OBJECTIVE: Determine test-retest reliability, normative data and clinical validity of isometric muscle strength testing in the neck with a modified sphygmomanometer dynamometer (MSD).
DESIGN: Analytic survey. Paired trials of various muscle strength tests were conducted on convenience samples of normal subjects and consecutive samples of symptomatic subjects.
SETTING: Outpatient chiropractic research clinic.
PATIENTS/SUBJECTS: For study 2, 40 normal male subjects, average age 25 +/- 2 yr, were studied for reliability and normative data. For study 3, 24 symptomatic patients, 12 males and 12 females, average age 39 +/- 7 yr, were studied, 8 with "whiplash"-type injuries (average duration 22.5 wk) and 16 with nontraumatic chronic neck pain (average duration 110 wk).
INTERVENTION: No therapeutic intervention is reported.
MAIN OUTCOME MEASURE: Pressure levels generated by subjects against a modified sphygmomanometer-type dynamometer as measured in kilopascals.
RESULTS: Study 1. Repeated paired trials of a standardized weight column (20 lbs) produced a coefficient of variation of 0.84% and virtually no difference between the means of the first vs. second trials. Study 2. High test-retest correlation coefficients were found for all ranges of motion (.79-.97). Right-to-left asymmetry in rotation and lateral flexion was within 6-8%. The flexion/extension ratio was .57:1, indicating that in normal subjects, flexion was approximately 40% lower than extension. Lower cutoffs were established as the mean--1 SD as follows (in kPa): flexion--3300, extension--5800, rotation--5200 and lateral flexion--6200. Coefficients of variation ranged from 25 to 29%. Study 3. Differences between paired trials were analyzed by intraclass coefficients, which were very high (.95-.99), and by percentages, which ranged from 4 to 10.4%, with an average of 7%, indicating a high degree of test-retest consistency. The mean values for all symptomatic subjects for flexion, extension, right rotation and right lateral bending were all well below the normal cutoff values as found in study 2. The flexion/extension ratio for whiplash subjects was 0.25:1.00, which is half of that of normal subjects.
CONCLUSIONS: The MSD has been found to be a reliable instrument for the evaluation of isometric muscle strength in the neck in normal and symptomatic subjects. Normative values for absolute test levels, bilateral symmetry and flexion/extension ratios have been determined. A symptomatic group demonstrated significant deviations from these norms in the form of reduced strength levels and reduced flexion/extension ratios, while still maintaining very high levels of test-retest consistency and bilateral symmetry. The MSD appears very promising in the evaluation of neck-injured patients.
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