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Study shows that Chronic Neck Pain Can Cause Respiratory Problems

Posted Jul 31 2009 9:58am
The Respiratory System Is Affected By Chronic Neck PainNEW YORK (Reuters Health) A new study tested the hypothesis that chronic neck pain sufferers are more predisposed to respiratory dysfunction. The study came out in the July 2009 issue of Cephalalgia. Researcher Dr.Eleni Kapreli of the Technological Educational Institution of Lamia, Greece, and colleagues indicates that there are many aspects to chronic neck pain symptoms that we are still understanding.

Chronic Neck Pain affects many people everyday. Chronic neck pain may be due to an injury, a fall, a herniated disc, foraminal stenosis or even neck degeneration. Chronic neck pain is defined as neck pain that last several weeks or years. For some patients the pain get progressively worse. They may be afflicted with unrelenting pain and stiffness, muscle spasms, and decrease in range of motion and even difficulty breathing and respiratory dysfunction as this study shows.

Dr. Kapreli and her team have been researching the connection between chronic neck pain and respiratory dysfunction. In a 2007 paper, Dr.Kapreli and other researches showed that chronic neck pain sufferers have certain factors that show predisposition of leading to a respiratory dysfunction:
  1. decreased strength of deep neck flexors and extensors
  2. hyperactivity and increased fatigability of superficial neck flexors
  3. reduced range of motion (mobility),
  4. decrease in proprioception and changes in neuromuscular control
  5. presence of pain
  6. psychosocial influence of dysfunction
This new study tests this hypothesis that chronic neck pain patients are more predisposed to respiratory dysfunction. This study involved 12 patients who suffered with chronic neck pain and 12 matched controls. The participants in the study were an average of 29.42 years. Patients had a history of neck pain of 1 to 12 years.

The following measurements were used for assessment:
  • Spirometric values (the amount of air that can be inhaled and exhaled by a patient)
  • maximal static pressures
  • forward head posture
  • functional tests

The study showed that patients who suffered with chronic neck pain, presented with a statistically significant decreased maximal voluntary ventilation (P = 0.042) and respiratory muscle strength (Pimax and Pemax), (P = 0.001 and P = 0.002, respectively).

According to Dr.Kapreli, "Abdominal and chest breathing was assessed by observation only, and results showed that 83% of patients with neck pain, in a population of different chronic musculoskeletal pain syndromes, experienced a changed breathing pattern indicating a relationship between neck pain and respiration."

Also, the current study demonstrated a strong association between an increased forward head posture and decreased respiratory muscle strength in neck pain patients.

This study shows a connection of neck pain and respiratory function. This is an important consideration in relation to how to assess a patients condition, how to come up with a rehabilitation plan and how to treat the patient.

"The current study provides support to the belief that the clinician should have a 'holistic view' of the patient," Dr. Kapreli said. "Even in the case of a common musculoskeletal disorder, other systems could have also been influenced," the author explained. "Therefore, providing therapeutic solutions only for the main symptom is rather frustrating for the patient."

Source: Additional Resources:
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