Cervical coupling during lateral head translations creates an S-configuration

Clin Biomech (Bristol, Avon). 2000 Jul;15(6):436-40. doi: 10.1016/s0268-0033(99)00098-4.


Objective: To determine cervical coupling during the posture of lateral head translation relative to a fixed thoracic cage.

Design: Digitized measurements from anteroposterior cervical radiographs of 20 volunteers were obtained in neutral, left, and right lateral translation posture of the head compared to a fixed thorax.

Background data: Clinically, lateral translation of the head is a common posture. Ranges of motion and spinal coupling have not been reported for this movement.

Methods: Vertebral body corners, mid-lateral articular pillars and the superior spinous-lamina junction of C3-T4 were digitized on 60 radiographs. Using the orthogonal axis of positive x-direction to the left, vertical as positive y and anterior as positive z, digitized points were used to measure projected segmental z-axis rotation, y-axis rotation, and segmental lateral translations of each vertebra.

Results: Subjects translated their heads laterally a mean of 51 mm. The major coupled motion was lateral bending (z-axis rotation), which changed direction at the C4-C5 disc space creating an S-shape. Upper cervical (C3-C4) lateral bending was contralateral to the main motion of head translation direction. Lower cervical and upper thoracic lateral bending were ipsilateral. Other segmental motions averaged less than 1 mm and 1 degrees.

Conclusions: Lateral head translations (x-axis) compared to a fixed thoracic cage can be large with a mean of 51 mm to one side. The major spinal coupling was lateral bending which changed direction at C4-C5 resulting in an S-configuration. This might have application in side impacts. All other segmental movements were small, less than 1 mm and 1 degrees.

Relevance: The clinically common posture of lateral head translation results in an S-shaped cervical spine and may occur in side impact trauma. This posture has not been studied for cervical coupling patterns or range of motion (ROM).

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cervical Vertebrae / diagnostic imaging
  • Cervical Vertebrae / physiology*
  • Female
  • Head Movements*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Radiography
  • Thoracic Vertebrae / diagnostic imaging