Training the cervical muscles with prescribed motor tasks does not change muscle activation during a functional activity

Deborah Falla, Gwendolen Jull and Paul Hodges

The purpose of this study was to investigate whether either training regime changes muscle activation during a functional task which is known to be affected in people with neck pain and is not directly related to either exercise protocol. Fifty-eight female patients with chronic neck pain were randomised into one of two 6-week exercise intervention groups: an endurance-strength training regime for the cervical flexor muscles or low-load training of the cranio-cervical flexor muscles. The primary outcome was a change in electromyographic (EMG) amplitude of the sternocleidomastoid (SCM) muscle during a functional, repetitive upper limb task. At the 7th week follow-up assessment both intervention groups demonstrated a reduction in their average intensity of pain. However, neither training group demonstrated a change in SCM EMG amplitude during the functional task.

The results demonstrate that training the cervical muscles with a prescribed motor task may not automatically result in improved muscle activation during a functional activity, despite a reduction in neck pain.

Manual Therapy, 2008, 13(6), 507-512

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