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Physical Therapy and Chronic Neck Pain

Posted on: 06/28/2005
In this study of chronic neck pain, researchers looked for links between pain, loss of function, disability, and patient satisfaction. Each of these areas was measured before and after physical therapy treatment. They found only weak connections between most of these variables. Only neck disability and pain showed a fair degree of correlation.

What does this tell us? Perhaps several things. First, maybe these factors don't measure the same things and can't be compared. Second, patient satisfaction may be based on more than just pain and loss of motion. For example the not being able to read or drive a car (functional activities) may have more to do with disability than pain levels or muscle strength in the neck.

The authors report that patients' level of pain intensity was linked more closely to the degree of disability. This was especially true as time went by and the patient had long-term neck pain.

The results of this study may help physical therapists plan treatment for chronic neck pain patients. The findings suggest all aspects of neck problems should be focused on in treatment. This includes physical problems, patient satisfaction, and patient goals. Patient pain levels, function, and disability should all be focused on equally.

Thomas T. Chiu, PhD, et al. Correlation Among Physical Impairments, Pain, Disability, and Patient Satisfaction in Patients with Chronic Neck Pain. In Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. March 2005. Vol. 86. No. 3. Pp. 534-540.

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