Manual therapies for chronic neck pain are not precise or consistent and are brief because of therapist fatigue. A previous study showed that computerized mobilization of the cervical spine in the sagittal plane is a safe and potentially effective treatment of chronic neck pain. The objective of this study was to investigate the safety and efficacy of computerized mobilization of the cervical spine in a three-dimensional space for the treatment of chronic neck pain. Nine patients with chronic neck pain participated. A computerized cradle capable of three-dimensional neck mobilizations was used. Treatment sessions lasted 20 minutes, biweekly, for six weeks. Visual analog scale (VAS) for pain, cervical range of motion (CROM), neck disability index (NDI), joint position error (JPE), and muscle algometry. Comparing baseline at week one with week six (end of treatment), the VAS scores dropped by 2.9 points (P < 0.01). The six directions of movement studied by the CROM showed a combined increase of 11% (P = 0.01). The NDI decreased significantly from 16 to 10 (P = 0.03), and the JPE decreased significantly from 3.7° to 1.9° (P = 0.047). There was no change in the pressure pain threshold in any muscle tested. There were no significant negative effects.
These preliminary results show that this novel, computerized, three-dimensional cervical mobilization device is probably safe. The data also indicate that this method is effective in alleviating neck pain and related headache, and in increasing the CROM, although the sample size in this open trial was not large.