Detailed guides to painful problems, treatments & more

Quirky but dubious test of an unusual neck coordination exercise

PainSci » bibliography » Roijezon et al 2008
Tags: treatment, odd, neck, biomechanics, exercise, head/neck, spine, etiology, pro, self-treatment

Two articles on PainSci cite Roijezon 2008: 1. Does Posture Matter?2. The Complete Guide to Neck Pain & Cricks

PainSci commentary on Roijezon 2008: ?This page is one of thousands in the bibliography. It is not a general article: it is focused on a single scientific paper, and it may provide only just enough context for the summary to make sense. Links to other papers and more general information are provided wherever possible.

This is a quirky but dubious little study that conveniently omits a critical result from the abstract. The researchers strapped a rimmed platform to people’s heads and got them to practice controlling the movement of a ball rolling on the platform — so, basically a circus trick. The subjects (only 14 of them) ended up with less postural sway, less jerkiness in neck rotation, less fear of moving, less “disability,” and “increased general health” by various measures, all of which is mentioned in the abstract with the promising and confident-sounding conclusion that the results “support the clinical applicability of the method.” Sounds fairly good, doesn’t it? But there’s a huge gotcha: if you read the actual article, it turns out that the results involved no positive effect on pain levels whatsoever. “There was no significant decrease in VAS [pain scale] scores after the four-week training period, or at six-months follow up.” The disconnect between the results and the abstract indicate that the authors probably have a strong bias in favour of structuralism.

~ Paul Ingraham

original abstract Abstracts here may not perfectly match originals, for a variety of technical and practical reasons. Some abstacts are truncated for my purposes here, if they are particularly long-winded and unhelpful. I occasionally add clarifying notes. And I make some minor corrections.

BACKGROUND: Chronic neck pain is a common problem and is often associated with changes in sensorimotor functions, such as reduced proprioceptive acuity of the neck, altered coordination of the cervical muscles, and increased postural sway. In line with these findings there are studies supporting the efficacy of exercises targeting different aspects of sensorimotor function, for example training aimed at improving proprioception and muscle coordination. To further develop this type of exercises we have designed a novel device and method for neck coordination training. The aim of the study was to investigate the clinical applicability of the method and to obtain indications of preliminary effects on sensorimotor functions, symptoms and self-rated characteristics in non-specific chronic neck pain.

METHODS: The study was designed as an uncontrolled clinical trial including fourteen subjects with chronic non-specific neck pain. A new device was designed to allow for an open skills task with adjustable difficulty. With visual feedback, subjects had to control the movement of a metal ball on a flat surface with a rim strapped on the subjects' head. Eight training sessions were performed over a four week period. Skill acquisition was measured throughout the intervention period. After intervention subjects were interviewed about their experience of the exercise and pain and sensorimotor functions, including the fast and slow components of postural sway and jerkiness-, range-, position sense-, movement time- and velocity of cervical rotation, were measured. At six-month follow up, self-rated pain, health and functioning was collected.

RESULTS: The subjects improved their skill to perform the exercise and were overall positive to the method. No residual negative side-effects due to the exercise were reported. After intervention the fast component of postural sway (p = 0.019) and jerkiness of cervical rotation (p = 0.032) were reduced. The follow up showed decreased disability (one out of three indices) and fear of movement, and increased general health (three out of eight dimensions).

CONCLUSION: The results support the clinical applicability of the method. The improvements in sensorimotor functions may suggest transfer from the exercise to other, non-task specific motor functions and justifies a future randomized controlled trial.

related content

This page is part of the PainScience BIBLIOGRAPHY, which contains plain language summaries of thousands of scientific papers & others sources. It’s like a highly specialized blog. A few highlights: