Predicting Neck Pain ...Really?

Reference:Salo P, et al Neck muscle strength and mobility of the cervical spine as predictors of neck pain: a prospective 6-year study. Spine (Phila Pa 1976). 2012 May 20;37(12):1036-40.

It is well documented that individuals with neck pain have significant loss of neck muscle strength and ROM …but the question is, chicken or the egg? Is it possible that those with weaker and stiffer necks are simply more likely to end up with neck pain?

The purpose of this 6-year study was to determine if lower than average neck muscle strength and/or neck ROM could predict future neck pain episodes.

The researchers screened 220 pain-free, healthy female volunteers where isometric neck muscle strength and passive ROM of the cervical spine were measured.

After 6 years of following these patients 19% admitted to having neck pain for at least 7 days during the past year.

However, isometric neck muscle strength or passive mobility could not predict future occurrences of neck pain in healthy pain-free women. We can safely conclude that the neck weakness and loss of passive ROM comes AFTER the onset of neck pain,and not before …so the chicken came first!

Clinical Relevance: Therefore, as of 2012 we do not yet have a method of screening healthy subjects who are at risk of developing neck pain. I still think neck strengthening and ROM is invaluable for people who actually have neck pain though!

Posted on: July 05, 2012

Categories: Cervical Spine

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