Neck flexor muscle fatigue is side specific in patients with unilateral neck pain

Deborah Falla, Gwendolen Jull, Alberto Rainoldi, Roberto Merletti

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

63 Citations (Scopus)


Despite the evidence of greater fatigability of the cervical flexor muscles in neck pain patients, the effect of unilaterality of neck pain on muscle fatigue has not been investigated. This study compared myoelectric manifestations of sternocleidomastoid (SCM) and anterior scalene (AS) muscle fatigue between the painful and non-painful sides in patients with chronic unilateral neck pain. Myoelectric signals were recorded from the sternal head of SCM and the AS muscles bilaterally during sub-maximal isometric cervical flexion contractions at 25% and 50% of the maximum voluntary contraction (MVC). The time course of the mean power frequency, average rectified value and conduction velocity of the electromyographic signals were calculated to quantify myoelectric manifestations of muscle fatigue. Results revealed greater estimates of the initial value and slope of the mean frequency for both the SCM and AS muscles on the side of the patient's neck pain at 25% and 50% of MVC. These results indicate greater myoelectric manifestations of muscle fatigue of the superficial cervical flexor muscles ipsilateral to the side of pain. This suggests a specificity of the effect of pain on muscle function and hence the need for specificity of therapeutic exercise in the management of neck pain patients.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)71-7
Number of pages7
JournalEuropean Journal of Pain
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2004


  • Adult
  • Chronic Disease
  • Electromyography
  • Female
  • Functional Laterality
  • Humans
  • Isometric Contraction
  • Muscle Fatigue
  • Neck Muscles
  • Neck Pain
  • Journal Article
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't


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