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Exercise therapy including the cervical extensor muscles in individuals with neck pain: a systematic review [with consumer summary]
Colman D, Demoulin C, Vanderthommen M, Saive O, Durieux N, Cagnie B, Kaux JF, Grosdent S
Clinical Rehabilitation 2023 Dec;37(12):1579-1610
systematic review

OBJECTIVE: To review the use (dosage parameters and combination with other therapeutic interventions) of cervical extensor muscle exercises and their effect on pain, disability (primary outcomes), range of motion, endurance and strength (secondary outcomes) in people with neck pain. DATA SOURCES: An extensive literature search was conducted through MEDLINE (Ovid), Scopus (Elsevier) and Physiotherapy Evidence Database (PEDro) up to May 2023. The reference lists of all included studies and relevant reviews were screened for additional studies. REVIEW METHODS: Randomised controlled trials reporting the use of cervical extensor muscle exercises (alone or combined) applied to adults with idiopathic or traumatic neck pain were included. Study selection, data extraction and critical appraisal (PEDro assessment scale) were performed by two blinded reviewers. Data extraction included dosage parameters, other modalities combined with these exercises and outcomes. RESULTS: Thirty-five randomised controlled trails (eight of which were complementary analyses) with 2409 participants fulfilled the inclusion criteria. Twenty-six were of moderate to high quality. In most studies, cervical extensor muscle exercises were combined with various other therapeutic modalities and applied at different dosages. Only two studies (one high and one low quality) specifically assessed their effectiveness. The high-quality study showed significant improvements in neck pain and disability, pressure point threshold and neck mobility after both low load and high load training for 6 weeks. CONCLUSION: The results suggest cervical extensor muscle exercises may reduce neck pain and disability; however firm conclusions cannot be drawn because of the few studies that addressed this question and the heterogeneity of the dosage parameters.

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