Study compares two non-invasive neck pain treatment options

Aug 18 2011
Neck pain can result from a variety of conditions, from herniated disc and disc degeneration to athletic or accidental injury, and there are many methods of addressing the disorder.

Typically, the discomfort is first treated conservatively with anti-inflammatory medications, physical therapy or epidural injections, but in some cases, cervical spine surgery may be necessary.

There have been many studies comparing the effectiveness and cost-efficiency of various surgical techniques used in patients with neck pain, but a recent study published in the journal Spine compared two common non-invasive treatment approaches.

Behavioral graded activity (BGA) - which involves a set of exercises that change over time to meet the clinical predetermine goals - was compared to manual therapy (MT). The latter consists of spinal mobilization exercises and manipulation techniques that remain the same during the course of the treatment.

For the clinical trial, the researchers recruited 146 patients with subacute nonspecific neck pain and divided them into two groups that received either BGA or MT. During the follow-up period of 52 weeks, the team measured outcomes such as recovery, pain, disability and quality-adjusted life-years (QALYs).

The results suggested that BGA had no significant effect on recovery or QALYs gained in comparison with MT, but it did improve pain and disability in study participants. Overall, however, the researchers concluded that the former technique was not cost-effective.

The study is likely to provide doctors, physical therapist and patients with a better understanding of the most effective non-invasive treatment techniques for neck pain. This is a growing public health problem in the U.S. as the American population is becoming increasingly overweight and leads a more sedentary life than ever before.

Medical statistics estimate that more than 200,000 Americans undergo surgery for herniated neck discs every year.