A comparison of mobilisation and exercise in the treatment of chronic non-specific neck pain
Meyer, Elsje Maria
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Background : Chronic non-specific neck pain is a common condition that negatively affects cervical muscle functioning and activities of daily living. Combined exercise and mobilisation are currently recommended as the most effective treatment for this condition. Mobilisation, such as mobilisation of the cervical spine, provides short-term pain relief and affects neural activity, while the craniocervical flexion exercise provides immediate pain relief and activates the deep cervical flexors. The short-term effect of mobilisation and the craniocervical flexion exercise have not been compared. Objectives : This study aimed to compare mobilisation and craniocervical flexion exercise in terms of subjective and objective outcome measures at a short-term follow-up consultation for the treatment of chronic non-specific neck pain. The null-hypothesis was that the mobilisation group would not respond differently to the craniocervical flexion exercise group. Method : A group of thirty females between the ages of 20 and 35 complaining of non-specific neck pain for more than three months were randomly allocated into either the mobilisation or craniocervical flexion exercise groups. During the first two consultations, a mobilisation was administered to the mobilisation group. Whereas the craniocervical flexion exercise and a posture correcting exercise were taught to the participants of the craniocervical flexion exercise group. The Numerical Pain Rating Scale, Neck Disability Index, Neck Bournemouth Questionnaire, cervical range of motion and algometer readings were taken at each of the three consultations. The Patient Global Impression of Change Scale was administered at the last consultation one week after the first consultation. Results : Both the mobilisation and craniocervical flexion exercise groups showed significant improvements in all of the subjective outcomes. The Neck Disability Index score of the craniocervical flexion exercise group was the only subjective outcome that did not decrease enough to be considered clinically significant. The PGIC score of the mobilisation group was slightly higher than that of the craniocervical flexion exercise group. There was no statistically significant improvement in the objective outcomes of either group. All ranges of motion decreased in both groups, while pain pressure threshold improved in both groups. There was no significant difference between the results of the subjective and objective outcomes of the mobilisation and craniocervical flexion exercise groups. Conclusions and recommendations : The two interventions were found to have a similar effect in the treatment of chronic non-specific neck pain in terms of subjective and objective outcome measures. Participants of both groups indicated on the subjective scales that their conditions improved, even though objective outcomes showed no significant change. In future studies, a larger sample size should be used and the sample should be stratified for ethnicity to increase validity of the results.