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Vol. 24. Issue 1.
Pages 69-78 (01 January 2020)
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Vol. 24. Issue 1.
Pages 69-78 (01 January 2020)
Original Research
DOI: 10.1016/j.bjpt.2018.10.013
Seven cervical sensorimotor control tests measure different skills in individuals with chronic idiopathic neck pain
Rutger M.J. de Zoetea,b,c,d,
Corresponding author

Corresponding author at: Recover Injury Research Centre, The University of Queensland, Level 7, Oral Health Centre, 288 Herston Road, Herston, QLD 4006, Australia.
, Peter G. Osmotherlya,b,c, Darren A. Rivetta,b,c, Suzanne J. Snodgrassa,b,c
a School of Health Sciences, Faculty of Health and Medicine, The University of Newcastle, Callaghan, NSW, Australia
b Center for Brain and Mental Health Research, The University of Newcastle, Callaghan, NSW, Australia
c Hunter Medical Research Institute, Newcastle, NSW, Australia
d Recover Injury Research Centre, NHMRC Centre of Research Excellence in Recovery Following Road Traffic Injuries, The University of Queensland, Herston, Australia

  • Seven cervical sensorimotor control tests measure different skills.

  • Tests cannot be grouped according to the subsystems of sensorimotor control.

  • Clinicians have to perform each test, as each test provides unique information.

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Figures (1)
Tables (4)
Table 1. Cervical sensorimotor control measures.
Table 2. Demographics of participants (n=50) with descriptive data for each test and test condition (mean, SD or median, IQR).
Table 3. Correlations between cervical sensorimotor control tests and test conditions in individuals with chronic idiopathic neck pain.
Table 4. Cervical sensorimotor control test item loadings for each of the four factors.
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Sensorimotor control is commonly reported in neck pain research and rapidly gaining interest in clinical practice. Joint position error (conventional and torsion), postural balance, subjective visual vertical, head tilt response, The Fly®, smooth pursuit neck torsion and head steadiness are tests that have been reported to assess cervical sensorimotor control. However, it is unknown whether clinicians could use one test, or a test battery, to appropriately assess cervical sensorimotor control and improve efficiency. Our main research question is: Do seven cervical sensorimotor control tests measure unique or similar characteristics of sensorimotor control in individuals with chronic idiopathic neck pain?


Principle components factor analysis. Data from seven cervical sensorimotor control tests of 50 participants with chronic idiopathic neck pain were included. Individual factors, potentially related to sensorimotor control, were determined by Eigen values >1.00 and inspection of a loading plot. Items with loadings ≥0.40 were considered satisfactory for inclusion in a factor.


All cervical sensorimotor control tests were found to measure unique skills. Four factors were isolated with two, postural balance and head steadiness, accounting for most of the variance across tests. The remaining two factors, continuous movement accuracy and perceived verticality, contributed less to the observed variance.


Postural balance and head steadiness were the major underlying factors explaining cervical sensorimotor control in the current sample. However, our results imply that all seven tests are independent and measure different skills. It is not possible to recommend a test battery for clinical practice, as all tests measure unique skills which appear to be independent of each other.

Neck pain


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