Although the use of deep heat therapy is widespread, there is little literature available on its effectiveness in treating back or neck pain. The objective of this study was to determine the efficacy of microwave diathermy to treat nonspecific chronic neck pain. The patient sample consisted of 149 patients with nonspecific chronic neck pain in a hospital of the Andalusian Public Health Care System, Spain. The study outcome measures are as follows: at baseline, pain intensity (using a visual analogue scale), disability (Neck Disability Index), and health-related quality of life (36-item short form health survey [SF-36]); at 3 weeks, baseline measures and patients’ perceived overall outcome and satisfaction with the treatment; and at 6 months, 3-week measures, therapeutic co-interventions, and adherence to exercises. Patients were placed at random into one of three groups. The first group received continuous microwave diathermy, the second group was administered pulsed microwaves, and the third group (the control group) received unplugged microwaves. All three groups received the same general treatment: range of motion, isometric exercises, and transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation. The three groups had decreased pain and disability, and improvement was observed in some dimensions of the SF-36. However, there were no differences found in any of the parameters measured among the three therapeutic groups.
Microwave diathermy doesn’t provide additional benefit to a treatment regimen of chronic neck pain that already involves other treatment approaches.