Thoracic spine thrust manipulation may provide short-term improvement in patients with acute or subacute mechanical neck pain, say authors of a meta-analysis published in the Journal of Orthopaedic and Sports Physical Therapy. However, the body of literature is small, and these results may not be generalizable, they add.
Six online databases were comprehensively searched from their inception to October 2010. The primary search terms included "thoracic mobilization," "thoracic spine mobilization," "thoracic manipulation," and "thoracic spine manipulation." Of the 44 studies assessed for inclusion, 6 randomized controlled trials were retained. Between-group mean differences and effect sizes for pretreatment-to-posttreatment change scores, using Cohen's d formula, were calculated for pain, range of motion, and subjective function at all stated time intervals.
Effect size point estimates for the pain change scores were significant for global assessment across all studies (range, 0.38-4.03) but not conclusively significant at the end range of active rotation (range, 0.02-1.79). Effect size point estimates were large among all range-of-motion change measures (range, 1.40-3.52), and the effect size point estimates of the change scores among the functional questionnaires (range, 0.47-3.64) also indicated a significant treatment effect.
APTA member Terry Grindstaff, PT, PhD, ATC, coauthored this study.