New research reported in The Spine Journal compared anatomical differences in the neck and trunk area of young adult patients with chronic neck pain and control subjects without neck pain to identify risk factors and predictors. The study found that a shallow rib cage in women and forward inclination of the thoracic inlet in men are associated with the development of chronic neck pain.
Increases in the anteroposterior dimension of the uppermost thoracic cage, between the top of the manubrium and the tip of the T1 spinous process were associated with an 18% decrease in the risk of chronic neck pain in women and a 19% decrease in men.
This section forms a fixed base for head and neck movement, and the smaller the base, the more likely that the head will extend beyond it. This in turn may increase neck extensor activity causing neck muscle fatigue.
With respect to the thoracic inlet, each degree increase in the angle of inclination also increased the risk of chronic neck pain by 25%. This association pertained to men only.
Researchers conclude that individuals with these potential risk factors “might benefit from preventive measures, such as postural adaptation or ergonomic support, to lessen the chance of the development of weak points in daily life or strengthen the muscles holding the structures so as to eliminate fatigue.”
Read more about the research, including a link to the study abstract, here.