To determine the relative effect of instrument-delivered thrust cervical manipulations in comparison with traditional manual-delivered thrust cervical manipulations in the treatment of cervical spine dysfunction.


Prospective, randomized, comparative clinical trial.


Outpatient chiropractic clinic, Technikon Natal, South Africa.


Thirty patients diagnosed with neck pain and restricted cervical spine range of motion without complicating pathosis for at least 1 month were included in the study.


The patients were randomized into 2 groups. Those in one group received mechanical force, manually assisted (MFMA) manipulation to the cervical spine, delivered by means of a hand-held instrument (Activator II Adjusting Instrument). Those in the other group received specific contact high-velocity, low-amplitude (HVLA) manipulation consisting of standard Diversified rotary/lateral break techniques to the cervical spine. Each group received only the specific therapeutic intervention, no other treatment modalities or interventions (including medication) being used, until asymptomatic status was achieved or a maximum of 8 treatments had been received.


Both treatment groups were assessed through use of subjective (Numerical Pain Rating Scale 101, McGill Short-Form Pain Questionnaire, and Neck Disability Index) and objective (goniometer cervical range of motion) measurement parameters at specific intervals during the treatment period and at 1-month follow-up. The data were assessed through use of 2-tailed nonparametric paired and unpaired analysis, descriptive statistics, and power analysis of the data.


The results indicate that both treatment methods had a positive effect on the subjective and objective clinical outcome measures, no significant difference being observed between the 2 groups (P < .025). The subjective data from all 3 questionnaires showed statistically significant changes from initial to final consultations as well as from initial consultation to 1-month follow-up (P < .025). The objective range of motion measures showed statistically significant changes in the MFMA group for left and right rotation and left and right lateral flexion from initial consultation to final consultations and for right rotation and right lateral flexion from initial consultation to 1-month follow-up. The HVLA group showed only the change in left rotation from initial to final consultations and from initial consultation to 1-month follow-up to be statistically significant.


The results of this clinical trial indicate that both instrumental (MFMA) manipulation and manual (HVLA) manipulation have beneficial effects associated with reducing pain and disability and improving cervical range of motion in this patient population. A randomized, controlled clinical trial in a similar patient base with a larger sample size is necessary to verify the clinical relevance of these findings.

J Manipulative Physiol Ther. 2001 May;24(4):260-71. [PMID:11353937]

Author information:Wood TG, Colloca CJ, Matthews R. Department of Chiropractic, Technikon Natal, South Africa.