Neck pain is one of the most common reasons Americans seek care from their primary care physician and Physical Therapist. In our Boulder Physical Therapy and Lafayette Physical Therapy clinics we commonly treat neck pain through manual therapy, patient education, and high level exercise. Current medical research supports the utilization of manual therapy, including spinal manipulation, and exercise in the short term to help patient’s reduce pain and improve function. Higher level exercise for strength training and mobility is then prescribed to restore lost function and help get patients back to the activities they enjoy. Upon completion of Physical Therapy, patients often ask if their neck pain symptoms could have been prevented. A recent review of the medical evidence helps us answer this question.
Teichert and colleagues published their review on the effectiveness of exercise to prevent an initial episode of neck pain (JOSPT. 2023). Authors included 5 trials of over 1700 participants, of which 80% were office workers. Authors found exercise interventions reduced future neck pain episodes by approximately half (OR .49) compared to no or minimal interventions. Exercise interventions included postural correction, mobility, and strengthening exercises. This study adds further support to the importance of exercise to reduce the impact of prolonged sitting and computer use in patients at risk of neck pain.