Chronic neck pain is typically treated with specific methods that focus on the affected area, thereby decreasing the level of tenderness and increasing range of motion. However, News Medical recently reported that a new study published in the International Journal of Rheumatic Diseases suggests that treating the whole body via regular physical exercise may bring about better results.
Researchers set out to discover whether level of physical fitness or status of mental health (via depression and anxiety) has any effect on persons with chronic neck pain. They studied 160 participants, 80 of whom had no neck pain and 80 of whom reported chronic neck pain. Each group consisted of 40 males and 40 females.
They tested each participant in several areas to ascertain their strength, flexibility, pain threshold, disability level, depression levels, anxiety levels, and overall quality of sleep. They then compared the results of the group with chronic neck pain to the group that had no reported neck pain and they found some significant differences between the two – especially when separated by sex.
Women with chronic neck pain were weaker, had lower pain thresholds, and reported a lower quality of life than the group with no reported neck issues (regardless of gender). The females studied also tended to experience higher levels of depression and anxiety, and they reported getting less-than-restful sleep. Men with chronic neck pain also reported a lower quality of life, generally had higher body fat percentages, and their sleep quality was affected as well.
This study suggests that it takes a whole-body approach when treating chronic neck pain. Therefore, in addition to participating in regular chiropractic visits to realign the cervical vertebrae and treat the cause of the pain, both male and female patients should be encouraged to participate in an exercise program to further enhance the benefits.
Doing so can potentially increase their quality of life, make them stronger, lower their body fat percentages, and allow them to engage in more restful sleep. Additionally, regular physical exercise helps lower anxiety and depression, making it an effective tool for improving quality of life as well as reducing neck pain. Combining chiropractic with specific exercises is particularly effective for spinal pain, research suggests.
Yalcinkaya, H et al. Do male and female patients with chronic neck pain really have different health-related physical fitness, depression, anxiety, and quality of life parameters? International Journal of Rheumatic Diseases. May 9, 2014.