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Neck News

For Neck Problems, One Wrong Turn Often Leads to Another

Much of the testing done by physical therapists for their neck patients is based on common sense. Hard scientific evidence to support the tests' conclusions is sometimes lacking. These authors looked at specific tests done for people with neck problems, also called cervical spine disorders (CSD). The authors wanted to see whether tests to measure anatomical problems, functional limitations, and disability had consistent results.

The authors tested 80 people with CSD using eight specific measures that are commonly used by physical therapists. Subjects were tested for basic anatomical problems using measures of pain, neck range of motion, and neck strength. They were tested for functional limitations using measures of spinal motion and a lift test. Disability was tested using two surveys, one of neck health and one of general health and quality of life.

As clinicians have long assumed, these results confirm that each of the three measures were related in patients with CSD--anatomical problems, functional limitations, and disability. Problems with neck movement or strength make it harder to do needed activities. This--in turn--affects whether and how much people feel their neck problem is disabling them.

The authors also checked to see if payment method (insurance or self-pay) or length of time since symptoms started were related to the test results. They found no relationship between the tests and these variables.

This study gives a starting point for designing future research on ways to develop effective therapy programs and to help forecast how well patients with CSD might fare with treatment.


Karl M. Hermann, PT, PhD, and C. Shane Reese, PhD. Relationships Among Selected Measures of Impairment, Functional Limitation, and Disability in Patients With Cervical Spine Disorders. In Physical Therapy. March 2001. Vol. 81. No. 3. Pp. 903-914.

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