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Open Access Research article

Evaluation of pain and function after two home exercise programs in a clinical trial on women with chronic neck pain - with special emphasises on completers and responders

Linn Karlsson1*, Esa-Pekka Takala2, Björn Gerdle1 and Britt Larsson1

Author Affiliations

1 Rehabilitation Medicine, Department of Medicine and Health Sciences (IMH), Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Linköping, and Pain and Rehabilitation Centre, UHL, County Council SE 581 85 Linköping, Sweden

2 Work-related Diseases, Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, Topeliuksenkatu 41 FI 00250 Helsinki, Finland

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BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders 2014, 15:6  doi:10.1186/1471-2474-15-6

Published: 8 January 2014

Abstract

Background

Different types of exercises can help manage chronic neck pain. Supervised exercise interventions are widely used, but these protocols require substantial resources. The aim of this trial, which focused on adherence, was to evaluate two home exercise interventions.

Methods

This parallel group randomized controlled trial included 57 women randomly allocated into two groups – a strength training group (STRENGTH, 34 subjects) and a stretching group (STRETCH, 23 subjects). The interventions focused on the neck and shoulder muscles and lasted for 12 months. The STRENGTH group performed weight training and ended each session with stretching exercises. These stretching exercises constituted the entirety of the STRETCH group’s training session. Both groups were instructed to exercise three times per week. All the participants kept an exercise diary. In addition, all participants were offered support via phone and e-mail. The primary outcomes were pain intensity and function. The trial included a four- to six-month and a twelve-month follow-up. A completer in this study exercised at least 1,5 times per week during eight unbroken weeks. A responder in this study reported clinically significant improvements on pain and function. The statistical analyses used the Mann Whitney U-test, Wilcoxon signed-rank test, and X2 test.

Results

At four- to six-months, the numbers of completers were 19 in the STRENGTH group and 17 in the STRETCH group. At twelve months, the corresponding numbers were 11 (STRENGTH) and 10 (STRETCH). At four- to six-months, the proportions of subjects reporting clinically important changes (STRENGTH and STRETCH) were for neck pain: 47% and 41%, shoulder pain: 47% and 47%, function: 37% and 29%. At twelve months, the corresponding numbers were for neck pain: 45% and 40%, shoulder pain: 55% and 50%, function: 55% and 20%.

Conclusions

No differences in the two primary outcomes between the two interventions were found, a finding that may be due to the insufficient statistical power of the study. Both interventions based on home exercises improved the two primary outcomes, but the adherences were relatively low. Future studies should investigate ways to improve adherence to home exercise treatments.

Trial registration

ClinicalTrials.gov Id: NCT01876680

Keywords:
Neck pain; Shoulder pain; Home exercise; Strength training; Stretching; Function