The objective of this study was to access the effectiveness and safety of cervical spine manipulation for cervical radiculopathy. The data sources used were: PubMed, the Cochrane Central Registry of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL) in the Cochrane Library, EMBASE, Chinese Biomedical Literature Database (CBM), Chinese National Knowledge Infrastructure (CNKI), Chinese Scientific Journal Database (VIP), Wanfang data, the website of Chinese clinical trial registry and international clinical trial registry by US National Institutes of Health. Randomized controlled trials that investigated the effects of cervical manipulation compared with no treatment, placebo or conventional therapies on pain measurement in patients with degenerative cervical radiculopathy were searched. Two authors independently evaluated the quality of the trials according to the risk of bias assessment provided by the PEDro (physiotherapy evidence database) scale. RevMan V.5.2.0 software was employed for data analysis. The GRADE approach was used to evaluate the overall quality of the evidence. Three trials with 502 participants were included. Meta-analysis suggested that cervical spine manipulation (mean difference 1.28, 95% confidence interval 0.80 to 1.75; P < 0.00001; heterogeneity: Chi(2) = 8.57, P = 0.01, I(2) = 77%) improving visual analogue scale for pain showed superior immediate effects compared with cervical computer traction. The overall strength of evidence was judged to be moderate quality. One out of three trials reported the adverse events and none with a small sample size.
There was moderate level evidence to support the immediate effectiveness of cervical spine manipulation in treating people with cervical radiculopathy. The safety of cervical manipulation cannot be taken as an exact conclusion so far.