Objective: To compare the pain-reducing effect of forest bathing alone versus forest bathing in combination with stretching and strengthening exercises in patients with chronic posterior neck pain.
Methods: Sixty-four subjects with posterior neck pain that had lasted more than 3 months were enrolled. They were randomly divided into a forest bathing alone (FBA) group and a forest bathing with exercise (FBE) group; each group included 32 subjects. All subjects from both groups walked every morning in the forest for about 2 hours for 5 days. In the afternoon, the FBE group did a stretching and strengthening exercise for about 4 hours; the FBA group had free time in the woods. Visual analog scale (VAS) on one day, VAS over the previous week, neck disability index (NDI), EuroQol 5D-3L VAS (EQ VAS) and index (EQ index), McGill pain questionnaire (MPQ), the number of trigger points in the posterior neck region (TRPs), and the range of motion of the cervical spine were evaluated on the first and last day of the program and compared between the two groups.
Results: The number of TRPs were significantly reduced in the FBE group compared with the FBA group (p=0.013). However, the other scales showed no significant difference between the two groups.
Conclusion: When patients with chronic posterior neck pain underwent a short-term forest bathing (less than 7 days) program, FBE was more effective in the reduction of the number of TRPs than FBA. However, all other pain measurement scales we evaluated showed no statistically significant difference between the two protocols.
Keywords: Chronic pain; Complementary therapies; Exercise therapy; Musculoskeletal pain; Neck pain.