A novel passive neck orthosis for patients with degenerative muscle diseases: Development & evaluation

Mohammad Nauzef Mahmood, Ali Tabasi, Idsart Kingma*, Jaap H. van Dieën

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


The current study evaluated the effect of a passive neck orthosis, developed for patients suffering from progressive muscular diseases, on neck muscle activity in 10 adult healthy participants. The participants performed discrete head movements involving pure neck flexion (−10 to 30°), pure neck rotation (up to 30° left and right) and combined neck flexion-rotation (−10 to 30°) in steps of 10° by moving a cursor on a screen to reach predefined targets and staying on target for 10 s. Surface electromyography (EMG) was recorded from upper trapezius and sternocleidomastoid muscles and amplitudes were averaged over the static phases in trials with and without the orthosis. Moreover, the variability in head position and time required to perform the tasks were compared between conditions. Wearing the orthosis caused significant reductions (p = 0.027) in upper trapezius activity (a change of 0.2–1.5% EMGmax) while working against gravity. The activity level of the sternocleidomastoid muscle increased (p ≤ 0.025) by 0.3–1.0% EMGmax during pure and combined rotations without any pain reported. The orthosis showed potential to reduce the activity level of the upper trapezius muscle, the main load bearing muscle of the neck. Further study will be carried out to evaluate the effect in different patient groups.

Original languageEnglish
Article number102515
Pages (from-to)1-8
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Electromyography and Kinesiology
Early online date9 Jan 2021
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2021


The authors gratefully acknowledge Hans de Koning for his technical contribution in brainstorming, designing and prototyping of the orthosis. They also show gratitude to the colleagues from the department of Physics and Medical Technology of the VU medical center for their contribution in the prototyping phase. Moreover, all the partners in the Symbionics 2.1 project are thanked for their kind contribution and feedback. This study was funded by Netherlands Organization for scientific research (project name: Symbionics 2.1, project number 13526).

FundersFunder number
Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research13526
Department of Physics and Medical Technology


    • Assistive device
    • Degenerative muscle diseases
    • Exoskeleton
    • Neck muscle weakness
    • Neck orthosis
    • Passive head support


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