Sensorimotor disturbances in neck disorders affecting postural stability, head and eye movement control

Julia Treleaven

The receptors in the cervical spine have important connections to the vestibular and visual apparatus as well as several areas of the central nervous system. Dysfunction of the cervical receptors in neck disorders can alter afferent input subsequently changing the integration, timing and tuning of sensorimotor control. Measurable changes in cervical joint position sense, eye movement control and postural stability and reports of dizziness and unsteadiness by patients with neck disorders can be related to such alterations to sensorimotor control.

It is advocated that assessment and management of abnormal cervical somatosensory input and sensorimotor control in neck pain patients is as important as considering lower limb proprioceptive retraining following an ankle or knee injury. Afferent information from the cervical receptors can be altered via a number of mechanisms such as trauma, functional impairment of the receptors, changes in muscle spindle sensitivity and the vast effects of pain at many levels of the nervous system. Recommendations for clinical assessment and management of such sensorimotor control disturbances in neck disorders are presented based on the evidence available to date.

Manual Therapy, 2007, online article ahead of print

Link to abstract