Using visual feedback manipulation in virtual reality to influence pain-free range of motion in people with non-specific neck pain.
Based on associative learning theories it is hypothesised that pain might be a conditioned response. In people with musculoskeletal pain, the occurrence of movement-induced pain might be a protective response, influenced by visual cues suggesting that the person is approaching a painful position. This study aimed to determine (1) whether pain-free range of motion (ROM) increased and decreased when visual feedback understated or overstated true rotation in people with neck pain and (2) whether this effect was more pronounced if pain was chronic.People with subacute and chronic non-specific neck pain wore a VR-headset and rotated their head to the left and right until the onset of pain. Visual feedback about the amount of movement was either equal, 20% less or 20% greater than their actual rotation. Maximal pain-free ROM was measured using the VR-headset sensors. Data were analysed using a mixed-design ANOVA.There was no effect of visual feedback manipulation on pain-free ROM (p=0.13) and no interaction effect between the visual feedback condition and duration of pain (p=0.86).The inability to influence pain-free ROM by manipulating visual feedback in people with subacute or chronic neck pain does not support associative learning theories for the perception of neck pain.