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Self-Kinematic Training for Flight-Associated Neck Pain: a Randomized Controlled Trial

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BACKGROUND: Flight-associated neck pain (FANP) is a serious problem in fighter pilots. Despite the high impact of FANP there is little evidence for effective management. However, self-kinematic training showed a positive effect in the general population. The purpose of this study was to investigate the effectiveness of a self-kinematic training program using virtual reality in improving neck pain in fighter pilots.

METHODS: There were 45 pilots with FANP who were randomized to a control group (N 23) or a training group (N 22). Training participants were instructed to exercise using a personalized self-training program, for 20 min/wk, for 4 wk. Primary outcome measures were neck disability (NDI%) and mean velocity ( s1), and secondary were pain, health status, accuracy, and isometric strength. Assessments were conducted by a blinded assessor and intention-to-treat analysis by a blinded statistician.

RESULTS: There were 40 pilots who completed the postintervention assessments, and 35 completed the 6-mo follow-up. Baseline measurements showed mild pain and disability (mean VAS 43 22.73, NDI 17.76 9.59%) and high kinematic performance. Compliance with self-training was poor. No differences were observed in self-reported measures and strength. Exercise duration was correlated with NDI% improvement.

DISCUSSION: This self-kinematic training promoted kinematic performance, but was ineffective in engaging the pilots to exercise, and consequently did not improve pain and disability. Poor compliance was previously reported in self-training for FANP, suggesting further studies should prioritize supervised training. Considering the high baseline kinematic performance, kinematics does not seem to be a key factor in FANP, and future exercise research should aim for intense strengthening to increase endurance to the high Gz pilots experience.

Sarig Bahat H, German D, Palomo G, Gold H, Frankel Nir Y. Self-kinematic training for flight-associated neck pain: a randomized controlled trial. Aerosp Med Hum Perform. 2020; 91(10):790797.
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Keywords: VR; cervical kinematics; neck pain; pilots; randomized controlled trial

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: October 1, 2020

More about this publication?
  • This journal (formerly Aviation, Space, and Environmental Medicine), representing the members of the Aerospace Medical Association, is published monthly for those interested in aerospace medicine and human performance. It is devoted to serving and supporting all who explore, travel, work, or live in hazardous environments ranging from beneath the sea to the outermost reaches of space. The original scientific articles in this journal provide the latest available information on investigations into such areas as changes in ambient pressure, motion sickness, increased or decreased gravitational forces, thermal stresses, vision, fatigue, circadian rhythms, psychological stress, artificial environments, predictors of success, health maintenance, human factors engineering, clinical care, and others. This journal also publishes notes on scientific news and technical items of interest to the general reader, and provides teaching material and reviews for health care professionals.

    To access volumes 74 through 85, please click here.
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