This study compared the effects of conventional proprioceptive training and craniocervical flexion (C-CF) training on cervical joint position error (JPE) in people with persistent neck pain. The aim was to evaluate whether proprioceptive training was superior in improving proprioceptive acuity compared to another form of exercise, which has been shown to be effective in reducing neck pain. This may help to differentiate the mechanisms of effect of such interventions. Sixty-four female subjects with persistent neck pain and deficits in JPE were randomized into two exercise groups: proprioceptive training or C-CF training. Exercise regimes were conducted over a 6-week period, and all patients received personal instruction by an experienced physiotherapist once per week. A significant pre- to postintervention decrease in JPE, neck pain intensity, and perceived disability was identified for both the proprioceptive training group (p < 0.001) and the C-CF training group (p < 0.05). Patients who participated in the proprioceptive training demonstrated a greater reduction in JPE from right rotation compared to the C-CF training group (p < 0.05). No other significant differences were observed between the two groups. The results demonstrated that both proprioceptive training and C-CF training have a demonstrable benefit on impaired cervical JPE in people with neck pain, with marginally more benefit gained from proprioceptive training. The results suggest that improved proprioceptive acuity following intervention with either exercise protocol may occur through an improved quality of cervical afferent input or by addressing input through direct training of relocation sense.
(c) 2006 Orthopaedic Research Society. Published by Wiley Periodicals, Inc.