Influence of an eccentric load added at the back of the head on head-neck posture.Gait Posture. 2013 Sep; 38(4):951-5.GP
A biomechanical study of the head-neck complex in seated subjects was conducted to verify whether a slight load, applied at the back of the head, could beneficially affect the head-neck posture, one of the factors of postural neck pain. An eccentric load of 0.5 kg was applied to the subjects' head by means of a special cap. A group of asymptomatic subjects (n=10, 28.9±12.1 yrs), and a group of subjects that had experienced mild, occasional neck pain (n=10, 39.6±18.4 yrs) were compared. They were analyzed while maintaining a still posture that was periodically perturbed to avoid habituation. A 3D motion analyzer and reflective markers placed over the head, the neck and the trunk, were used to compute head inclination and translation and head/neck flexion angle in different conditions: before, during and after having had the load applied for 15 min. Although the moment induced by the load was extensor, a forward-oriented movement of the head was observed in both groups. However, the forward displacement, in relation to the initial position, was smaller in the mild neck pain group than in the asymptomatic group (5.7±4.7 mm vs. 8.9±5.5 mm, P<0.05 and 2.6±5.9 mm vs. 11.0±9.0 mm after 15 min, P<0.05). After removing the load, the mild neck pain subjects assumed a retracted position (-3.8±2.7 mm) while the asymptomatic subjects stayed protracted (+3.5±5.1 mm, P<0.01). These unexpected findings suggest that a slight load added to the head can influence the postural control mechanisms and, in symptomatic subjects, lead to a new strategy aimed at a reduction of the neck extensor muscle contraction.