The effect of osteopathic treatment on people with chronic and sub-chronic neck pain: A pilot study


      Background and objectives

      Neck pain is a common problem in the general population and can be severely disabling and costly for the individual. The aim of this single cohort pilot study was to investigate if osteopathic treatment would reduce perceived pain and disability in people with neck pain.


      Seventeen subjects (mean age 34.8 [SD=11.9] years, 7 males, 10 females) with neck pain (mean duration of symptoms of 168.8 weeks [SD=292, range=4–1040]) were recruited and included in this study. The subjects were offered a 4-week course of osteopathic treatment at a university teaching clinic. McGill pain questionnaires (MPQ), visual analogue scales (VAS), and neck disability index (NDI) were completed prior to the initial treatment and after treatments on weeks 2 and 4.


      Analysis with repeated measures ANOVA revealed statistically significant differences between pre- and post-scores for the MPQ (F2,32=17.35, P=0.001), VAS (F1.62,25.92=36.01, P<0.001) and NDI (F2,32=14.63, P<0.001). Pre/post effect sizes were large for MPQ (d=1.28), VAS (d=1.57) and NDI (d=1.12) scores. Further testing using paired t-tests revealed these differences to be significant between all time periods for the MPQ, and between the pre-treatment and 2-week period and pre-treatment and 4-week period for the VAS and NDI, respectively. When the cohort was subdivided into a sub-chronic (symptom duration less than 52 weeks) and chronic group (symptoms longer than 52 weeks), similar significant differences were found in both groups.


      Self-rated pain and disability significantly reduced during the course of osteopathic treatment, and reductions were evident regardless of the chronicity of the pain. This pilot study suggests that osteopathic treatment may be effective for the management of neck pain. Recommendations are made for further studies.


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