Background and purpose: Age- and sex-specific reference values for neck strength based on reliable measurements in the upright position are lacking. The aim of the present study was to determine intra- and inter-tester reliability and age- and sex-specific reference values for isometric neck strength in extension, flexion and lateral flexion in sitting position measured with the David Back Clinic 140 (DBC 140) equipment.
Method: The reliability of the DBC 140 equipment was investigated in 30 healthy volunteers and reference values were obtained from 101 healthy men and women.
Results: The reliability study showed that neck strength measured with the DBC 140 equipment has almost perfect intra- and inter-tester reliability (ICC values between 0.85 and 0.97). The mean value of the first in a series of three measurements was the highest for all three test leaders and for almost all directions. Results from the reference value study showed that gender is a much more important determinant of neck strength than age, body weight or body mass index (BMI). Neck strength in women was, on average, 55% of that in men, and when adjusted for body weight or BMI, the percentages were 70% and 59%, respectively. In all directions observed, neck strength decreased by approximately 20% from age 25 to 64 years.
Conclusions: Measurements of neck strength taken in upright position with the DBC 140 equipment have almost perfect intra- and inter-tester reliability and justify the use of this test procedure. The use of the first measurement in a test series can be recommended for use in clinical practice since it was shown to be the maximal test value and thus, had a very low intra-tester difference. The use of reference values for neck strength when evaluating patients with neck disorders needs to take gender into account.