A consensus clinical reasoning framework for best practice for the examination of the cervical spine region has been developed through an iterative consultative process with experts and manual physical therapy organisations. The framework was approved by the 22 member countries of the International Federation of Orthopaedic Manipulative Physical Therapists (October 2012). The purpose of the framework is to provide guidance to clinicians for the evaluation of the cervical region for the possibility of Cervical Arterial Dysfunction prior to planned management (inclusive of manual therapy and exercise interventions). The best, most recent scientific evidence is combined with international expert opinion, and is presented with the intention to be informative, but not prescriptive; and therefore as an aid to the clinician’s clinical reasoning. Important underlying principles of the framework are that 1] although presentations and adverse events of Cervical Arterial Dysfunction are rare, it is a potentially serious condition and needs to be considered in musculoskeletal assessment; 2] manual therapists cannot rely on the results of one clinical test to draw conclusions as to the presence or risk of Cervical Arterial Dysfunction; and 3] a clinically reasoned understanding of the patient’s presentation, including a risk:benefit analysis, following an informed, planned and individualised assessment, is absolutely necessary for recognition of this condition and for safe manual therapy practice in the cervical region. Clinicians should also be mindful of jurisdictionally specific requirements and obligations, particularly related to patient informed consent, when intending to employ manual therapy in the cervical region.
Out of all 291 conditions studied in the Global Burden of Disease 2010 Study, neck pain ranked 4th highest in terms of disability and 21st in terms of overall burden.