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Understanding Cervical Spine Movement in Gender and Age

Posted on: 12/31/2009
The cervical spine, in other words, the neck and uppermost part of the spine, is normally able to move quite freely. You can bend your neck up or down, and turn it quite far either to the right or the left. Because the neck is a complicated body part, it's important that researchers and doctors understand how it works when it is healthy in order to diagnose problems when they occur. With this in mind, the authors of this article measured the kinematics, or motion, of the cervical spine using three-demensional analysis.

Up to now, some research has been done on cervical spine kinematics, usually including measuring using compasses and other mechanical devices, x-rays and scans. However, this type of measurement doesn't involve the third dimension needed to better understand movement. They also cannot measure more than one movement at a time, velocity of movement, and continuous patterns. The few studies that did involve three dimensions usually only looked at primary movements of the neck, not complicated or combined movements.

Researchers recruited 70 men and 70 women who did not have any problems with their neck. These groups were subdivided into seven groups of 10 men and 10 women each, by age. Using an infrared measurement system, the researchers looked at active range of cervical (neck) motion as the subjects rolled their heads while keeping their eyes closed. The head-to-neutral head position was also measured, which involved repositioning the head back to its natural (neutral) position after it has been positions as far as possible at a different angle. Head-to-target measurement was done to see how the subjects actively repositioned their head in a memorized position.

When analyzing the results, the researchers found that there was no obvious difference found between men and women, and their ability to move about - with one group exception. Among the 70 to 79 year olds, the men were not as able to move their neck as the women. Earlier studies had found that women were more mobile than men at various ages. Looking at the results by age, there were limitations to mobility as the groups were older, again, similar to findings in earlier studies. The subjects had also been tested about their awareness of their motions, the proprioception. There was a difference in this only in one sense. As the groups aged, some subjects had more difficulty with horizontal movements.

Celine Lansade, MSc, et al. Three-Dimensional Analysis of the Cervical Spine Kinematics. In Spine. Dec 15, 2009. Vol. 34, No. 26. Pp. 2900 to 2906.

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