Impairment in the Cervical Flexors: A Comparison of Whiplash and Insidious Onset Neck Pain Patients


Impairment in the Cervical Flexors: A Comparison of Whiplash and Insidious Onset Neck Pain Patients

Jull G, Kristjansson E, Dall’Alba P

Department of Physiotherapy,
The University of Queensland,
Queensland 4072, Australia

There has been little investigation into whether or not differences exist in the nature of physical impairment associated with neck pain of whiplash and insidious origin. This study examined the neck flexor synergy during performance of the cranio-cervical flexion test, a test targeting the action of the deep neck flexors.

Seventy-five volunteer subjects participated in this study and were equally divided between Group 1, asymptomatic control subjects, Group 2, subjects with insidious onset neck pain and Group 3, subjects with neck pain following a whiplash injury. The cranio-cervical flexion test was performed in five progressive stages of increasing cranio-cervical flexion range. Subjects’ performance was guided by feedback from a pressure sensor inserted behind the neck which monitored the slight flattening of the cervical lordosis which occurs with the contraction of longus colli. Myoelectric signals (EMG) were detected from the muscles during performance of the test.

The results indicated that both the insidious onset neck pain and whiplash groups had higher measures of EMG signal amplitude (normalized root mean square) in the sternocleidomastoid during each stage of the test compared to the control subjects (all P<0.05) and had significantly greater shortfalls from the pressure targets in the test stages (P<0.05). No significant differences were evident between the neck pain groups in either parameter indicating that this physical impairment in the neck flexor synergy is common to neck pain of both whiplash and insidious origin.