To provide an evidence-based clinical practice guideline for the chiropractic cervical treatment of adults with acute or chronic neck pain not due to whiplash. This is a considerable health concern considered to be a priority by stakeholders, and about which the scientific information was poorly organized.
Cervical treatments: manipulation, mobilization, ischemic pressure, clinic- and home-based exercise, traction, education, low-power laser, massage, transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation, pillows, pulsed electromagnetic therapy, and ultrasound.
The primary outcomes considered were improved (reduced and less intrusive) pain and improved (increased and easier) ranges of motion (ROM) of the adult cervical spine.
An “extraction” team recorded evidence from articles found by literature search teams using 4 separate literature searches, and rated it using a Table adapted from the Oxford Centre for Evidence-based Medicine. The searches were 1) Treatment; August, 2003, using MEDLINE, CINAHL, AMED, MANTIS, ICL, The Cochrane Library (includes CENTRAL), and EBSCO, identified 182 articles. 2) Risk management (adverse events); October, 2004, identified 230 articles and 2 texts. 3) Risk management (dissection); September, 2003, identified 79 articles. 4) Treatment update; a repeat of the treatment search for articles published between September, 2003 and November, 2004 inclusive identified 121 articles.
To enable the search of the literature, the authors (Guidelines Development Committee [GDC]) regarded chiropractic treatment as including elements of “conservative” care in the search strategies, but not in the consideration of the range of chiropractic practice. Also, knowledge based only on clinical experience was considered less valid and reliable than good-caliber evidence, but where the caliber of the relevant evidence was low or it was non-existent, unpublished clinical experience was considered to be equivalent to, or better than the published evidence.
REPORTED BENEFITS, HARMS AND COSTS
The expected benefits from the recommendations include more rapid recovery from pain, impairment and disability (improved pain and ROM). The GDC identified evidence-based pain benefits from 10 unimodal treatments and more than 7 multimodal treatments. There were no pain benefits from magnets in necklaces, education or relaxation alone, occipital release alone, or head retraction-extension exercise combinations alone. The specificity of the studied treatments meant few studies could be generalized to more than a minority of patients.
Adverse events were not addressed in most studies, but where they were, there were none or they were minor. The theoretic harm of vertebral artery dissection (VAD) was not reported, but an analysis suggested that 1 VAD may occur subsequent to 1 million cervical manipulations.
Costs were not analyzed in this guideline, but it is the understanding of the GDC that recommendations limiting ineffective care and promoting a more rapid return of patients to full functional capacity will reduce patient costs, as well as increase patient safety and satisfaction.
For simplicity, this version of the guideline includes primarily data synthesized across studies (evidence syntheses), whereas the technical and the interactive versions of this guideline (http://ccachiro.org/cpg) also include relevant data from individual studies (evidence extractions).
The GDC developed treatment, risk-management and research recommendations using the available evidence. Treatment recommendations addressing 13 treatment modalities revolved around a decision algorithm comprising diagnosis (or assessment leading to diagnosis), treatment and reassessment. Several specific variations of modalities of treatment were not recommended.
For adverse events not associated with a treatment modality, but that occur in the clinical setting, there was evidence to recommend reconsideration of treatment options or referral to the appropriate health services. For adverse events associated with a treatment modality, but not a known or observable risk factor, there was evidence to recommend heightened vigilance when a relevant treatment is planned or administered. For adverse events associated with a treatment modality and predicted by an observable risk factor, there was evidence to recommend absolute contraindications, and requirements for treatment modality modification or caution to minimize harm and maximize benefit. For managing the theoretic risk of dissection, there was evidence to recommend a systematic risk-management approach. For managing the theoretic risk of stroke, there was support to recommend minimal rotation in administering any modality of upper-cervical spine treatment, and to recommend caution in treating a patient with hyperhomocysteinemia, although the evidence was especially ambiguous in both of these areas.
Research recommendations addressed the poor caliber of many of the studies; the GDC concluded that the scientific base for chiropractic cervical treatment of neck pain was not of sufficient quality or scope to “cover” current chiropractic practice comprehensively, although this should not suggest other disciplines are more evidence-based.
This guideline was authored by the 10 members of the GDC (Elizabeth Anderson-Peacock, Jean-Sébastien Blouin, Roland Bryans, Normand Danis, Andrea Furlan, Henri Marcoux, Brock Potter, Rick Ruegg, Janice Gross Stein, Eleanor White) based on the work of 3 literature search teams and an evidence extraction team, and in light of feedback from a commentator (Donald R Murphy), a 5-person review panel (Robert R Burton, Andrea Furlan, Richard Roy, Steven Silk, Roy Till), a 6-person Task Force (Grayden Bridge, H James Duncan, Wanda Lee MacPhee, Bruce Squires, Greg Stewart, Dean Wright), and 2 national profession-wide critiques of complete drafts. Two professional editors with extensive guidelines experience were contracted (Thor Eglington, Bruce P Squires). Key contributors to the guideline included individuals with specialties or expert knowledge in chiropractic, medicine, research processes, literature analysis processes, clinical practice guideline processes, protective association affairs, regulatory affairs, and the public interest. This guideline has been formally peer reviewed.