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Blaming Neck Problems on Posture

Posted on: 03/15/2004
Do you wake up with neck pain or stiffness? You're not alone. About one-third of adults under age 40 wake up with neck symptoms at least once a week. What's going on? That's what researchers in Australia are trying to find out.

Many studies have been done trying to link poor posture with neck pain. It makes sense that slumped sitting and forward head posture can cause neck pain. But scientists haven't been able to pin the blame on posture. Too many people have these poor postures without neck pain.

In this study, physical therapists measured neck motion and muscle strength in 40 healthy adults between the ages of 19 and 42. They also looked at posture to see if there is any link between position and pain. All subjects in the study were free of pain and had not received any treatment for neck or back problems.

After testing, it turns out that 35 percent of these healthy young adults reported neck pain or discomfort more than once. These results match findings from other studies about how often neck pain occurs. The group with neck pain had less neck muscle endurance during testing. They also had less motion when turning their heads to the left and when tilting the head and neck back. There were no differences in posture between the group with neck pain and the group without symptoms.

The authors conclude that posture is not linked with neck symptoms. Other signs of impairment may be more important, such as decreased motion and muscle weakness. Perhaps the impairments in motion and strength are early signs that neck pain will develop later. The researchers expect to use this information to direct their next study of neck pain.

Haejung Lee, MHSc, et al. Cervical Range of Motion Associations with Subclinical Neck Pain. In Spine. January 1, 2004. Vol. 29. No. 1. Pp. 33-40.

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