Study Design. A 5-year follow-up study was conducted of men and women seeking care for new incidents of neck/shoulder disorders (NSD). Objectives. To study the natural course of pain and disability caused by NSD during a 5-year follow-up and to investigate the possible influence of regular physical exercise on recovery. Summary of Background Data. NSD are a major health problem, but their natural course is not very well studied. Several studies have investigated the role of physical exercise on NSD, with inconsistent results. Methods. At baseline, a total of 439 subjects seeking care for NSD completed a questionnaire, and were interviewed about personal, medical, and occupational history, as well as physical exercise during leisure time. Over 5 years, 4 follow-up assessments were made by postal questionnaire. At all measuring points, pain intensity ratings and disability scores were compared between men and women, and between 3 exercise categories. Results. The highest improvements in pain and disability, both in men and in women, were seen after 3 months. After that, only minor improvements were seen. In some cases, there was deterioration. However, after 5 years, both men and women had significant improvements, men more than women. Only the women were analyzed concerning physical exercise and were pooled into 3 categories according to intensity of exercise. There were no differences in changes in pain intensity and disability scores from baseline between the groups. Conclusions. A gender difference was seen in the change of pain and disability, with men having higher improvement than women over 5 years. Self-reported physical exercise of any intensity was not associated with higher recovery in women.
2005. Vol. 30, no 13, E363-E368 p.