Regaining Arms, Legs, Hands and Feet Function Through Chiropractic Care: The Brain Connection
A report on the scientific literature
By Mark Studin DC, FASBE(C), DAAPM, DAAMLP
Frank was an innocent victim of a drive by shooting that left him a quadriplegic, 20+ years ago. This author was asked if I could help make him a little more comfortable as his neck was tight from being locked in one position for a lifetime and I made house calls for 2 weeks to see if I could help reduce some of the neck tightness. After the first adjustment, he regained some use of his right hand and a few fingers and I never had an explanation as to why because I didn’t treat the specific spinal segments connected to those fingers. From what I recall, Frank went on to become a computer programmer. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Rob was a defensive tackle for an NFL football team playing at an all-star level. He came to see me because his back was sore from the pounding of a life of football. After 3 months of care, he reported that his time in the 40 yard dash decreased, his vertical jump increased and he was able to lift more weights in both his arms and legs than before. All things for which I had no explanation for all those years ago.
We are now starting to get answers and reasons for what were once considered “miracles.” The research has verified that the chiropractic adjustment does not deliver miracles, it only helps the body work better and we now know why. This article could easily be titled, "Regaining All Movement and Function with the Chiropractic Spinal Adjustment," and would not be inflammatory based upon the scientific evidence being published today. With an aging population reaching 35,000,000 in 2030 according to Kleinpell, Fletcher, and Jennings (2015), and a mobile society that often gets injured, a key component to health is one of function. In the musculoskeletal genre, functioning is the ability to move and perform activities that range from those required of professional athletes and artists to those of the elderly such as simply walking or writing. In every society, people need to be able to move and function to experience life at its fullest.
According to Haavik and Murphy (2012) “There is growing body of research on the effects of spinal manipulation (chiropractic spinal adjustments) on sensory processing, motor output, functional performance and sensorimotor integration…how an initial episode(s) of back or neck pain may lead to ongoing changes in input from the spine which over time lead to altered sensorimotor integration of input from the spine and limbs” (p. 768). What this simply means is that chiropractic spinal adjustments change how the brain gets its information, how it processes that information and then how it sends it back to the different regions of the body so that we can function and move better. In addition, the research has given evidence that these brain changes cause pain to decrease as a result of the chiropractic spinal adjustments and this can affect all of the limbs.
Haavik and Murphy (2012) went on to say, “What has also become apparent is that these plastic changes may occur in a manner that is subjectively positive for the individual, such as with motor learning to enable complex finger movement (e.g. playing the piano). This is known as adaptive neuroplasticity (the brain adapting better.) However, studies are also showing that these plastic changes may occur in a manner that has decidedly negative subjective outcomes for the individual, known as maladaptive neural plastic changes. There is a growing body of literature that demonstrates maladaptive plastic changes are present in a variety of pain conditions/syndromes and musculoskeletal dysfunction and that such adaptive changes can occur remarkably fast following an injury” (p. 769).
What this means is that injuries play a significant role in function and individuals can lose function very quickly, but a chiropractic spinal adjustment can help regain that function. The research also suggests that because this is an issue with the brain losing correct information from the limbs, parts not injured also lose function and conversely, when unaffected areas get treated, the brain makes adaptive changes and resolves pain in multiple areas.
“Numerous activities of daily living are dependent on appropriate interaction between sensory and motor systems allow us to engage with our environment. It allows us to reach for and grasp objects, detect and turn towards an auditory stimuli or respond to perturbations from the environment in order to maintain postural stability, balance and locomotion. A breakdown anywhere in these multimodal sensorimotor feedback loops has the potential to greatly affect other interconnected neuroanatomical subsystems, in either an adaptive or maladaptive manner” (Haavik & Murphy, 2012, p. 769).
Gay, Robinson, George, Perlstein, and Bishop (2014) reported that chiropractic spinal adjustments create functional changes in multiple regions of the brain based upon multiple outcome measures. In the study by Gay et al. (2014), this was measureable and reproducible. In addition, this has far reaching affects in setting the foundation for understanding how the adjustment works in systemic and possibly autonomic changes by being able to measure and reproduce functional changes within the brain as direct sequellae.
We also know that chiropractic is one of the safest treatments currently available in healthcare and when there is a treatment where the potential for benefits far outweighs any risk, it deserves serious consideration. Whedon, Mackenzie, Phillips, and Lurie (2015) based their study on 6,669,603 subjects after the unqualified subjects had been removed from the study and accounted for 24,068,808 office visits. They concluded, “No mechanism by which SM [spinal manipulation] induces injury into normal healthy tissues has been identified (Whedon et al., 2015, p. 5).