Objectives: Chronic neck pain is known to be associated with neck muscle weakness. However, many strengthening programs do not target multi-directional weakness in a functional position. Specialised assessment and treatment technology that is able to strengthen the neck muscles in an upright position may be used to achieve this. There is little research available on the efficacy of neck-specific progressive resistance exercise interventions in patients with chronic neck pain; therefore, this study aimed to determine whether this style of program led to a change in pain and disability, and to investigate the relationship between neck strength, pain and disability.
Methods: Secondary analysis of participants with chronic neck pain who completed a minimum of nine sessions of a neck-specific progressive resistance program at a physiotherapy clinic between the years of 2002 and 2018. Outcomes were the Neck Disability Index (NDI), Numerical Rating Scale of Pain (NRS) and multi-directional neck strength (flexion, extension and lateral flexion - pounds). Data were analysed through paired samples t-tests and backwards stepwise multiple linear regression models.
Results: A total of 127 participants were eligible for inclusion. All neck strength measures, NDI scores and NRS scores showed significant improvements after the nine sessions (all p < .0001). Significant predictors of NDI were symptom duration (β = -0.023, p = .009) and NRS score (β = 4.879, p < .000). Significant predictors of NRS were symptom duration (β = 0.004, p = .005), NDI score (β = 0.105, p < .000), extension strength (β = -0.950, p = .012) and gender (β = 0.777 [male =1, female = 0], p = .029).
Conclusion: This study showed that a neck-specific progressive resistance exercise intervention led to significant improvement in neck strength, pain and disability in a clinical population. However, caution should be taken when interpreting results due to a lack of comparison group and the variation in treatment given and, therefore, further higher-quality research should be undertaken to confirm these findings.
Keywords: chronic pain; exercise therapy; neck muscles; neck pain.
© 2020 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.