Detailed guides to painful problems, treatments & more

Home Cervical Traction to Reduce Neck Pain in Fighter Pilots

PainSci » bibliography » Chumbley et al 2016
Tags: treatment, neck, odd, traction, head/neck, spine

One article on PainSci cites Chumbley 2016: The Complete Guide to Neck Pain & Cricks

PainSci commentary on Chumbley 2016: ?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.

A small study and not well-controlled, but better than nothing. A dozen pilots with neck pain self-tractioned their necks for a few weeks, taking notes on their pain levels, and then stopped self-tractioning but continued taking notes. Their neck pulling appeared to provide “small but meaningful improvements” by some measures, and none by others: a good example of a study that is only barely “technically” positive.

~ 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.

INTRODUCTION: Most fighter pilots report cervical pain during their careers. «Most people do! I wonder if it’s actually more common in fighter pilots?» Recommendations for remediation lack evidence. We sought to determine whether regular use of a home cervical traction device could decrease reported cervical pain in F-15C pilots.

METHODS: An institutional review board-approved, Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act-compliant, controlled crossover study was undertaken with 21 male F-15C fighter pilots between February and June 2015. Of the 21 subjects, 12 completed 6 wk each of traction and control, while logging morning, postflying, and post-traction pain. Pain was compared with paired t-tests between the periods, from initial pain scores to postflying, and postflying to post-traction.

RESULTS: In the traction phase, initial pain levels increased postflight, from 1.2 (0.7) to 1.6 (1.0) Subsequent post-traction pain levels decreased to 1.3 (0.9), with a corresponding linear decrease in pain relative to pain reported postflight. The difference in pain levels after traction compared to initial levels was not significant, indicating that cervical traction was effective in alleviating flying-related pain. Control pain increased postflight from 1.4 (0.9) to 1.9 (1.3). Daily traction phase pain was lower than the control, but insignificant.

DISCUSSION: To our knowledge, this is the first study of home cervical traction to address fighter pilots' cervical pain. We found a small but meaningful improvement in daily pain rating when using cervical traction after flying. These results help inform countermeasure development for pilots flying high-performance aircraft. Further study should clarify the optimal traction dose and timing in relation to flying.

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: