The effect of ultrasound or phonophoresis as an adjuvant treatment for non-specific neck pain: systematic review of randomised controlled trials
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OBJECTIVE: To determine the effectiveness of ultrasound/phonophoresis as an adjuvant to exercise or manual therapy for the improvement of patient-centred outcomes in adults with non-specific neck pain (NSNP). METHODS: Seven electronic databases were systematically searched up to September 2020. The Grading of Recommendations, Assessment, Development and Evaluation (GRADE) approach was used to judge the Quality of Evidence (QoE). RESULTS: Six studies involving 249 participants were included. The QoE was very low GRADE. Phonophoresis with capsaicin plus exercise improved pain at immediate post-treatment (MD: -3.30 [-4.05, -2.55]) but not with diclofenac sodium plus exercise as compared to exercise. Continuous ultrasound (CUS) plus exercise improved pain and pressure pain threshold (PPT) at immediate post-treatment (pain: MD: -3.42 [-4.08, -2.7]); (PPT: MD: 0.91 [0.68, 1.14]) and at intermediate-term as compared to exercise. CUS or high power pain threshold (HPPT) ultrasound plus manual therapy and exercise showed no benefit for pain reduction (MD: -0.75 [-2.08, 0.58]) did not improve function/disability (MD: -1.05 [-4.27, 2.17]) at immediate or short-term as compared to manual therapy and exercise. CONCLUSIONS: Due to high risk of bias, inconsistency, and indirectness the QoE is very low in support of benefit of ultrasound/phonophoresis as an adjuvant treatment for NSNP.Implication for rehabilitationDue to high risk of bias, inconsistency, and indirectness the quality of evidence (QoE) is very low in support of benefit of adding ultrasound or phonophoresis to exercise or manual therapy for pain reduction or improvement in function/disability for those with sub-acute and chronic myofascial associated neck pain. However, our confidence in the findings is very low and conclusions are likely to change as more evidences emerges.Clinicians using ultrasound therapy as an adjuvant intervention for management of chronic myofascial associated neck pain should carefully consider the available evidence on ultrasound, including the benefits and costs involved.