Dizziness in older people is a risk factor for falls. Neck pain is associated with dizziness and responds favourably to neck manipulation. However, it is unknown if chiropractic intervention including instrument-assisted manipulation of the neck in older people with neck pain can also improve dizziness.
This parallel two-arm pilot trial was conducted in Melbourne, Australia over nine months (October 2015 to June 2016). Participants aged 65–85 years, with self-reported chronic neck pain and dizziness, were recruited from the general public through advertisements in local community newspapers and via Facebook. Participants were randomised using a permuted block method to one of two groups: 1) Activator II™-instrument-assisted cervical and thoracic spine manipulation plus a combination of: light massage; mobilisation; range of motion exercises; and home advice about the application of heat, or 2) Sham-Activator II™-instrument-assisted manipulation (set to zero impulse) plus gentle touch of cervical and thoracic spinal regions. Participants were blinded to group allocation. The interventions were delivered weekly for four weeks. Assessments were conducted one week pre- and post-intervention. Clinical outcomes were assessed blindly and included: dizziness (dizziness handicap inventory [DHI]); neck pain (neck disability index [NDI]); self-reported concerns of falling; mood; physical function; and treatment satisfaction. Feasibility outcomes included recruitment rates, compliance with intervention and outcome assessment, study location, success of blinding, costs and harms.
Out of 162 enquiries, 24 participants were screened as eligible and randomised to either the chiropractic (n = 13) or sham (n = 11) intervention group. Compliance was satisfactory with only two participants lost to follow up; thus, post-intervention data for 12 chiropractic intervention and 10 sham intervention participants were analysed. Blinding was similar between groups. Mild harms of increased spinal pain or headaches were reported by 6 participants. Costs amounted to AUD$2635 per participant. The data showed a trend favouring the chiropractic group in terms of clinically-significant improvements in both NDI and DHI scores. Sample sizes of n = 150 or n = 222 for dizziness or neck pain disability as the primary outcome measure, respectively, would be needed for a fully powered trial.
Recruitment of participants in this setting was difficult and expensive. However, a larger trial may be feasible at a specialised dizziness clinic within a rehabilitation setting. Compliance was acceptable and the outcome measures used were well accepted and responsive.
Australian New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry (ANZCTR) ACTRN12613000653763. Registered 13 June 2013.
Trial funding: Foundation for Chiropractic Research and Postgraduate Education (Denmark).