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J Manipulative Physiol Ther. 2012 Feb;35(2):76-85. doi: 10.1016/j.jmpt.2011.12.006. Epub 2012 Jan 16.

Cerebral perfusion in patients with chronic neck and upper back pain: preliminary observations.

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Center for Manual Therapy, Moscow, Russia.



The purpose of this study was to determine the correlation between cerebral perfusion levels, Neck Disability Index (NDI) scores, and spinal joint fixations in patients with neck pain.


Forty-five adult patients (29 were female) with chronic neck/upper thoracic pain during exacerbation were studied. The subjects were grouped according to NDI scores: mild, moderate, and severe. The number of painful/blocked segments in the cervical and upper thoracic spine and costovertebral joints, pain intensity using the visual analog scale, and regional cerebral blood flow of the brain using single-photon emission computed tomography (SPECT) were obtained. The SPECT was analyzed semiquantitatively. Analysis of variance tests were conducted on total SPECT scores in each of the NDI groups (P < .05). Univariate correlations were obtained between blockage, pain, and SPECT scores, as well as age and duration. A multivariate analysis was then conducted.


Group 1 (mild) consisted of 14 patients. Cerebral perfusion measured by SPECT was normal in all 8 brain regions. Group 2 (moderate) consisted of 16 patients. In this group, a decrease in cerebral perfusion was observed (range, 20%-35%), predominantly in the parietal and frontal zones. Group 3 (severe) consisted of 15 patients. In this group, the decrease in cerebral perfusion observed was from 30% to 45%, again predominantly in the parietal and frontal zones. A significant difference was found between NDI groups ("moderate" and "severe" showed significantly greater hypoperfusion than "mild"). Total blockage score correlated with SPECT scores at r = 0.47, P = .001. In a multivariate analysis, NDI scores contributed 39% of the variance of SPECT scores.


In this group of patients with neck and/or upper back pain, NDI scores strongly predicted cerebral hypoperfusion. Spinal joint dysfunction may be involved via hyperactivity in the regional sympathetic nervous system.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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