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The Emotional Impact of Neck Pain: Study Shows that Depression and Anxiety Play a Role

Posted Feb 02 2009 11:44pm

In todays’ society neck pain affects two thirds of the population at least for some part of their life. Usually this neck pain will resolve within a few days, but about 10% of the population suffers from neck pain chronically- pain that persists. Often times, we treat neck pain by only looking at the neck muscles, ligaments, vertebra, nerves and neck posture. Treatment usually involves medication such as anti-inflammatories and muscle relaxers- or some go through a protocol of chiropractic adjustments, mobilization, acupuncture, neck traction or massage. In fact, therapies such as manipulation and mobilization, acupuncture, and medication (including spinal injections) have recently been recommended by the Bone and Joint Decade 2000-2010 Task Force on Neck Pain and Its Associated Disorders and are widely used in primary care. A new study shows that perhaps we should not be only focusing on treating the cervical spine structures– but looking at other factors as well when it comes to treating neck pain.

A recent study looked at how certain psychosocial factors such as depression and anxiety relate to neck pain. Often times, neck pain is treated independently with medicine, chiropractic, therapies, and exercises. This recent study in BMC Muskuloskeletal disoreders studied the relationship between depression and neck pain and how the two can be treated for the most effect.

This study involved 448 patients from a general medical practice setting in Germany. Participants completed a comprehensive questionnaire including the Neck Pain and Disability Scale German version (NPAD-d) and the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale. Analysis was done to look at the relationship between neck pain and socio-demographic, psychosocial and medical history, and health-promoting lifestyle factors.

This study revealed that patients who suffered from depression and anxiety also had increasing levels of neck pain. It was also found that educational level, not Depression and Anxiety Play a Role In Treating Neck Pain having enough support, and physical exercise were also factors associated with neck pain, but that these associations did not persist with adjustment for depression and anxiety. When investigating levels of depression and anxiety by NPAD-d quartile subgroups, it was found that those patients identified to have depressive mood or to be anxious were very likely to be in the group with the highest levels of neck pain.

The authors concluded that the higher the neck pain level, the more attention should be paid to psychosocial distress as a related burden. This study is very important because it will help us to treat neck pain more effectively in the future. More research should be completed to determine whether treating the neck along with psychosocial aspects will make a positive difference.

Findings of this study underline the need for further research that determines whether neck pain therapies are more likely to be efficient if care for patients is not only symptom-oriented but focuses on psychosocial factors.
Source: Depression and anxiety as major determinants of neck pain: a cross-sectional study in general practice; BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders 2009, 10:13doi:10.1186/1471-2474-10-13

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