A prospective cross-sectional study was conducted.
To determine the relation between degeneration of all the joints in the cervical spine, and to identify the effects of litigation on pain and disability levels in trauma and nontrauma patients.
Summary of Background Data.
The link between spinal degeneration and patient symptoms remains controversial. Two recent similar studies present conflicting results concerning the association between spinal degeneration and symptomatology. These two studies, performed in different countries, did not consider the impact of impending litigation on self-reported pain and disability levels. The role of the uncovertebral and facet articulations has hitherto not been investigated.
Radiographic and questionnaire data from 180 consecutive patients with neck pain were collected. Neck pain severity was measured using two time-dependent scales. All patients completed the Neck Disability Index (NDI) and questions about chronicity, etiology, and associated litigation. The radiographs were evaluated for the number of levels of degeneration and the severity of degeneration in the discs as well as the uncovertebral and facet articulations.
In this study, 71 patients (40.57%) reported neck pain as a result of injury. However, only 5.1% had associated litigation. There was no statistically significant difference in pain severity or disability levels between the patients with and those without cervical degeneration. According to the findings, the number of levels of cervical degeneration and the severity of degeneration in the discs, facets, and uncovertebral joints are not related to the levels of pain and disability. Patients reporting neck pain caused by injury had a tendency (P = 0.055) to more pain during the preceding week and significantly more disability (P < 0.001). Significant differences included pain intensity (P < 0.025), reading (P < 0.001), headaches (P < 0.025), ability to drive (P < 0.01), and concentration (P < 0.01). Women reported significantly more pain (P < 0.01) and disability (P < 0.001) than men, but did not have more degeneration in any of the joints.
In patients with neck pain, there is no difference in reported pain and disability levels between those with and those without evidence of cervical spine degeneration. Patients whose neck pain is the result of trauma report significantly more pain and disability than nontrauma patients. This is not because of more spinal degeneration or overriding litigation issues.