Pain education combined with neck- and aerobic training is more effective at relieving chronic neck pain than pain education alone – A preliminary randomized controlled trial.

The objective of this study was to evaluate the effect of training and pain education vs pain education alone, on neck pain, neck muscle activity and postural sway in patients with chronic neck pain. Twenty women with chronic neck pain were randomized to receive pain education and specific training (neck-shoulder exercises, balance and aerobic training) (INV), or pain education alone (CTRL). Effect on neck pain, function and Global Perceived Effect (GPE) were measured. Surface electromyography (EMG) was recorded from neck flexor and extensor muscles during performance of the Cranio-Cervical Flexion Test (CCFT) and three postural control tests (two-legged: eyes open and closed, one-legged: eyes open). Sway parameters were calculated. Fifteen participants (CTRL: eight; INV: seven) completed the study. Per protocol analyses showed a larger pain reduction (p = 0.002) for the INV group with tendencies for increased GPE (p = 0.06), reduced sternocleidomastoid activity during the CCFT (p = 0.09), reduced sway length (p = 0.09), and increased neck extensor activity (p = 0.02) during sway compared to the CTRL group.

Pain education and specific training reduce neck pain more than pain education alone in patients with chronic neck pain. These results provide encouragement for a larger clinical trial to corroborate these observations.