The influence of home exercise programs for patients with non-specific or specific neck pain: a systematic review of the literature

Neck pain is a leading cause of disability that affects 22–70% of the population. Different techniques have been found effective for the treatment of neck pain. However, there is conflicting evidence to support the role of a therapeutic HEP to reduce pain, disability, and improve function and quality of life (QOL). The aim of this study was to examine the effects of a therapeutic home exercise program (HEP) for patients with neck pain (associated with whiplash, non-specific, or specific neck pain, with or without radiculopathy, or cervicogenic headache) on pain, function, and disability. The secondary aim was to describe the design, dosage, and adherence of the prescribed HEPs. A systematic review with meta-analysis was performed. A total of 1927 subjects included within seven full-text articles met our specific search strategy. It was found that HEPs with a focus on strength and endurance-training exercises, as well as self- mobilization, have a positive effect when used in combination with other conservative treatments or alone.

Home exercise programs that utilize either self-mobilizations within an augmented HEP to address specific spinal levels, or strengthening, and/or endurance exercise are effective at reducing neck pain, function, and disability and improving QOL. The benefit of HEPs in combination with other conservative interventions yields some benefit with a range of effect sizes.