Effectiveness of Thoracic Spine Manipulation on the Management of Neck Pain: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Control Trials

J Pain Res. 2023 Feb 27;16:597-609. doi: 10.2147/JPR.S368910. eCollection 2023.


There are contradicting findings regarding the effect of thoracic spine manipulation in decreasing pain and disability in patients with chronic mechanical neck pain. Hence, the purpose of this review was to evaluate the current evidence on the effectiveness of thoracic spine thrust manipulation in decreasing pain intensity, and neck disability among subjects with chronic mechanical neck pain. We made a comprehensive search of literature published between 2010 and 2020 from the electronic databases of PubMed, Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature (CINAHL), Cochrane Library, and Physiotherapy Evidence Database (PEDro). We adhered to Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic reviews and Meta-analysis (PRISMA). The methodological quality was assessed by the PEDro scale, and the level of evidence rated by Grading of Recommendations Assessment, Development, and Evaluation (GRADE) software. Finally, a meta-analysis was done using RevMan 5.3 with a random-effects model to calculate the mean difference (MD) and 95% confidence intervals for pain and disability. Eight eligible randomized controlled trials were identified with a total of 457 participants. The quality assessment of the included studies was found to be fair in quality (mean PEDro score of 6.63/10). The overall GRADE of the review showed low to moderate level of evidence. Effect size estimates of the studies showed modest differences in pain reduction, as it revealed a significant effect in Visual Analog Scale ((VAS) 0-100mm) (MD -12.46; 95% CI: -17.29, -7.64), and Pain Numeric Rating Scale ((PNRS) 0-10 pts) (MD -0.8; 95% CI: -1.60, -0.10). The thoracic manipulation also resulted in a significant effect in decreasing neck disability, in which the mean difference in Neck disability index (NDI) showed (MD -6.46; 95% CI: -10.43 -2.50). This review suggested that thoracic spine manipulation was effective in reducing pain and neck disability in all adults with chronic mechanical neck pain compared to other interventions.

Keywords: chronic neck pain; manual therapy; mechanical neck pain; neck pain; spinal manipulation and thoracic manipulation.

Publication types

  • Review