication types

  • Review