In a randomized trial, the effectiveness of manual therapy, physiotherapy, continued treatment by the general practitioner, and placebo therapy (detuned ultrasound and detuned short-wave diathermy) were compared for patients (n = 256) with nonspecific back and neck complaints lasting for at least 6 weeks. The principle outcome measures were severity of the main complaint, global perceived effect, pain, and functional status. These are presented for 3, 6, and 12 weeks follow-up. Both physiotherapy and manual therapy decreased the severity of complaints more and had a higher global perceived effect compared to continued treatment by the general practitioner. Differences in effectiveness between physiotherapy and manual therapy could not be shown. A substantial part of the effect of manual therapy and physiotherapy appeared to be due to nonspecific (placebo) effects.