The Relationship Between Neck Pain and Physical Activity

Janice Cheung1, Tara Kajaks2, Joy C. MacDermid*, 3
1 Faculty of Health Sciences, McMaster University, Hamilton, Canada
2 Department of Kinesiology, McMaster University, Hamilton, Canada
3 School of Rehabilitation Science, McMaster University, Hamilton, Canada

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© Cheung et al.; Licensee Bentham Open.

open-access license: This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License ( which permits unrestrictive use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

* Address correspondence to this author at the Faculty of Health Sciences, McMaster University, Hamilton, Canada; Tel: (905) 525-9140 ext: 22524; Fax: (905) 524-0069; E-mail:


Neck pain is a significant societal burden due to its high prevalence and healthcare costs. While physical activity can help to manage other forms of chronic musculoskeletal pain, little data exists on the relationship between physical activity and neck pain. The purpose of this study was to compare physical activity levels between individuals with neck pain and healthy controls, and then to relate disability, fear of movement, and pain sensitivity measures to physical activity levels in each of the two participant groups. 21 participants were recruited for each of the two participant groups (n = 42). Data collection included the use of the Neck Disability Index, the Tampa Scale for Kinesiophobia, electrocutaneous (Neurometer® CPT) and pressure stimulation (JTech algometer) for quantitative sensory testing, and 5 days of subjective (Rapid Assessment of Physical Activity) and objective (BioTrainer II) measurements of physical activity. Analysis of Variance and Pearson’s Correlation were used to determine if differences and relationships exist between dependent variables both within and between groups. The results show that individuals with mild neck pain and healthy controls do not differ in subjectively and objectively measured physical activity. While participants with neck pain reported higher neck disability and fear of movement, these factors did not significantly relate to physical activity levels. Perceived activity level was related to pain threshold and tolerance at local neck muscles sites (C2 paraspinal muscle and upper trapezius muscle), whereas measured activity was related to generalized pain sensitivity, as measured at the tibialis anterior muscle site.

Keywords: Disability, fear avoidance, kinesiophobia, neck pain, neck function, physical activity, quantitative sensory testing.