Background and purpose: Poor sitting posture has been implicated in the development and perpetuation of neck pain symptoms. This study had 2 purposes: (1) to compare change in cervical and thoracic posture during a distracting task between subjects with chronic neck pain and control subjects and (2) to compare the effects of 2 different neck exercise regimens on the ability of people with neck pain to maintain an upright cervical and thoracic posture during this task.
Subjects: Fifty-eight subjects with chronic, nonsevere neck pain and 10 control subjects participated in the study.
Method: Change in cervical and thoracic posture from an upright posture was measured every 2 minutes during a 10-minute computer task. Following baseline measurements, the subjects with neck pain were randomized into one of two 6-week exercise intervention groups: a group that received training of the craniocervical flexor muscles or a group that received endurance-strength training of the cervical flexor muscles. The primary outcomes following intervention were changes in the angle of cervical and thoracic posture during the computer task.
Results: Subjects with neck pain demonstrated a change in cervical angle across the duration of the task (mean=4.4 degrees ; 95% confidence interval [CI]=3.3-5.4), consistent with a more forward head posture. No significant difference was observed for the change in cervical angle across the duration of the task for the control group subjects (mean=2.2 degrees ; 95% CI=1.0-3.4). Following intervention, the craniocervical flexor training group demonstrated a significant reduction in the change of cervical angle across the duration of the computer task.
Discussion and conclusion: This study showed that people with chronic neck pain demonstrate a reduced ability to maintain an upright posture when distracted. Following intervention with an exercise program targeted at training the craniocervical flexor muscles, subjects with neck pain demonstrated an improved ability to maintain a neutral cervical posture during prolonged sitting.