Neck pain is a significant health problem in modern society. There is evidence to suggest that neck muscle strength is reduced in patients with neck pain. This article provides a critical analysis of the research literature on the clinimetric properties of tests to measure neck muscle strength or endurance in patients with non-specific neck pain, which can be used in daily practice.
A computerised literature search was performed in the Medline, CINAHL and Embase
databases from 1980 to January 2007. Two reviewers independently assessed the clinimetric properties of identified measurement methods, using a checklist of generally accepted criteria for reproducibility (inter- and intra-observer reliability and agreement), construct validity, responsiveness and feasibility.
The search identified a total of 16 studies. The instruments or tests included were: muscle endurance tests for short neck flexors, craniocervical flexion test with an inflatable pressure biofeedback unit, manual muscle testing of neck musculature, dynamometry and functional lifting tests (the cervical progressive iso-inertial lifting evaluation (PILE) test and the timed weighted
overhead test). All the articles included report information on the reproducibility of the tests. Acceptable intra- and inter-observer reliability was demonstrated for the endurance test for short neck flexors and the cervical PILE test. Construct validity and responsiveness have hardly been documented for tests on muscle functioning.
The endurance test of the short neck flexors and the cervical PILE test can be regarded as appropriate instruments for measuring different aspects of neck muscle function in patients with non-specific neck pain. Common methodological flaws in the studies were their small sample size and an inappropriate description of the study design.
Koning CHP, et al. BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders, http://www.biomedcentral.com/1471-2474/9/142