Load and speed effects on the cervical flexion-relaxation phenomenon

by | 9 April 2010

Pialasse JP, Lafond D, Cantin V, Descarreaux M

BMC Musculoskelet Disord 2010;11:46

PMID: 20219131


BACKGROUND: The flexion-relaxation phenomenon (FRP) represents a well-studied neuromuscular response that occurs in the lumbar and cervical spine. However, the cervical spine FRP has not been investigated extensively, and the speed of movement and loading effects remains to be characterized. The objectives of the present study were to evaluate the influence of load and speed on cervical FRP electromyographic (EMG) and kinematic parameters and to assess the measurement of cervical FRP kinematic and EMG parameter repeatability.

METHODS: Eighteen healthy adults (6 women and 12 men), aged 20 to 39 years, participated in this study. They undertook 2 sessions in which they had to perform a standardized cervical flexion/extension movement in 3 phases: complete cervical flexion; the static period in complete cervical flexion; and extension with return to the initial position. Two different rhythm conditions and 3 different loading conditions were applied to assess load and speed effects. Kinematic and EMG data were collected, and dependent variables included angles corresponding to the onset and cessation of myoelectric silence as well as the root mean square (RMS) values of EMG signals. Repeatability was examined in the first session and between the 2 sessions.

RESULTS: Statistical analyses revealed a significant load effect (P < 0.001). An augmented load led to increased FRP onset and cessation angles. No load x speed interaction effect was detected in the kinematics data. A significant load effect (P < 0.001) was observed on RMS values in all phases of movement, while a significant speed effect (P < 0.001) could be seen only during the extension phase. Load x speed interaction effect was noted in the extension phase, where higher loads and faster rhythm generated significantly greater muscle activation. Intra-session and inter-session repeatability was good for the EMG and kinematic parameters.

CONCLUSIONS: The load increase evoked augmented FRP onset and cessation angles as well as heightened muscle activation. Such increments may reflect the need to enhance spinal stability under loading conditions. The kinematic and EMG parameters showed promising repeatability. Further studies are needed to assess kinematic and EMG differences between healthy subjects and patients with neck pain.