Adjustments in the cervical area can increase proprioception (body awareness) in the upper extremities.
What does that mean exactly???
When a person has experienced mild neck pain, ache, and/or stiffness, the person’s nervous system isn’t as aware of where their upper limb is in space compared to a person who’s never had neck symptoms. After receiving a cervical adjustment, the person with neck symptoms has a significant increase of awareness of where their upper limb is in space. This is called increase proprioception.
Does this matter? Yes!
Imagine how important it is to know where your arm is in space? We all rely on body awareness every day and don’t even realize it! Gymnasts, swimmers, kayakers, and rowers rely heavily on proprioception in their upper extremities. On a daily basis when you eat, brush your teeth, and/or fix your hair, you are relying on proprioception.
That’s not including the importance of proprioception in your lower body when you walk, run, skip, and jump. Without proprioception, you wouldn’t be able to walk well because your body wouldn’t know where it is in space. Proprioception is important for all of us!
Here are more details about the research:
Haavik H, Murphy B. Subclinical neck pain and the effects of cervical manipulation on elbow joint position sense. JMPT;34(2):88-97.
This study compared people who had subclinical neck pain* against a control group. All of the participants did a test to determine how accurate their elbow joint position sense** was. Those with subclinical neck pain were not as accurate as the control group. None of these participants had a history of shoulder or elbow pain! After receiving an adjustment, those with subclinical neck pain had a significant improvement in accuracy of their elbow joint position sense. This implies that issues in your neck could cause a disturbance in proprioception in the neck and upper limb. It also is possible that receiving a spinal adjustment improves it.
*Subclinical neck pain is when mild neck pain, ache and/or stiffness occur with or without a history of neck trauma. The symptoms are not consistent. All of the participants were adjusted when they did not have any neck symptoms!
**Elbow joint position sense means; does the person’s nervous system know where the elbow is? Their elbow was placed in a position. The participant moved their arm around and then was supposed to place their arm back in the original position. This was done with the participant’s eyes closed.