Research Spotlight: Effect of Two Contrasting Types of Physical Exercise on Chronic Neck Muscle Pain

At Kieser we strongly advocate the use of high intensity strength based exercise for many types of pain, including neck pain. We also strongly advocate highly qualified supervision as this will help you achieve both the right technique and the right intensity. These firmly held beliefs are based on many years of research and are supported by modern studies like the one below.

Arthritis & Rheumatism (2008)
In 2008 the American College of Rheumatology sought to determine the effectiveness of specific strength training vs general fitness training for those with chronic neck pain.

The prevalence of neck pain has been steadily increasing in the past two decades, with females more likely to suffer from persistent neck pain than men. As our lifestyles become more sedentary, with many of us spending a majority of our day at a computer, the risk of chronic neck pain increases. While general fitness programs and strength training programs have been recommended to ease chronic musculoskeletal pain, there has not been clear research on which form of exercise is best for those with chronic neck pain.

 

Background of the Study
The study was comprised of 42 women with neck pain, stiffness and tightness of the neck for more than 30 days of at least 2/10 intensity in the area of the trapezius muscle. The participants were split into 3 groups:
Group 1: Performed supervised, high intensity strength training of the neck and shoulders - Trained 3x per week for 20 minutes per session
Group 2: Performed high intensity general fitness training on the lower body (such as stationary bike) - Trained 3x per week for 20 minutes per session
Group 3: Reference group was given education but did not perform any physical activity

The participants rated their level of pain from 0 - 100 before and after each session. 

 

Results of the study
After 10 weeks of exercise the group that performed specific strength training had a significant decrease in neck pain (about 79%). Alternatively, the group that performed general fitness training only had a slight decrease in neck pain (about 10%). There was no notable change in pain for the reference group. 

Not only did the group that performed strength training show a decrease in pain immediately after concluding their 10-week study, but a re-assessment two months after the conclusion of the study showed that the group who performed strength training continued to maintain a lower level of neck pain. The study also noted that the group that participated in strength training noticed some soreness during the first half of the training session. Due to this, the researched emphasised the importance of qualified supervision to ensure that immediate action was taken to change exercises in order to avoid development of adverse effects.

This study shows that while general fitness exercises are good for your overall health, they are not enough to reduce chronic neck pain. It is important for those suffering from chronic neck pain that they incorporate supervised, high-intensity strength training into their physical activity routine. 

 

Kieser exercises for neck pain

  • G5 (Neck extensors) - Strengthening the muscles of the back of the neck help to improve posture and neck pain.
  • E2 (Deltoids) - Strengthening the deltoid muscle alleviates tension and shoulder pain.
  • C7 (Lats/traps/biceps) - The C7 is a compound exercise that strengthens the upper body to assist in improving posture.
  • G1 (Upper traps) - The G1 is often used to rehabilitate shoulder movement and retrain proper shoulder movement patterns. It can also be used for passive stretching in order to relieve tension in the neck.
  • E1 (Delotids & triceps) - The E1 is a great exercise to help prevent neck and shoulder injuries as it strengthens the main muscles in the shoulder.

Andersen LL , Kjaer M, Sogaard K, et al. . Effect of two contrasting types of physical exercise on chronic neck muscle pain. Arthritis Rheum. 2008;59:84–91.Andersen LL , Kjaer M, Sogaard K, et al. Effect of two contrasting types of physical exercise on chronic neck muscle pain. Arthritis Rheum. 2008;59:84–91.

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Multi-Disciplinary Care at Kieser - Written by Physio, Catherine Banks