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A single session of action observation therapy versus observing a natural landscape in adults with chronic neck pain -- a randomized controlled trial
Al Shrbaji T, Bou-Assaf M, Andias R, Silva AG
BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders 2023 Dec 19;24(983):Epub
clinical trial
7/10 [Eligibility criteria: Yes; Random allocation: Yes; Concealed allocation: Yes; Baseline comparability: Yes; Blind subjects: No; Blind therapists: No; Blind assessors: No; Adequate follow-up: Yes; Intention-to-treat analysis: Yes; Between-group comparisons: Yes; Point estimates and variability: Yes. Note: Eligibility criteria item does not contribute to total score] *This score has been confirmed*

BACKGROUND: Action observation (AO) has emerged as a potential neurorehabilitation therapy for patients with neck pain (NP), but evidence of its effectiveness is scarce. This study aims to assess the effect of a single session of AO when compared to observing a natural landscape on NP intensity, fear of movement, fear-avoidance beliefs, neck muscles' strength, pressure pain threshold, and tactile acuity. METHODS: Sixty participants with NP were randomly allocated to the AO group (n = 30) or control group (n = 30). Both groups watched an 11-minute video; the AO group watched a video of a person matched for age and sex performing neck exercises, while the control group watched a video of natural landscapes. Neck pain intensity, fear of movement, fear-avoidance beliefs, tactile acuity, pressure pain thresholds, and neck muscle strength were assessed both at baseline and post-intervention. General linear models of repeated measures (ANCOVA of two factors) were used to explore between-group differences at post-intervention. RESULTS: There was a significant main effect of time for pain intensity (p = 0.02; eta2p = 0.09; within-group mean change and 95% CI AO -1.44 (-2.28 to -0.59); control -1.90 (-2.74 to -1.06), but no time versus group interaction (p = 0.46). A time versus group significant interaction was found for one out of the six measurement sites of two-point discrimination and the neck flexors strength (p < 0.05) favoring the control group. No other statistically significant differences were found for the remaining variables). CONCLUSIONS: Results suggest a similar acute benefit for both a single session of AO and observing natural landscapes for promoting hypoalgesia, but no impact on kinesiophobia, fear-avoidance beliefs, or pressure pain thresholds. Also, AO had no positive effect on two-point discrimination and muscle strength. Further research is needed, with longer interventions. TRIAL REGISTRATION: (NCT05078489).

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