The Physiology of Chiropractic Care
The study of the relationship between sensorimotor integration and chiropractic adjustments is helping chiropractors to explain the exact mechanisms that make chiropractic adjustments effect such positive changes in their patients.
What Is Sensorimotor Integration?
Sensorimotor integration is the ability to respond to sensory information in our environment with the appropriate motor or physical response. For example, we have all experienced the reflex response after touching a hot stove or sharp object. The harmful stimulus activates sensory pain receptors signaling the central nervous system to excite motor neurons to contract the muscle and remove the body from danger. Because of this sensorimotor integration we are able to move our hand away from the hot stove even faster than we can consciously feel the pain.
Joint dysfunction or misalignments of the spine can alter how the central nervous system responds to sensory information in our environments. Research shows that patients with musculoskeletal disorders, such as neck pain or back pain, often have decreased sensorimotor integration.
What The Evidence Says
Sensory function can be evaluated through the measurement of sensory evoked potentials (SEP). In a 2012 study published in the Journal of Electromyography and Kinesiology, sensory evoked potentials were analyzed in a group on participants with neck pain. Electrodes were placed on each participant’s arm to detect the generation of nervous electrical impulses, as well as on the participant’s head and neck to record the central nervous system’s response to those signals. The patients then received appropriate chiropractic treatment. The study concluded that chiropractic adjustments to the neck altered the nature of the electrical signals transmitted by the central nervous system, suggesting that chiropractic adjustments do in fact affect how the central nervous system transmits and senses pain responses.
Another 2013 case study examined the effect of chiropractic adjustments on muscle reflex contraction speed. For example, when performing a complex fluid motion such as swinging a golf club or throwing a ball the central nervous system instinctively reacts to contract core abdominal muscles in order to stabilize the low back and lumbar spine. In the study, published by the Journal of Physical Therapy Science, a patient experiencing lower back pain and associated delayed abdominal contraction during athletic activity was analyzed before and after chiropractic treatment. Following chiropractic treatment the patient’s abdominal muscle reflex reaction time decreased and muscle reflex motor control had improved.
Proprioception, or joint position sense, is the awareness of ones body in space. This is what gives us the ability to scratch our head even if our eyes are closed. Patients with whiplash injuries and associated neck pain frequently experience decreased proprioception of the neck and upper extremities limiting their ability to move freely and accurately. In a JMPT study examining 30 healthy patients, half on the participants were treated with neck adjustments and light massage therapy and the other half was treated only with massage. Participants were guided through two lessons on how to position their necks at 6 different angles while wearing a digital dual inclinometer to measure joint position. Following these lessons participants were then asked to reproduce the angles on their own. Joint positions were measured before and after interventions. All participants showed improvement after treatment, however the chiropractic adjustment group produced significantly better results.
The Ascent Chiropractic Difference
The central nervous system is what controls how we perceive and respond to pain. Vertebral joint dysfunction inhibits the ability of the nervous system to perform optimally. Chiropractic adjustments restore spinal joint dysfunction enabling the nervous system to work at it’s full potential.
At Ascent Chiropractic, we are dedicated to providing the most effective chiropractic care to our patients in Brookfield, New Berlin & surrounding areas. We focus on optimal performance and complete relief of symptoms by eliminating the structural problems that disrupt the nervous system, without the use of drugs or surgery. To make an appointment at Ascent Chiropractic, call 262-345-4166 or schedule an appointment with our online scheduling app.
Haavik H, Murphy B. The role of spinal manipulation in addressing disordered sensorimotor integration and altered motor control. Journal of Electromyography and Kinesiology 2012; 22: 768-776.
Gong, Wontae. Effects of cervical joint manipulation on joint position sense of normal adults. Journal of Physical Therapy Science 2013; 25:721.
Marshall P, Murphy B. The effect of sacroiliac joint manipulation on feed-forward activation times of the deep abdominal musculature. Journal of Manipulative Physiological Therapeutics 2006;29(3):196–202.