Common Manual Therapy Practices in the Netherlands for Infants With Upper Cervical Dysfunction: A Prospective Cohort Study

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The purpose of this study was to describe common clinical practices of manual therapists (MTs) in the Netherlands for infants with indications of upper cervical dysfunction (UCD).


A prospective observational cohort study was conducted to gain insight into characteristics, reasons for seeking care, and common clinical practice for infants (<27 weeks) with indications of UCD, referred to MTs. Pre- and posttreatment self-reported questionnaires were used to collect data from parents and MTs. Parents reported on infant characteristics and perceived effect of treatment. Manual therapists reported on diagnostics, therapeutic procedures, and outcomes.


Between 2006 and 2007, data regarding 307 referred infants (mean age: 11.2 weeks) were collected by parents and 42 MTs. The most frequent reasons for seeking care were positional preference, restlessness, and/or abnormal head position. Manual therapists observed active, spontaneous, and provoked mobility and passive upper cervical mobility. Of the 307 infants, 295 were diagnosed with UCD based on positive outcomes on the flexion-rotation test and/or lateral flexion test. After treatment with mobilization techniques, positive outcomes on the flexion-rotation test decreased from 78.8% to 6.8%. For the lateral flexion test, the positive outcomes decreased from 91.5% to 6.2%. All parents perceived positive treatment effects. No serious adverse events were reported during this study.


This is the first study to describe common clinical practice for infants referred for manual therapy. Infants with UCD were treated mainly with upper cervical mobilization techniques, and the greatest perceived effect was observed after approximately 2 treatment sessions.

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