Bumps and bruises are part of life, right? How many people do you know that suffer from neck pain? Well, Taylor and Murphy found that when a person injures his/her neck, it is possible for the injury to cause harmful changes to the brain. These changes in the brain can result in chronic neck pain and/or a decrease in functional movement of the neck and (possibly) the upper extremity (like the shoulder, arm, forearm, and/or hand).
The good news is that Taylor and Murphy also found that a cervical spine adjustment to a person with a history of neck problems can cause changes in the brain that lead to improved functional movement of the neck and upper extremity.
Here are more details about the research:
Taylor HH, Murphy B. Altered sensorimotor integration with cervical spine manipulation. JMPT. 2008;31:115-126.
All participants had a history of neck pain or stiffness. However, during the time of the experiment all of the participants were pain free. The researchers wanted to see changes in corticomotor measures that had nothing to do with processing pain. Instead, any changes observed would be the effects of spinal manipulation on a dysfunctional joint*.
The same participants were used for both the adjustment group and the control group. The participants met the researchers two times. One time, the participants were in the adjustment group and one time the participants were in the control group. The researchers made sure there were enough weeks separating the two times to ensure there wasn’t inaccurate data. When the participants were in the control group, they had the cervical area palpated without receiving an adjustment. When the participants were in the adjustment group, each participant was evaluated for dysfunctional cervical joints and a single adjustment was performed by a chiropractor. The technique used was manual adjusting of the cervical.
Data collected included EMG of the abductor pollicis longus and extensor indices proprios muscles of the right hand and transcranial magnetic stimulation of the head on the side opposite of the right hand. This is because the left side of the brain controls the right hand.
In the control group, there weren’t any statistically significant changes in data. In the adjustment group, there were significant changes that support the theory “that specific intracortical inhibitory and facilitatory pathways are altered in a muscle-specific manner after spinal manipulation of dysfunctional spinal joints.”
The results of this experiment may help explain why a cervical adjustment leads to pain relief and improvement of functional abilities in a patient.
* For this study, a dysfunctional joint is when there is restricted motion between two cervical vertebra and palpable tenderness at the restricted area. Both are found to be reliable methods of determining a dysfunctional joint.