The Effect of Cognition Targeted Physical Therapy in People With Non-specific Neck Pain

  • participants needed
  • sponsor
    Rotterdam University of Applied Sciences
Updated on 28 November 2022


The aim of this study is to explore and evaluate the effects of an individually tailored intervention focusing on influencing dysfunctional illness perceptions and dysfunctional movement/pain behavior in patients with non-specific neck pain.



Worldwide, neck pain is the 3th most common disorder that interferes with people's daily functioning. Many people with neck pain consult a physical therapist because of their pain, however treatment effects are small. Recent studies in a broader group of people with musculoskeletal pain show that physical therapy interventions tailored to individual risk profiles for chronicity are more effective. Considering the importance of psychological prognostic factors in neck pain it is hypothesized that influencing dysfunctional cognitions and negative emotions affects the way people cope with their pain and therefore can influence their self-perceived health condition in a positive way.

Research questions:

  1. How does an individually tailored intervention that focuses on influencing dysfunctional illness perceptions and dysfunctional movement/ pain behavior change people's illness perceptions, the way they cope with their pain, their self-perceived health condition and to what do these people attribute this change?
  2. Do changes in specific illness perceptions (i.e. cognitions and emotions measured by the IPQ-k and FABQ-pa) mediate the effect of an individually tailored physiotherapy cognitive behavioral intervention measured by the Global Perceived Effect, Self-efficacy (PSEQ), Functioning (PSFS) and Pain (NPRS).

In this study a Single Subject Experimental Design (SSED) is applied with a baseline phase (duration two weeks), an intervention phase with 5-7 treatment consultations (offered once a week) and a follow up (3 months after the last consultation).

During the baseline phase, a qualitative assessment of the illness perceptions, the way people cope with pain and their self-perceived health condition, is carried out through a semi-structured interview. A second interview is carried out after the treatment phase (in the week after the last treatment consultation) to explore changes in (1) the illness perceptions, (2) the way people cope with pain, (3) their self-perceived health condition and to explore to what these participants attribute a change in their perceived health condition.

The quantitative part of the study is used to investigate whether influencing illness perceptions (measured by the B-IPQ and the FABQ-pa) is a mediating factor for the treatment effect (i.e. self-perceived effect measured by the GPE scale, self-efficacy (PSEQ), functioning (PSFS) and pain (NPRS)). Outcome measurements in this quantitative part of the study will be performed two times a week during the baseline phase and the intervention phase. The last measurement in the intervention phase will be performed in the week after the treatment is completed (depending on the individual situation after 5-7 weeks of consultations). A follow-up measurement will be performed 3 months after the last treatment consultation.


People with non-specific neck pain and a middle or high risk profile for chronicity (i.e. a score of 4 on the Start Neck Tool) are the target group for this study.


The study will be conducted in collaboration with 11 local physiotherapy clinics in primary health care. People with non-specific neck pain will be recruited via information on the website or social media channels of the physical therapy practices, via posters in the waiting room, via the secretary upon registration and via the physical therapist after the (regular) screening. After being screened by a physical therapist and when fulfilling the inclusion and exclusion criteria, information is given about the study. When willing to participate and after reading the information letter and signing the informed consent, patients will be included in the study. Their decision on participating in the study will not have consequences for their treatment. From enrollment, the participants will fill in the baseline measurements on the outcome variables twice a week and contact the researcher for making an appointment for an interview. The interview, performed by the leading researcher, will take place half way the baseline period of two weeks. In this interview the participant's illness perceptions, how they cope with their neck pain and their self-perceived health condition will be explored. Two weeks after enrollment in the study the intervention will start. The intervention, with a total of 5 till 7 treatment consultations depending on the patient's needs, is offered once a week by a trained physical therapist. During this phase, the self-reported outcome measures will be collected twice a week using questionnaires. The data from these questionnaires will be used to tailor the intervention. Within a week of completing the intervention, the researcher will be contacted and a second interview will take place. In addition to a further exploration of the participant's illness perceptions, how they cope with their pain and their self-perceived health condition at the end of the intervention, it is also evaluated to what the participant attributes a possible change in the perceived health condition and what the role of the intervention has been. Three months after the last treatment consultation, a follow up measurement will be conducted by completing a questionnaire on the aforementioned outcome variables.


The intervention consists of individually tailored physiotherapy that fits within the guideline non-specific neck pain (KNGF, 2016), with a focus on influencing dysfunctional illness perceptions and movement/pain behavior by means of communication, body awareness exercises, functional movements and exposure techniques. Depending on the patient's needs, 5-7 treatment consultations will be offered with a frequency of once a week. The intervention will be delivered by a trained physical therapist with specific interests in a cognitive-behavioral approach within a biopsychosocial model. The aim of the intervention is to influence dysfunctional beliefs and negative emotions to increase their self-perceived health condition and confidence in carrying out specific activities despite their pain and fulfill the patient's individually formulated goals.


This mixed method multiple case design implies the study of the clinical progress in an experimental set up by both a qualitative evaluation and frequent measurements of several quantitative outcome variables in a small sample of participants during a pre-intervention phase (A), an intervention phase (B) and an intervention withdrawal phase (A').

Qualitative analyses: Within the qualitative part of the study a content analysis will be conducted using the inductive analytical approach. The following steps will be taken: 1. Open coding (identifying domains and topics guided by the research questions) 2. Development of categories into a framework 3. Interpretation of the raw data 4. Discussion about the interpretations.

Quantitative analyses: Within the quantitative part of the study the participants are seen as single systems in the analyses and they act as their own controls. Repeated measures will be used to verify whether changes in specific illness perceptions (i.e. cognitions and emotions measured by the IPQ-k and FABQ-pa) mediates the effect of an individually tailored physiotherapy cognitive behavioral intervention on Global Perceived Effect, Self-efficacy, Functioning and Pain. Furthermore this quantitative research will be used to validate the data and interpretations from the interviews (i.e. to check whether 'the story people tell' corresponds to more objective markers (triangulation)).

Complementary Data:

Complementary data that will be collected within the project are the characteristics of the participating physical therapists (i.e. gender, age, work experience and specializations) and treatment related data (i.e. the number of physiotherapy sessions, the focus area within a session and the use of specific tools).

Condition Pain (Pediatric), Post-Surgical Pain, Pain, Neck Pain
Treatment Cognitive Behavioral Intervention
Clinical Study IdentifierNCT05127603
SponsorRotterdam University of Applied Sciences
Last Modified on28 November 2022

Similar trials to consider


Not finding what you're looking for?

Every year hundreds of thousands of volunteers step forward to participate in research. Sign up as a volunteer and receive email notifications when clinical trials are posted in the medical category of interest to you.

Sign up as volunteer

user name

Added by • 



Reply by • Private

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet consectetur, adipisicing elit. Ipsa vel nobis alias. Quae eveniet velit voluptate quo doloribus maxime et dicta in sequi, corporis quod. Ea, dolor eius? Dolore, vel!

  The passcode will expire in None.

No annotations made yet

Add a private note
  • abc Select a piece of text from the left.
  • Add notes visible only to you.
  • Send it to people through a passcode protected link.
Add a private note