Clinical effects of deep cervical flexor muscle activation in patients with chronic neck pain

J Phys Ther Sci. 2016 Jan;28(1):269-73. doi: 10.1589/jpts.28.269. Epub 2016 Jan 30.


[Purpose] The purpose of this study was to investigate clinical effects of deep cervical flexor (DCF) muscles exercise on pain, Neck Disability Index (NDI), and neck and shoulder postures in patients with chronic neck pain. [Subjects and Methods] Twenty-eight patients with chronic neck pain were randomly assigned into either the general strengthening exercise (GSE) group or the DCF activation group as control and experimental groups, respectively. All exercises were performed three times per week over 4 weeks. NDI and numeric rating scale (NRS) score for pain were determined and radiological assessment of neck-shoulder postures (head tilt angle [HTA], neck flexion angle [NFA], and forward shoulder angle [FSA]) was performed before (baseline), 4 weeks after, and 8 weeks after exercise in order to directly compare the exercise effects between the groups. [Results] In the DCF group, the NDI, NRS score, and neck-shoulder postures (analyzed by uisng HTA, NFA, and FSA) were significantly improved. [Conclusion] DCF activation exercise was effective to alleviate pain, recover functions, and correct forward head posture in the patients with neck pain. Hence, it might be recommended in the rehabilitation of patients with chronic neck pain.

Keywords: Deep cervical flexor; Forward neck posture; Neck pain.