Traditional Chinese Exercises on Pain and Disability in Middle-Aged and Elderly Patients With Neck Pain: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials

Author: Lingjun Kong1,2, Jun Ren1, Sitong Fang1, Tianxiang He1, Xin Zhou1,2, Min Fang1,2,3
1 Yueyang Hospital of Integrated Traditional Chinese and Western Medicine, Shanghai University of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Shanghai, China.
2 Institute of Tuina, Shanghai Institute of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Shanghai, China.
3 Shuguang Hospital, Shanghai University of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Shanghai, China.
Conference/Journal: Front Aging Neurosci
Date published: 2022 Jun 10
Other: Volume ID: 14 , Pages: 912945 , Special Notes: doi: 10.3389/fnagi.2022.912945. , Word Count: 338

With the change of life and work style, more middle-aged and elderly individuals are suffering from neck pain. In China, traditional Chinese exercises (TCEs) are widely used in the management of neck pain, such as Tai Chi, Qigong, Yijinjing, Baduanjin, Liuzijue, and Five-animal exercises. However, the evidence of TCEs for neck pain maintains controversial. Therefore, the current systematic review was conducted to evaluate the effects of TCEs on pain and disability of middle-aged and elderly patients with neck pain.

A comprehensive literature search was performed in six electronic databases from their inception to January 2022 for randomized controlled trials of TCEs for neck pain. The methodological quality of the included studies was assessed by PEDro scale. The subgroup analysis was conducted based on different TCEs. The I 2 statistic was applied to assess the heterogeneity.

Twenty-one studies were included in our review, which were conducted in China, United States, and Germany between 2003 and 2021. Most (86%) of them exceeded the cut off score 6. TCEs included Baduanjin, Yijinjing, Tai Chi, Qigong, and Five-animal exercises. The aggregated results indicated that TCEs showed positive complementary effects in relieving pain (SMD, 1.12; 95% CI, 0.78-1.45; p < 0.00001), especially Baduanjin exercises. Baduanjin exercises also showed beneficial complementary effects in improving flexion (SMD, 0.65; 95% CI, 0.28-1.03; p = 0.0006) and extension (SMD, 0.66; 95% CI, 0.12-1.19; p = 0.02) of the neck. In addition, the aggregated results indicated that TCEs alone showed beneficial effects in improving disability (SMD, 0.74; 95% CI, 0.40-1.08; p < 0.0001) and relieving pain (SMD, 0.81; 95% CI, 0.50-1.13; p < 0.00001) compared with waiting list. The follow-up effects of TCEs were still insufficient.

There was the positive evidence to support the clinical use of TCEs, as a complementary therapy, for middle-aged and elderly patients with neck pain, especially Baduanjin exercises. However, the evidence supporting the effects of TCEs alone for the middle-aged and elderly patients with neck pain was limited due to the small sample size.

Systematic review registration:, identifier INPLASY202240083.

Keywords: complementary and alternative therapy; disability; meta-analysis; neck pain; traditional Chinese exercises.

PMID: 35754953 PMCID: PMC9226715 DOI: 10.3389/fnagi.2022.912945