People who are diagnosed with head and neck cancer may undergo surgery to treat their cancer, including neck dissection surgery, which removes lymph nodes from the neck. This surgery can result in pain, stiffness and muscle weakness at the neck and upper body. This research study will trial exercises known to successfully treat neck and shoulder girdle pain, to assess their effect for people who have had a neck dissection.

You'll receive:

The study starts with an assessment of participants’ current strength, flexibility, pain levels, and quality of life. Participants will be asked to undertake a three month monitoring period, before repeating the assessment and then beginning a three month rehabilitation program with a physiotherapist at UQ St Lucia. The rehabilitation program is focussed on flexibility and strength of the neck. One further assessment will take place at the end of the three month rehabilitation program.

The monitoring period is necessary to accurately evaluate participants’ baseline condition. This is critical to identifying the benefits of the rehabilitation program.

Participant benefits:

Participants will receive six one-on-one sessions as well as four telephone consultations with a physiotherapist during three month rehabilitation program. Resistance training bands will be provided to allow participants to progress with their exercises. Parking vouchers for all visits to UQ St Lucia will also be provided.


To be eligible, participants will have:

  • History of head and neck cancer (oral cavity, pharyngeal, laryngeal, parotid, skin excluding melanoma, thyroid)
  • History of neck dissection surgery on one side of the neck
  • Be between one and three years post-surgery
  • Aged over 18 years.

Individuals who meet the following criteria will unfortunately not be able to participate:

  • Currently undergoing treatment for cancer (e.g. currently receiving radiation therapy, chemotherapy)
  • If the accessory nerve was removed during the neck dissection surgery
  • History of more than one neck dissection
  • History of laryngectomy
  • Other pre-existing neck conditions, such as whiplash-associated disorder, or neck spinal surgery
  • Neurological conditions such as Parkinson’s disease or Multiple Sclerosis.

The lead researcher Dr Elise Gane is available to discuss with you any questions you may have about your eligibility.

Register your interest:

To learn more and register to participate, visit the study web page:

Neck Rehabilitation after neck dissection

Please contact Dr Elise Gane via email ( or phone (3443 2680, answering machine available, please leave a message) for any further questions.

This study has been approved by The University of Queensland Human Research Ethics Committee [Approval No. 2019000893]