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Neck pain and anxiety do not always go together

Author(s): Myburgh Corrie | Roessler Kirsten | Larsen Anders | Hartvigsen Jan

Journal: Chiropractic and Osteopathy
ISSN 1746-1340

Volume: 18;
Issue: 1;
Start page: 6;
Date: 2010;
Original page

Abstract Chronic pain and psychosocial distress are generally thought to be associated in chronic musculoskeletal disorders such as non-specific neck pain. However, it is unclear whether a raised level of anxiety is necessarily a feature of longstanding, intense pain amongst patient and general population sub-groups. In a cohort of 70 self-selected female, non-specific neck pain sufferers, we observed relatively high levels of self-reported pain of 4.46 (measured on the 11 point numerical pain rating scale (NRS-101)) and a longstanding duration of symptoms (156 days/year). However, the mean anxiety scores observed (5.49), fell well below the clinically relevant threshold of 21 required by the Beck Anxiety Inventory. The cohort was stratified to further distinguish individuals with higher pain intensity (NRS>6) and longer symptom duration (>90 days). Although a highly statistically significant difference (p = 0.000) was subsequently observed with respect to pain intensity, in the resulting sub-groups, none such a difference was noted with respect to anxiety levels. Our results indicate that chronic, intense pain and anxiety do not always appear to be related. Explanations for these findings may include that anxiety is not triggered in socially functional individuals, that individual coping strategies have come into play or in some instances that a psychological disorder like alexithymia could be a confounder. More studies are needed to clarify the specific role of anxiety in chronic non-specific musculoskeletal pain before general evidence-driven clinical extrapolations can be made.
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