5 September 2003
A new study in this week's British Medical Journal shows that 2 types of physiotherapy commonly prescribed to treat female office workers with neck pain do little to alleviate their pain.
Researchers examined the progress of 393 female office workers with chronic (long-term) neck pain. These women were divided into 3 groups who were prescribed either dynamic muscle therapy or relaxation therapy, with a third group continuing with everyday activities. The patient's level of neck pain was assessed after 12 weeks of treatment with follow-up assessments made after 3, 6 and 12 months.
Dynamic muscle training involved using dumbbells to activate the large muscle groups in the neck and shoulder region, followed by stretching exercises. Relaxation training comprised various techniques aimed at teaching the participants to activate only those muscles needed for different daily activities and to relax the other muscles, and to avoid unnecessary tension in the neck muscles.
The results showed that the levels of neck pain experienced by women treated with dynamic muscle therapy or relaxation therapy were no different to active women receiving no treatment. Furthermore, there was no difference in the intensity of the pain experienced by the groups of women receiving the different treatments in any of the follow-up assessments.
However, the range of motion for neck rotation and side flexion of the neck increased more in the training groups than in the control group.
The authors conclude that the prescription of these therapies to treat neck pain is not based on clinical evidence, calling into question whether these types of physiotherapy should be prescribed to treat neck pain.
Last Reviewed: 08 September 2003