Neck pain in military helicopter aircrew and the role of exercise therapy

Aviat Space Environ Med. 2011 Oct;82(10):978-87. doi: 10.3357/asem.2841.2011.


Neck pain is a growing aeromedical concern for military forces on an international scale. Neck pain prevalence in the global military helicopter community has been reported in the range of 56.6-84.5%. Despite this high prevalence, historically, research examining helicopter aircrews has focused predominantly on low back pain. A number of recent studies have emerged examining flight-related factors that are hypothesized to contribute to the development of flight-related neck pain. Loading factors such as the posture adopted during flight, use of night vision goggles, and vibration have all been found to contribute to neck pain and muscular fatigue. Prolonged or repeated exposureto these loading factors has been hypothesized to perpetuate or contribute to the development of neck pain. Despite the high number of helicopter aircrew personnel that suffer from neck pain, very few individuals seek treatment for the disorder. The focus of medical personnel should, therefore, be directed toward a solution that addresses not only the issue of muscular fatigue, but the hesitancy to seek treatment. Previous research in military and civilian populations have used exercise therapy as a treatment modality for neck pain and have found improved endurance capacity in the neck musculature and reduced self-reported neck pain.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aircraft*
  • Electromyography
  • Exercise Therapy*
  • Head Protective Devices / adverse effects
  • Humans
  • Lactic Acid / metabolism
  • Military Personnel
  • Muscle Contraction / physiology
  • Muscle Fibers, Fast-Twitch / physiology
  • Muscle Fibers, Slow-Twitch / physiology
  • Muscle Strength / physiology
  • Muscle, Skeletal / metabolism
  • Neck Pain / physiopathology
  • Neck Pain / therapy*
  • Nitric Oxide / metabolism
  • Oxygen / metabolism
  • Posture / physiology
  • Sprains and Strains / physiopathology
  • Vibration / adverse effects
  • Weight-Bearing / physiology


  • Nitric Oxide
  • Lactic Acid
  • Oxygen