Neck Pain Clinical Prediction Rule to Prescribe Combined Aerobic and Neck-Specific Exercises: Secondary Analysis of a Randomized Controlled Trial

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A previous randomized controlled trial revealed that combined aerobic and neck-specific exercises yielded greater improvement than neck-specific exercises alone after a 6-month intervention in outpatients with nonspecific neck pain (NP). The aim of this secondary analysis was to identify subgroups of patients in the combined exercises group most likely to benefit from the intervention. Methods: Sixty-nine patients were included. The original trial was conducted in multiple physical therapy outpatient clinics twice a week for 6 weeks; follow-up was 6 months after assignment. The primary outcome was the therapeutic success rate (Global Rating of Change Score ≥ +5, "quite a bit better") after 6 weeks of training and at the 6-month follow-up. Candidate predictors from patients' medical history and physical examination were selected for univariable regression analysis to determine their association with treatment response status. Multivariable logistic regression analysis was used to derive preliminary clinical prediction rules. Results: The clinical prediction rule contained 3 predictor variables: (1) symptom duration ≤6 months, (2) neck flexor endurance ≥18 seconds, and (3) absence of referred pain (Nagelkerke R2 =. 40 and -2 log likelihood = 60.30). The pre-test probability of success was 61.0% in the short term and 77.0% in the long term. The post-test probability of success for patients with at least 2 of the 3 predictor variables was 84.0% in the short term and 87.0% in the long term; such patients will likely benefit from this program. Conclusion: A simple 3-item assessment, derived from easily obtainable baseline data, can identify patients with NP who may respond best to combined aerobic and neck-specific exercises. Validation is required before clinical recommendation. Impact: Patients experiencing NP symptoms ≤6 months who have no referred pain and exhibit neck flexor endurance ≥18 seconds may benefit from a simple self-training program of combined aerobic and neck-specific exercises.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberpzab269
JournalPhysical Therapy
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 Feb 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 The Author(s) 2021. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the American Physical Therapy Association. All rights reserved.


  • Clinical Prediction Rule
  • Exercise Therapy
  • Exercise: Aerobic Performance
  • Musculoskeletal Pain
  • Neck Pain
  • Physical Activity
  • Humans
  • Physical Therapy Modalities
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Neck
  • Clinical Decision Rules
  • Neck Pain/rehabilitation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation


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