Can a simple clinical test demonstrate head-trunk coordination impairment in neck pain?

Julia Treleaven, Alicia Tan, Juan Da Cal, Alice Grellman, Rowan Pickering

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review


Background: Sensorimotor impairment in neck pain sufferers is well established. Recent research has identified impairment in head and trunk co-ordination in this population. Presently, no clinically appropriate testing exists to quantify such impairment.
Objective: To determine if a simple and clinically relevant test of head-trunk co-ordination can identify dysfunction in neck pain subjects when compared to healthy controls.
Study design: Cross-sectional observational study.
Methods: Thirty-one neck pain and 29 healthy control subjects were assessed using head- and chest-mounted lasers with a target positioned 90 cm away. Subjects were required to rotate the trunk at least 45deg with the
head laser to be kept as accurately as possible in the centre of the target while sitting and standing. Maximal deviation of the head to the left and right of the target’s centre with each trunk movement was measured.
Results: The neck pain group demonstrated significantly greater head deviation from the centre in all but one test direction (p= <0.03). Head deviation to the same side as trunk rotation was larger in the neck pain group for
both sitting and standing (p= <0.01). No significant differences existed between testing in sitting and standing.
Conclusion: Differences in trunk-head control exist in persons suffering from neck pain compared to healthy individuals, which can be demonstrated using simple equipment suggesting clinical utility of the measure. Performing the task in standing would seem most suitable as it can avoid influence by reduced thoracic mobility. Further research is required to establish the clinical suitability of this test.
Original languageEnglish
Article number102209
JournalMusculoskeletal Science and Practice
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2020
Externally publishedYes


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