Does posture of the cervical spine influence dorsal neck muscle activity when lifting?

Man Ther. 2014 Feb;19(1):32-6. doi: 10.1016/j.math.2013.06.003. Epub 2013 Jul 20.


Previous studies have shown that postural orientations of the neck, such as flexed or forward head postures, are associated with heightened activity of the dorsal neck muscles. While these studies describe the impact of variations in neck posture alone, there is scant literature regarding the effect of neck posture on muscle activity when combined with upper limb activities such as lifting. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the effect of three different neck postures on the activity of the different layers of the dorsal neck muscles during a lifting task. Ultrasound measurements of dorsal neck muscle deformation were compared over two time points (rest, during lift) during a lifting task performed in three different neck postural conditions (neutral, flexed and forward head posture) in 21 healthy subjects. Data were analysed by post-process speckle tracking analysis. Results demonstrated significantly greater muscle deformation induced by flexed and forward head postures, compared to the neutral posture, for all dorsal neck muscles at rest (p<0.05). Significant condition by time interactions associated with the lift was observed for four out of the five dorsal muscles (p<0.02). These findings demonstrate that posture of the cervical spine influenced the level of muscle deformation not only at rest, but also when lifting. The findings of the study suggest that neck posture should be considered during the evaluation or design of lifting activities as it may contribute to excessive demands on dorsal neck muscles with potential detrimental consequences.

Keywords: Cervical posture; Lifting; Neck muscle; Ultrasound.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Cervical Vertebrae / diagnostic imaging
  • Cervical Vertebrae / physiology*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Male
  • Muscle Contraction / physiology*
  • Neck Muscles / diagnostic imaging
  • Neck Muscles / physiology*
  • Posture / physiology*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Range of Motion, Articular / physiology*
  • Reference Values
  • Ultrasonography, Doppler / methods
  • Weight Lifting / physiology*
  • Young Adult