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J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 2019 Aug 23:1-37. doi: 10.2519/jospt.2019.8846. [Epub ahead of print]

No Differences Between Individuals With Chronic Idiopathic Neck Pain and Asymptomatic Individuals on Seven Cervical Sensorimotor Control Tests: A Cross-Sectional Study.

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School of Health Sciences, Faculty of Health and Medicine, The University of Newcastle, Callaghan, NSW, Australia.
Recover Injury Research Centre, NHMRC Centre of Research Excellence in Recovery Following Road Traffic Injuries, The University of Queensland, Herston, QLD, Australia.
Hunter Medical Research Institute, Newcastle, NSW, Australia.



Case-control study.


Cervical sensorimotor outcomes have been suggested to be important in the assessment of individuals with neck pain. However, the large variety of sensorimotor control tests used in varying populations makes it difficult to draw conclusions about their clinical value.


To compare cervical sensorimotor control outcomes between individuals with chronic idiopathic neck pain and asymptomatic individuals using a battery of recommended tests, and to investigate the correlation between cervical sensorimotor control outcomes and pain intensity and neck disability.


Fifty participants with chronic idiopathic neck pain and 50 age and sex-matched asymptomatic controls completed seven cervical sensorimotor control tests: joint position error, joint position error torsion, postural balance, subjective visual vertical, head tilt response, The Fly, smooth pursuit neck torsion, and head steadiness. Between-group differences were investigated with Mann-Whitney U tests. Correlations between tests and levels of neck pain and disability were investigated using Spearman's rho.


There were no differences in cervical sensorimotor outcomes between participants with chronic idiopathic neck pain and asymptomatic controls for any test (p-values ranged from p=0.203 to p=0.981). For each test, 'poor performers' consisted of both individuals with and without neck pain. Correlations were weak between tests and levels of neck pain (r values ranged from 0.010 to 0.294) and neck disability (0.007 to 0.316).


These findings suggest sensorimotor control disturbances in individuals with chronic idiopathic neck pain may not be present, spawning debate on the clinical usefulness of these tests. J Orthop Sports Phys Ther, Epub 23 Aug 2019. doi:10.2519/jospt.2019.8846.


cervical spine; chronic pain; proprioception


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