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J Biomech. 2008 Sep 18;41(13):2799-805. doi: 10.1016/j.jbiomech.2008.07.005. Epub 2008 Aug 15.

Cervical helical axis characteristics and its center of rotation during active head and upper arm movements-comparisons of whiplash-associated disorders, non-specific neck pain and asymptomatic individuals.

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  • 1Biomedical Engineering & Informatics, University Hospital of Umeå, 90185 Umeå, Sweden.


The helical axis model can be used to describe translation and rotation of spine segments. The aim of this study was to investigate the cervical helical axis and its center of rotation during fast head movements (side rotation and flexion/extension) and ball catching in patients with non-specific neck pain or pain due to whiplash injury as compared with matched controls. The aim was also to investigate correlations with neck pain intensity. A finite helical axis model with a time-varying window was used. The intersection point of the axis during different movement conditions was calculated. A repeated-measures ANOVA model was used to investigate the cervical helical axis and its rotation center for consecutive levels of 15 degrees during head movement. Irregularities in axis movement were derived using a zero-crossing approach. In addition, head, arm and upper body range of motion and velocity were observed. A general increase of axis irregularity that correlated to pain intensity was observed in the whiplash group. The rotation center was superiorly displaced in the non-specific neck pain group during side rotation, with the same tendency for the whiplash group. During ball catching, an anterior displacement (and a tendency to an inferior displacement) of the center of rotation and slower and more restricted upper body movements implied a changed movement strategy in neck pain patients, possibly as an attempt to stabilize the cervical spine during head movement.

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