The theoretical framework is that muscle tension in the neck is related to insufficient muscular rest and is a risk factor for chronic pain and reduced work ability. Promoting muscle strength and muscle rest may increase work ability and reduce neck pain.
Objectives: To test whether myofeedback training or intensive strength training leads to decreased pain and increased work ability in women on long-term sick leave.
Methods: This is a randomized controlled trial of two 1-month interventions with myofeedback or muscular strength training in the home environment. Female human service organization workers (n = 60) on long-term (>60 days) sick leave and with chronic neck pain were followed with self-reported and laboratory-observed data of health, pain, muscular activation, and work ability, at baseline, immediately after the intervention and 3 months after baseline.
Results: For both intervention groups, pain was lowered over time compared with the control group. Decreased pain and muscular activity was associated with increased self-rated work ability and with laboratory-observed work ability at 3-month follow-up. Decreased pain was also associated with increased self-rated work ability at 1-month follow-up. Muscular strength training was associated with increased self-rated work ability and mental health. Myofeedback was associated with increased observed work ability and self- rated vitality.
Conclusions: The two interventions showed positive results, suggesting that they could be developed for use in health care practice to address pain and work ability. The intensive muscular strength training program, which is both easy to conduct at home and easy to coach, was associated with increased work ability.