Cervical proprioception impairment in neck pain - pathophysiology, clinical evaluation, and management: a narrative review

Review written by Dr Julia Treleaven info

Key Points

  1. Neck pain is common and has a significant impact on proprioception for sensorimotor control.
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Neck pain is a leading cause of disability around the world. Cervical proprioception impairment is common in people with neck pain, which leads to disturbances in cervical sensorimotor control.

This narrative review was conducted by hospital and university based doctors and surgeons in China. The aim of the review was to clarify the pathophysiology, assessment and management of cervical proprioceptive impairment and sensorimotor control disturbances in patients with neck pain.

The authors searched the literature in Pubmed and Medline from inception to September 2020 to explore the literature available on this topic. Although the review uses the words ‘chronic neck pain’, the focus of the paper is on idiopathic neck pain.

Cervical proprioception impairment is common in those with neck pain.
Systematic reviews have shown there is consistent evidence for impaired cervical joint position error in those with idiopathic neck pain.


The cervical proprioceptors are vital for sensorimotor control. Along with information from the vestibular and visual system, cervical proprioception is important for head and eye movement control and postural stability. The muscle spindles rather than joint receptors are proposed as

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