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Research Identifies Lack of Physical Fitness As Possible Cause For Chronic Neck Pain

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Research published in the the International Journal of Rheumatic Diseases recommends that overall physical fitness, depression and anxiety should be taken under serious consideration when dealing with chronic neck pain (CNP). The study, conducted by scientists at Turkey´sAfyon Kocatepe University, showed those parameters to register substantial impairment in CNP sufferers, with effects revealed to differ for men and women.

The study involved 80 patients diagnosed with CNP and the same number of subjects with no such condition. The gender distribution within each group was even.

Female CNP patients had much worse results than controls in tests on hand grip and back-leg strength. They also exhibited far lower thresholds of pressure pain detection in suboccipital and paraspinal-C7 sites. Sleep quality was also worse in comparison to the control group. Based on these findings, the scientists concluded that muscle strength training in CNP patients should involve the entire body, not just the neck.

Men experiencing CNP were found to be most negatively affected in aerobic exercise capacity, adiposity and quality of sleep. Male controls had lower indexes of body fat than the ones with CNP. The latter also performed worse in terms of daily step numbers although the difference was not particularly pronounced. According to Hatice Yalcinkaya, one of the research team members, this may be the reason for the low VO2max and elevated body fat percentage CNP patients experience over the long term, which demonstrates the need for better cardiorespiratory fitness.

In the concluding remarks of their report, the Turkish researchers said that healthcare professionals dealing with CNP should take into account overall fitness, anxiety and depression when they develop management strategies. They should also take into consideration the gender of their patients.