Sensory feedback from the vestibular system and neck muscle stretch receptors is critical for the regulation of postural control. The postural relationship of the head to the trunk is a major factor determining the integration of sensory feedback and can be interfered with by varying head orientation. This study assessed how 60-s of standing with the head neutral, flexed, or extended impacted postural stability during upright stance and during forward lean in 13 healthy participants (26 ±5 years old). During both quiet upright stance and maximal forward lean, head extension increased postural center of pressure (COP) velocity and decreased the COP time-to-contact the anterior stability boundary compared with the head neutral condition. Head flexion did not differ from head neutral for either of the stance conditions. This study demonstrates that interfering with the head-trunk relationship by adopting extended, but not flexed, head orientations interferes with postural control that may impact postural stability during both quiet upright stance and maximal forward lean conditions.
Johnson is with the Washington University School of Medicine, Program in Physical Therapy, St. Louis, MO. Van Emmerik is with the University of Massachusetts, Kinesiology Department, Amherst, MA.