Efficacy of aquatic therapy for neck pain: a systematic review

  • Iluminada Corvillo
  • Francisco Armijo
  • Antonio Álvarez-Badillo
  • Onica Armijo
  • Enrique Varela
  • Francisco MaraverEmail author
Special Issue: Balneology (invited only)


This study systematically reviews the current state of aquatic treatment of neck pain and assesses the scientific evidence of its benefits. The databases PubMed, Scopus, Web of Science and PEDro were searched for relevant reports published from January 1, 2008, to November 7, 2017, using the keywords “neck pain” in addition to “balneotherapy”, “spa treatment”, “spa”, “thalassotherapy”, “hydrotherapy”, “aquatic therapy” or “aquatic”. Inclusion criteria were full-text articles published in journals included in Journal Citation Reports in English and Spanish describing human studies. Case studies, letters to the editor and meeting presentations or other contributions were excluded. Of 367 articles identified, only 13 fulfilled the inclusion criteria: 5 randomized trials, 1 single blind controlled study, 2 pilot studies, 2 observational retrospective studies, 1 prospective study, 1 clinical study and 1 not specified. Participants were 658 subjects with chronic neck pain. Main symptoms and signs treated were neck pain, disability, cervical disc herniation and compromised quality of life. Evidence that aquatic treatment improves quality of life in affected individuals was good in four studies, fair in eight and weak in one. Treatment of neck pain using different waters and techniques reduced pain and disability, and improved functional capacity, quality of life, joint mobility, balance, relaxation and mood.


Neck pain Balneotherapy Hydrotherapy Exercise therapy 



This study was funded by grant UCM-911757 awarded to the research group of the Universidad Complutense de Madrid (Medical Hydrology).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest.


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© ISB 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Radiology, Rehabilitation and Physiotherapy, Faculty of MedicineUniversidad Complutense de MadridMadridSpain
  2. 2.Professional School of Medical Hydrology, Faculty of MedicineUniversidad Complutense de MadridMadridSpain

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