by Max Kovler, PT Reg. (ON) for Mobile Physio
A number of Australian rehabilitation researchers have noted that patients with chronic neck pain exhibit dysfunction of the deep cervical musculature (DCF)1and proposed that rehabilitation targeting these muscles is important for successful physiotherapy for chronic neck pain. To date there have been four studies of this proposition which have included over 400 patients in total.2-5Reductions in pain and disability was reported in patients with cervical headache, chronic non-specific neck pain, as well as whiplash.When exercises were done 1-2x per day for about six weeks, pain was reduced by 38%.2However a second study3from the same team reported that DCF exercises achieved about the same level of pain reduction (~25%) as standard cervical strengthening. Interestingly Jull et al. (2002)4 found that DCF exercises produced about the same level of pain reduction as manual therapy. The latest study of this treatment technique (2013) compared DCF with standard strengthening in patients with workers with chronic neck pain over 12 weeks of rehabilitation.5 Whereas each technique alone resulted in about a 25% gain, when both types of therapy were combined,a 70% reduction in pain was reported. Thus it seems that both traditional and deep cervical strengthening exercises can be helpful in reducing chronic neck pain and produce similar reductions in disability as manual therapy.
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