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Neck Pain Care Pathway

Date of last update: February, 2024

Patient History

Clinical Cornerstone:

  • Taking a patient's history goes beyond data collection; it's about forging and upholding a therapeutic relationship. Actively and empathetically listening to the patient's narrative offers insights into their condition and its optimal approach to management. The essence of history-taking lies in turning into the patient's story, discerning their non-verbal cues, and steering the conversation to ensure a comprehensive, yet seamless, patient history.

  • Adopting principles of trauma-informed care (safety, trustworthiness, collaboration, choice and empowerment, culturally responsive) could help minimize potential barriers. This might involve reframing questions from "what's wrong with you" to "what happened". This might also involve explaining the rationale behind sensitive questions or tests.

  • While history taking needs to be thorough, it does not need to be linear. Reports can be explored as the patient makes them, using care to ensure needed details are not subsequently missed. While certain topics like prior episodes of neck pain, past care experiences, and recovery expectations are crucial, they might be broached at different times during the patient encounter, not just the initial history.

  • When re-evaluating existing patients, especially those presenting with new complaints, a thorough assessment is just as imperative as with new patients. Delve into the new issue's onset, duration, and associated factors. Gauge the new neck pain's influence on pre-existing conditions and their treatment.

Patient history may include:

  • Sociodemographic: Age, sex and gender, occupation.

  • Chief complaint: Main issues.

  • Characteristics of present condition: Mechanism, location, duration, frequency, character, alleviating/aggravating factors, radiation (e.g. pain, numbness, tingling or weakness), timing (e.g. constant/intermittent, morning/end-of-day/night pain, improving/staying-the-same/getting worse), severity, associated symptoms (e.g. headache, shoulder pain, TMJ pain).

  • Narrative: How the issue effects activities of daily living.

  • Previous History of Neck Pain: Including experience with previous treatments – effective or any adverse effects. Expectations of treatment and recovery.

  • Associated Complaints: Identify any co-morbid disorders (e.g., concussion, TMD, occipital neuralgia, etc.).

  • Health History: Previous or concurrent conditions (physical, systemic, and mental health conditions), medications, injuries, hospitalization, surgeries, and treatments, volume and intensity of weekly physical activity and exercise.

  • Family History: Genetic and familial predispositions, familial major medical history (e.g., cancer, cardiovascular).

  • Social History: Family support, caregiver responsibilities, role of family or caregivers in care.

  • Review of Body Systems: Comprehensive review of body systems to identify any related or unrelated symptoms (neurologic, cardiovascular (including hypertension), genitourinary, gastrointestinal, muscles and joints, eyes/ears/nose/throat, respiratory, skin, mental health and orange flags, menstrual related, bone density, medications, pregnancy, children).

  • Psychosocial Assessment (yellow flags):

    • Beliefs and perceptions: Negative beliefs about the prognosis, fear of movement or re-injury, misconceptions about the nature of the pain, or poor expectations of recovery.

    • Emotional factors: Symptoms of depression, anxiety, or stress (recent life changes or stressors).

    • Behavioural factors: Avoidance behaviors, reduced activity levels, over-reliance on passive treatments, or high self-reported disability levels.

    • Social or environmental factors: Lack of social support, work-related issues, or family pressures.

    • Compensation or legal issues: Pending litigation or compensation claims.

    • Coping strategies: Maladaptive coping mechanisms (e.g., catastrophizing or relying heavily on medication).

  • Lifestyle Assessment: Nutrition, exercise (type, duration and frequency), hobbies, sleep, stress; smoking, alcohol, and recreational drug use.

  • Occupational History: Type of work they do (sedentary, physical labour, etc.), ergonomics of workplace, other work stressors (including social environment), any taken time off due to neck pain, any work accommodations/modifications.

  • Social determinants of health: Employment, childcare, education, nutrition, housing, domestic violence, child maltreatment, discrimination, isolation.

  • Goals and expectations: Goals for treatment, expectations from intervention.

  • Documentation: Record all findings in the patient record.

Conduct patient assessment

Red flags present

Red flags present

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Refer to appropriate emergency or healthcare provider

  • Structured patient education

  • Exercise (strength, range of motion)

  • Manual therapies (e.g., spinal manipulation or mobilization, massage)

  • Low-level laser therapy

  • Psychological / social support

  • Medicines

  • Referral

Major symptom/sign change

Goals not achieved

Re-evaluate

Adjust treatment and management plan or refer

References or links to primary sources

 

 

 

 

 

 

Contact information for further inquiries or feedback

carolina.cancelliere@ontariotechu.ca

Disclaimer:

These care pathways are intended to provide information to practitioners who provide care to people with musculoskeletal conditions. The care pathways on this website are 'living' documents, reflecting the state of clinical practice and research evidence to our best knowledge at the time of development. As knowledge and healthcare practices evolve, these pathways may be updated to ensure they remain current and evidence driven. These pathways are not intended to replace advice from a qualified healthcare provider.

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