Influence of prolonged unilateral cervical muscle contraction on head repositioning--decreased overshoot after a 5-min static muscle contraction task

Man Ther. 2010 Jun;15(3):229-34. doi: 10.1016/j.math.2009.12.003. Epub 2010 Jan 18.


The ability to reproduce a specified head-on-trunk position can be an indirect test of cervical proprioception. This ability is affected in subjects with neck pain, but it is unclear whether and how much pain or continuous muscle contraction factors contribute to this effect. We studied the influence of a static unilateral neck muscle contraction task (5 min of lateral flexion at 30% of maximal voluntary contraction) on head repositioning ability in 20 subjects (10 women, 10 men; mean age 37 years) with healthy necks. Head repositioning ability was tested in the horizontal plane with 30 degrees target and neutral head position tests; head position was recorded by Zebris((R)), an ultrasound-based motion analyser. Head repositioning ability was analysed for accuracy (mean of signed differences between introduced and reproduced positions) and precision (standard deviation of the differences). Accuracy of head repositioning ability increased significantly after the muscle contraction task, as the normal overshoot was reduced. An average overshoot of 7.1 degrees decreased to 4.6 degrees after the muscle contraction task for the 30 degrees target and from 2.2 degrees to 1.4 degrees for neutral head position. The increased accuracy was most pronounced for movements directed towards the activated side. Hence, prolonged unilateral neck muscle contraction may increase the sensitivity of cervical proprioceptors.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cervical Vertebrae / physiology*
  • Electromyography
  • Female
  • Head
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Muscle Contraction / physiology*
  • Neck Pain / physiopathology
  • Pilot Projects
  • Proprioception*
  • Range of Motion, Articular