Objective: The purpose of this study was to investigate whether an endurance-strength training program is effective in reducing myoelectric manifestations of sternocleidomastoid (SCM) and anterior scalene (AS) muscle fatigue which have been found to be greater in people with chronic neck pain.
Methods: Fifty-eight female patients with chronic non-severe neck pain were randomized into one of two 6-week exercise intervention groups: an endurance-strength training regime for the cervical flexor muscles or a referent exercise intervention involving low load retraining of the cranio-cervical flexor muscles. The primary outcomes were a change in maximum voluntary contraction (MVC) force and change of the initial value and rate of change of the mean frequency, average rectified value and conduction velocity detected from the SCM and AS muscles during sub-maximal isometric cervical flexion contractions at 50, 25 and 10% MVC.
Results: At the 7th week follow-up assessment, the endurance-strength training group revealed a significant increase in MVC force and a reduction in the estimates of the initial value and rate of change of the mean frequency for both the SCM and AS muscles (P<0.05). Both exercise groups reported a reduced average intensity of neck pain and reduced neck disability index score (P<0.05).
Conclusions: An endurance-strength exercise regime for the cervical flexor muscles is effective in reducing myoelectric manifestations of superficial cervical flexor muscle fatigue as well as increasing cervical flexion strength in a group of patients with chronic non-severe neck pain.
Significance: Provision of load to challenge the neck flexor muscles is required to reduce the fatigability of the SCM and AS muscles in people with neck pain. Improvements in cervical muscle strength and reduced fatigability may be responsible for the reported efficacy with this type of exercise program.