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Chiropractic Research Review

Range-of-Motion Limitations May Predict Neck Pain

Approximately 7 in 10 adults experience neck pain during their lifetime; more significantly, between 5% and 10% suffer a disabling neck problem. Despite these estimates, few studies are available that correlate any physical variables with the incidence of neck pain or provide information regarding signs of pathology attributable to the condition.

This study "investigated associations between sub-clinical neck pain/discomfort, and range of motion [ROM] and physical dimensions of the cervicothoracic spine." Investigators recruited 40 healthy volunteers (19-42 years of age) and measured various dimensions of the cervicothoracic spine, including spinal posture, neck muscle endurance, active cervical ROM, segment length of the anterior and posterior neck, neck circumference and head circumference.

For each subject, all of the above measurements were recorded twice by two different testers on the same day. Cervical muscle endurance was measured using a modified Biering-Sørensen Test, and participants were asked about any recurrent neck pain or discomfort.

Results: Of the 40 study participants, 14 (35%) reported experiencing neck pain/discomfort on a recurring basis (weekly or more frequently); duration of symptoms ranged from 30 minutes to 48 hours per occurrence. In these 14 subjects, labeled the "subclinical neck pain group," neck muscle endurance time and left rotation end of range were significantly reduced compared to the remaining 26 subjects (the "normal" group). Additionally, the subclinical group had less neck extension range on the second test, as opposed to more range (stretch) in the normal group, and significantly greater retraction range, and a trend toward a more retracted head posture when sitting, compared to the normal group.

The authors note that these findings suggest impairments in muscle endurance and range of motion are early physical signs of neck pain.

Haeejung L, Micholson LL, Adams RD. Cervical range of motion associations with subclinical neck pain. Spine, Jan. 1, 2004;29(1):33-40.

Chiropractic Research Review

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