The effect of craniocervical flexion exercise on cervical posture and cervical range of motion in asymptomatic participants
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Background: Forward head posture (FHP) is a common postural abnormality that is commonly associated with weak deep cervical flexor muscles (DCF). The craniovertebral (CV) angle lies between a horizontal line running through C7 spinous process and a line connecting the C7 spinous process to the tragus of the ear. The smaller the angle, the greater the forward head posture. Weak DCF musculature and FHP has been linked to cervical dysfunction in the short and long term such as cervicogenic headache and premature development of cervical regional degenerative joint disease. Improving isometric endurance and neuromotor control of the DCF muscles using craniocervical flexion exercise (CCFE) has been shown to be efficient in patients experiencing cervical dysfunction such as headache, although the relevance of CCFE has not been established in the asymptomatic group. Deficiency in the activity of these muscles can be accurately measured using craniocervical flexion testing (CCFT). There is a paucity of information regarding the definitive relationship between weakness of the DCF and FHP in asymptomatic participants. This research will help establish an efficient and safe prophylactic treatment protocol preventing long term sequela associated with FHP. Objectives: To determine the effect of CCFE on cervical posture by assessment of the CV angle in asymptomatic participants as well as to determine the effect of CCFE on cervical range of motion by assessment of flexion, extension, bilateral rotation and lateral flexion movements in asymptomatic participants whilst measuring the effect of CCFE on isometric endurance and neuromotor control of the DCF muscles assessed by the CCFT in asymptomatic participants. Method: This is a quantitative pre/post intervention study comparing the results of one group of 45 asymptomatic participants before and after the CCFE protocol has been allocated to them over a period of 3-5 weeks. Participants FHP was assessed by measuring the CV angle. This was done by marking the C7 spinous process and extending a horizontal line toward the shoulder. Then marking the tragus of the ipsilateral ear and measuring the angle using the smart tool angle finder (MD products). iv CCFT measurements were taken and the CCFE protocol allocated to those who qualified to take part in the study. Lastly, cervical range of motion was measured. This group received a home exercise protocol of 3 sets of 10 supine chin tucks daily with each repetition being held for 10 seconds. The technique was first ensured by the researcher prior to leaving the consultation rooms and an exercise diary was given to the participant until the 5th and final consultation to record the progress and efficiency of the home programme as well as any complaints regarding this. Result: The asymptomatic group included in the study improved in both the seated and standing CV angle measurements in that the CV was greater at the conclusion of the pre/post intervention (p=0.00000002) and (p=0.000003) respectively . Cervical range of motion showed improvement in some but not all ranges. Flexion showed a reduction in range of motion (p=0.0086) which was significant. Extension showed an improvement in range of motion (p=0.0000002) which was significant. Rotation toward the left (p=0.00003) and right (p=0.00063) showed an improvement in range of motion which was significant. Lateral flexion showed improvement which was not significant in both, left (p=0.0145) and right (p= 0.24985) ranges of motion. Neuromotor control showed 100 percent improvement in that all 45 of the participants were able to perform CCFT correctly through all five stages at conclusion of the study. Conclusion: Therefore it can be concluded that asymptomatic participants will benefit from CCFEs In terms of CV angle improvement, cervical range of motion as well as neuromotor control of the DCF muscles.