Resistance Training Best for Neck Pain
Study: Applying Force Brings Fourfold Improvement Compared With Stretching
The two exercise groups were then medically evaluated three times over the next year, while the control group was evaluated once, and the researchers compared their outcomes to work disability claims and related factors. They found that study participants using the resistance bands improved their neck flexibility by 110%, rotation by 76%, and extension by 69%, while those on the regimen without resistance improved those functions by 28%, 29%, and 16%. Those not actively doing any neck exercises had improvements of 10%, 10%, and 7%.
Ylinen's study follows another trial done in 1994, in which resistance exercise was also found to be more effective than stretching. In lieu of elastic bands, resistance could be achieved by holding your hands on the back of your head and gently pressing your head while holding your hands firm.
However, the bands are better because they apply more uniform force and may have an advantage in building neck muscle strength, says Scott D. Boden, MD, professor of orthopaedic surgery at Emory University School of Medicine and a spokesman for the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. He was not involved in Ylinen's study, but he calls it an important finding that could lead to major advances in treatment.
"It's so rare that we see any study on physical therapy and exercise showing a difference in one mode of exercise from another," he tells WebMD. "This is very exciting study, because methods were so meticulous and it really proves what a lot of people thought to be true but had a hard time documenting. There is such little evidence on what we base most of our treatments on in musculoskeletal care, so having a study like this is, in my opinion, is a major advance. Not only did they show a rather dramatic difference in improvement over controls, but also between the two treatment groups."
Actually, Ylinen's study follows the often recommended treatment for back pain; many experts suggest that supplementing basic stretching with resistance training can boost muscle strength faster and lead to more improvement, says Boden. "The concept of improving instability with resistance training isn't a new concept, but showing the impact over and above just stretching is a real value of this study."