The objective of this study was to compare the effects of cranio-cervical flexion vs cervical proprioception training on neuromuscular control, pressure pain sensitivity and perceived pain and disability in patients with chronic neck pain. Twenty-eight volunteers with chronic non-specific neck pain were randomly assigned to 1 of 2 interventions and undertook 6 physiotherapist-supervised sessions over a period of 2 months. Both groups performed daily home exercise. Performance on the cranio-cervical flexion test, pressure pain thresholds and reported levels of pain and disability were measured before and immediately after the first treatment session, 1 month after starting treatment and 2 months after starting treatment (at completion of the intervention). At 2 months, both groups improved their performance on the cranio-cervical flexion test (p < 0.05), but this did not differ between groups (p > 0.05). Both groups showed a reduction in their pain at rest and disability at 2 months, but this was also not different between groups (p > 0.05). Pressure pain sensitivity did not change for either group.
Both specific cranio-cervical flexion training and proprioception training had a comparable effect on performance on the cranio-cervical flexion test, a test of the neuromuscular control of the deep cervical flexors. These results indicate that proprioception training may have positive effects on the function of the deep cervical flexors.