According to
an article in the January 15 issue of
Arthritis & Rheumatism (2008; 59 [1], 84-91), neck pain is
now the second most common musculoskeletal disorder after back pain. Experts
claim that “more than half of all adults have experienced neck pain during the
past 6 months,” with women affected more than men. However, results from a
second study published in the same issue suggest that relief might be in sight.

The 10-week study involved 42
women recruited from various workplaces in Copenhagen, Denmark, who experienced
trapezius myalgia (described as neck pain, along with tightness and tenderness
in the trapezius muscle). The women were split into three groups: specific
strength training (SST), general fitness training (GFT) and health counseling
(REF). The SST group met three times per week for 20 minutes and were supervised
while performing one-arm row, shoulder abduction, shoulder elevation, reverse
flye and upright row using dumbbells as resistance. The GFT group also met
three times per week and spent 20 minutes on a Monark bicycle ergometer at
50%-70% of maximal oxygen uptake, training the legs only. The REF group simply
received educational training on workplace ergonomics, diet, health, relaxation
and stress management for 1 hour each week.

Over the 10-week trial period,
the SST group experienced a significant reduction in longer-term pain
reduction, with a 79% decrease over baseline results. They also increased
shoulder elevation strength by 28%. The GFT group fared well during exercise
(their fitness levels improved by 21%), but the reduction in neck pain was
acute and did not last after exercise cessation. No change occurred in the REF
group.

Study authors believed that
these were promising findings in the fight to reduce or eliminate neck pain.
“Based on the present results,” they concluded, “supervised high-intensity (8-12
RM) dynamic strength training of the painful muscle three times a week for 20
minutes should be recommended in the treatment of trapezius myalgia.” While
fitness professionals are not in the role of “diagnosing” or “treating”
musculoskeletal disorders, it is possible for trainers to use the suggested
protocol to improve area strength and mobility in clients once they have
received exercise clearance from a physician.