Jeremy Y. Ng, Mitali Uppal, Jeremy Steen

July 2022, pp 1 - 14 Review Article Read Full Article 10.1007/s00586-022-07288-7

First Online: 23 July 2022


Individuals with neck pain frequently turn to complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) to seek relief. However, conventional healthcare providers often lack adequate CAM therapy knowledge to deliver informed recommendations to patients. The purpose of this study was to identify mention of CAM in neck pain clinical practice guidelines (CPG) and assess the quality of CAM recommendations using the Appraisal of Guidelines for Research & Evaluation II (AGREE II) instrument.


MEDLINE, EMBASE and CINAHL were systematically searched from 2009 to 2020 in addition to the Guidelines International Network and National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health websites. Eligible CPGs providing CAM recommendations were assessed twice with the AGREE II instrument, once to assess the overall CPG and then once to assess the CAM sections specifically.


From 643 unique search results, 15 CPGs on the treatment and/or management of neck pain were identified, and 8 made recommendations on CAM therapy. Regarding scaled domain percentages, the overall CPG scored higher than the CAM section for 5 of 6 domains (overall, CAM): (1) scope and purpose (93.4%, 93.1%), (2) stakeholder involvement (81.6%, 81.9%), (3) rigour of development (70.8%, 66.3%), (4) clarity of presentation (64.9%, 60.8%), (5) applicability (39.3%, 33.6%), and (6) editorial independence (47.9%, 45.3%).


Most neck pain CPGs made CAM recommendations. The quality of CAM recommendations is lower than overall recommendations across all domains with the exception of stakeholder involvement. This disparity highlights the need for CAM recommendations quality improvement. Although many patients with neck pain seek CAM therapies, few CPGs are available for healthcare providers and patients.

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