Lack of correlation between sternocleidomastoid and scalene muscle fatigability and duration of symptoms in chronic neck pain patients

Deborah Falla, A Rainoldi, G Jull, G Stavrou, H Tsao

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)


AIMS OF THE STUDY: Despite the evidence of greater fatigability of the superficial cervical flexor muscles in neck pain patients, the relationship between duration of neck pain and muscle fatigue has not been investigated. This study examined the relationship between myoelectric manifestations of sternocleidomastoid (SCM) and anterior scalene (AS) muscle fatigue and duration of neck pain in a group of patients with chronic neck pain.

MATERIALS AND METHODS: Twenty chronic neck pain patients with a history of pain ranging between 1 and 25 years (mean 6.15, S.D. 5.48 years) participated in this study. Myoelectric signals were recorded from the SCM and AS muscles from the side of greatest pain as patients performed sustained sub-maximal isometric cervical flexion contractions at 25% and 50% of the maximum voluntary contraction (MVC). The initial value and slope of the mean frequency (MNF), average rectified value (ARV) and conduction velocity (CV) of the EMG signals were calculated. Correlation analysis was applied to determine whether a relationship existed between the duration of neck pain and estimates of EMG variables.

RESULTS AND CONCLUSIONS: No significant correlation was found between duration of pain and estimates of the MNF, ARV and CV for either SCM or AS contracting at 25% and 50% MVC. The length of history of neck pain does not appear to correlate with the extent of SCM and AS muscle fatigability in patients with chronic neck pain. This finding may be due to an increase of muscle fatigability occurring within the first few years of neck pain, which is not followed by signs of increased fatigue after this time. This was supported by the finding of significant correlations between duration of pain and AS fatigability on a subgroup of patients with pain duration less than 5 years. Future studies are warranted to examine how early signs of cervical muscle fatigability are evident after the onset of neck pain as this will have implications for rehabilitation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)159-65
Number of pages7
JournalNeurophysiologie clinique = Clinical neurophysiology
Issue number3-4
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2004


  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Chronic Disease
  • Data Interpretation, Statistical
  • Electrodes
  • Electromyography
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Isometric Contraction
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Muscle Fatigue
  • Neck Muscles
  • Neck Pain
  • Neural Conduction
  • Supine Position
  • Journal Article
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't


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