Study Design. Follow-up study.
Objective. To study whether neck muscle strength or cervical spine mobility values could serve as predictors for future neck pain among originally pain-free working-age subjects during a long period.
Summary of Background Data. Neck pain has been associated with weaker neck muscle strength and lower cervical spine mobility in several studies. However, causality between physical capacity and neck pain has not been shown.
Methods. Isometric neck muscle strength and passive range of motion of the cervical spine of 220 healthy female volunteers, aged 20 to 59 years, were measured. A postal survey was conducted 6 years later to determine whether any volunteers had experienced neck pain. The receiver operator characteristics curve was used to study how well the neck strength and mobility values in different movement planes at baseline served as predictors of future neck pain.
Results. Of the 192 (87%) responders, 37 (19%) reported neck pain for 7 days during the past year. In predicting neck pain, areas under the receiver operator characteristics curves (95% confidence intervals) in different movement planes were 0.52 to 0.56 (0.41–0.66) for isometric neck strength and 0.54 to 0.56 (0.44–0.76) for passive mobility of the cervical spine.
Conclusion. The results suggest that neither isometric neck muscle strength nor passive mobility of cervical spine has predictive value for later occurrences of neck pain in pain-free working-age women. Thus, screening healthy subjects for weaker neck muscle strength or decreased mobility of the cervical spine may not be recommended for preventive purposes.