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Scapular Muscle Exercises Following Neck Dissection Surgery for Head and Neck Cancer: A Comparative Electromyographic Study.

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Scapular Muscle Exercises Following Neck Dissection Surgery for Head and Neck Cancer: A Comparative Electromyographic Study.

Phys Ther. 2013 Feb 21;

Authors: McGarvey AC, Osmotherly PG, Hoffman GR, Chiarelli P

BACKGROUND: Shoulder pain and dysfunction can occur following neck dissection surgery for cancer. These conditions often are due to accessory nerve injury. Such an injury leads to trapezius muscle weakness, which, in turn, alters scapular biomechanics. OBJECTIVE: The aim of this study was to assess which strengthening exercises incur the highest dynamic activity of affected trapezius and accessory scapular muscles in patients with accessory nerve dysfunction compared with their unaffected side. DESIGN: A comparative design was utilized for this study. METHODS: The study was conducted in a physical therapy department. Ten participants who had undergone neck dissection surgery for cancer, with signs of accessory nerve injury, were recruited. Surface electromyographic activity of the upper trapezius, middle trapezius, rhomboid major, and serratus anterior muscles on the affected side was compared dynamically with that of the unaffected side during 7 scapular strengthening exercises. RESULTS: Electromyographic activity of the upper and middle trapezius muscles of the affected side was lower than that of the unaffected side. The neck dissection side affected by surgery demonstrated higher levels of upper and middle trapezius muscle activity during exercises involving overhead movement. The rhomboid and serratus anterior muscles of the affected side demonstrated higher levels of activity compared with the unaffected side. LIMITATIONS: Exercises were repeated 3 times on one occasion. Muscle activation under conditions of increased exercise dosage should be inferred with caution. CONCLUSIONS: Overhead exercises are associated with higher levels of trapezius muscle activity in patients with accessory nerve injury following neck dissection surgery. However, pain and correct scapular form must be carefully monitored in this patient group during exercises. Rhomboid and serratus anterior accessory muscles may have a compensatory role, and this role should be considered during rehabilitation.

PMID: 23431215 [PubMed – as supplied by publisher]

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