Neck pain has been estimated to occur in as many as 4 out of 5 individuals. For many, symptoms do not resolve. Healthcare and societal costs (work absenteeism, reduced productivity) associated with chronic neck pain are high and predicted to rise. Despite the common and successful use of chiropractic in patients with neck pain and some evidence for its effectiveness, the biological mechanisms by which chiropractic care reduces pain are less well understood.

Preliminary evidence indicates that the brain appears and functions differently when pain is present. In this project, we will investigate the effects of chronic neck pain on individuals, and the effects of chiropractic care and management on abnormal spinal function associated with chronic neck pain. We will determine whether we can identify clinical circumstances (from brain imaging and three-dimensional movement analysis) that distinguish patients with chronic neck pain from healthy individuals. This will identify specific physical signs (biomarkers) that clinicians can use to guide their care of patients with neck pain. We will also test whether a specific chiropractic procedure is effective in reducing chronic neck pain, and whether it changes the identified biomarkers, thus possibly providing evidence for their use in clinical practice to evaluate the effectiveness of care.

The results of this project could provide preliminary biological evidence for the potentially painreducing effects of a chiropractic procedure. This will provide clinicians with knowledge to improve the effectiveness of their care, impacting on the economic costs of spine problems, which are second only to heart disease and stroke in terms of healthcare expenditure.

Grant Value: $20,000
Chief Investigator:
 Dr Suzanne Snodgrass – University of Newcastle
Status: Complete




Clinical applications for this research:

Neck kinematics and pain: Greater neck pain was associated with lower maximum and total rotation during functional tasks requiring cervical rotation, support clinical observations of altered movement strategies in individuals with chronic idiopathic neck pain.

Neck kinematics and brain biochemistry: Preliminary analyses suggest that neck kinematics are associated with brain biochemistry in individuals with idiopathic neck pain, providing evidence for a central mechanism influencing the cervical movement patterns clinicians observe.