People With Chronic Neck Pain Walk With a Stiffer Spine

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Abstract

• STUDY DESIGN:

Controlled laboratory study, case-control design.

• OBJECTIVE:

To evaluate spine kinematics and gait characteristics in people with nonspecific chronic neck pain.

• BACKGROUND:

People with chronic neck pain present with a number of sensorimotor and biomechanical alterations, yet little is known about the influence of neck pain on gait and motions of the spine during gait.

• METHODS:

People with chronic nonspecific neck pain and age- and sex-matched asymptomatic controls walked on a treadmill at 3 different speeds (self-selected, 3 km/h, and 5 km/h), either with their head in a neutral position or rotated 30°. Tridimensional motion capture was employed to quantify body kinematics. Neck and trunk rotations were derived from the difference between the transverse plane component of the head and thorax and thorax and pelvis angles to provide an indication of neck and trunk rotation during gait.

• RESULTS:

Overall, the patient group showed shorter stride length compared to the control group (P<.001). Moreover, the patients with neck pain showed smaller trunk rotations (P<.001), regardless of the condition or speed. The difference in the amount of trunk rotation between groups became larger for the conditions of walking with the head rotated.

• CONCLUSION:

People with chronic neck pain walk with reduced trunk rotation, especially when challenged by walking with their head positioned in rotation. Reduced rotation of the trunk during gait may have long-term consequences on spinal health.

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