Patients with neck disorders can report challenges with functional use of their upper limb as a result of their neck pain. However, there is inadequate information on the frequency and specifically, the nature of these upper limb activities. The study surveyed patients with neck pain disorders (n = 103) presenting for management at private physiotherapy clinics in a large metropolitan area to investigate the frequency and nature of reduced upper limb function. Participants were asked to fill out four questionnaires, the Disabilities of the Arm, Shoulder and Hand (DASH) questionnaire, the Neck Disability Index (NDI), Pictorial Fear of Activity Scale-Cervical (PFActS-C) and Patient Specific Functional Scale (PSFS). Approximately 80% of patients spontaneously reported that upper limb activities exacerbated their neck pain (PSFS). Most frequently, these activities involved loading of the upper limb such as lifting.
These findings offer evidence that upper limb function is frequently impaired in association with neck pain disorders and suggest clinicians should regularly question patients about upper limb function. The DASH could be applied as a suitable outcome measure in its current or possibly a modified form.