The Current Perception Threshold Test Differentiates Categories of Mechanical Neck Disorder

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Cross-sectional discriminative analysis.


To determine whether current perception threshold (CPT) can differentiate between categories of patients with mechanical neck disorders (MNDs).


Neck pain is the third most common musculoskeletal disorder and affects a third of all adults each year. It can present as neck pain without musculoskeletal signs, neck pain with musculoskeletal signs but no neurological signs, or neck pain with neurological signs. CPT testing can assess altered sensory perception that may reflect neurological changes.


Patients with MNDs (n = 106) were classified into 3 groups, based on a standardized musculoskeletal examination process performed by an experienced physiotherapist who was blinded to CPT scores. The 3 groups were defined as neck pain without musculoskeletal signs (MND I) (n = 60), neck pain with musculoskeletal signs (MND II) (n = 29), and neck pain with neurological signs (MND III) (n = 17). A rapid protocol of CPT testing was performed at 3 frequencies (5, 250, and 2000 Hz), using 3 dermatomal locations on the hand. A 1-way analysis of variance with post hoc comparison and effect sizes was calculated to compare the mean CPT scores between the groups. A binary logistic-regression model was used to predict probability of higher CPT in MND III and to create a receiver-operating-characteristic curve.


Mean CPT differed significantly across the 3 MND groups (MND I, 9.7; MND II, 10.6; and MND III, 11.8; P<.001; η2 = 0.6). Post hoc comparisons indicated differences between MND I and MND II (P = .05) and between MND II and MND III (P = .01) that had large effect sizes (MND I versus II, d = 1 and MND II versus III, d = 2.2). CPT testing was able to distinguish between MND II and III when a threshold value of greater than 11 was used to indicate MND III. The predicted probability of abnormal CPT in MND III had an estimated 73% sensitivity and 81% specificity; the odds ratio was 11.5 (P = .001) for the differentiation capacity of CPT between MND II and III, with a cutoff of 11. The area under the receiver-operating-characteristic curve was 0.84 (95% confidence interval: 0.72, 0.96; P<.001).


CPT testing has moderate discriminatory accuracy, specificity, and sensitivity for classification of MND categories into neck pain with or without neurological signs. J Orthop Sports Phys Ther 2014;44(7):532-540. Epub 10 May 2014. doi:10.2519/jospt.2014.4691

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