Created: June 28, 2017
J. Megan Sions, PT, DPT, PhD, Board-Certified Orthopaedic Clinical Specialist
This summary is based on Childs JD, Cleland JA, Elliott JM, et al. Neck pain: clinical practice guidelines linked to the International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health from the Orthopaedic Section of the American Physical Therapy Association. J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 2008:38:A1-A35. These guidelines are scheduled for update in 2017.
Neck pain is a common condition that affects 22% to 70% of people at some point in their lifetime. Fortunately, in most individuals neck pain will spontaneously resolve, but in about 30% of individuals, pain may persist for longer than 6 months. In most cases of neck pain the exact cause is unknown. Nevertheless, patients with neck pain may be given a variety of diagnoses including cervical disc herniation, osteoarthritis, degenerative disc disease, degenerative joint disease, and/or whiplash. These diagnoses lack clear definitions and often fail to explain the patient’s clinical signs and symptoms. Physical therapists may perform an evaluation to identify structures that may be contributing to the neck disorder, such as poor posture, joint stiffness, decreased muscle flexibility, decreased muscle strength, and decreased muscle endurance. Findings from the evaluation can then be used to develop an individualized treatment plan that addresses the patient’s pain and activity limitations to enhance their participation in everyday activities.