Research Proves Chiropractic Adjustments Affect Emotions, Learning, Memory, Consciousness, Motivation, Homeostasis, Perception, Motor Control, Self-Awareness, Cognitive Function, Voluntary Movement, Decision Making, Touch and Pain

A report on the scientific literature 

By: Mark Studin DC, FASBE(C), DAAPM, DAAMLP 

William J. Owens DC, DAAMLP

For decades chiropractors and their patients have been experiencing many positive outcomes that have gone well beyond the pain treatment they originally sought. This author has been practicing for 34 years and has witnessed what many thought were miracles, but the seasoned chiropractor simply called it an everyday occurrence, albeit lacking in an explanation that was verified through research and published in a universally accepted forum, the scientific literature. Notwithstanding, we practitioners and our patients have persevered for over 115 years having to rely simply in results. 


In 2014, Gay and fellow researchers concluded “…pain-free volunteers processed thermal stimuli applied to the hand before and after thoracic (mid-back) spinal manipulation (chiropractic spinal adjustment)).  What they found was that after thoracic manipulation, several brain regions demonstrated a reduction in peak BOLD [blood-oxygen-leveldependent] activity. Those regions included the cingulate, insular, motor, amygdala and somatosensory cortices, and the PAG [periaqueductal gray regions]” (p. 615). In other words, thoracic chiropractic adjustments produced direct and measureable effects on the central nervous system across multiple regions, which is responsible for the processing of emotion (cingulate cortex, aka limbic cortex) and the insular cortex, which also responsible for regulating emotion as well has homeostasis. The motor cortex is involved in the planning and execution of voluntary movements, the amygdala’s primary function is memory and decision making (also part of the limbic system), the somatosensory cortex is involved in processing the sense of touch (remember the homunculus) and, finally, the periaqueductal gray is responsible for descending pain modulation (the brain regulating the processing of painful stimuli).


The following regions of the brain are affected and the following functions are affected:



Brain Region


Cingulate Cortex

Emotions, learning, motivation, memory

Insular Cortex

Consciousness, homeostasis, perception, motor control, self-awareness, cognitive function

Motor Cortex

Voluntary movements

Amygdala Cortex

Memory, decision making, emotional reactions

Somatosensory Cortex

Proprio and mechano-reception, touch, temperature, pain of the skin, epithelial, skeletal muscle, bones, joints, internal organs and cardiovascular systems

Periaqueductal Gray

Ascending and descending spinothalamtic tracts carrying pain and temperature fibers

















We are now starting to get answers and reasons for the results that was 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. 


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) 



  1. Gay, C. W., Robinson, M. E., George, S. Z., Perlstein, W. M., & Bishop, M. D. (2014). Immediate changes after manual therapy in resting-state functional connectivity as measured by functional magnetic resonance imaging in participants with induced low back pain. Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics, 37
  2. Whedon, J. M., Mackenzie, T. A., Phillips, R. B., & Lurie, J. D. (2015). Risk of traumatic injury associated with chiropractic spinal manipulation in Medicare Part B beneficiaries aged 66-69 years. Spine, 40(4), 264-270.

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Published in Brain Function

Chest Pain, Mid-Back Pain and Chiropractic

A report on the scientific literature 

William J. Owens DC, DAAMLP
Chiropractic care is targeted to reducing the Vertebral Subluxation Complex and associated neuro-muscular conditions after more serious medical conditions have been ruled out with chest pain. Vertebral Subluxation Complex is the most common reason for pain in the middle back and chest that is not the result of a heart problem or acid reflux. In cases of non-cardiac (not involving the heart) middle back and chest pain, Chiropractic has been shown to have significant results in reducing or eliminating pain and discomfort. Many people experience pain between the shoulder blades, over the breast bone or the collar bones. In today’s society of increasing demands in the office setting, endless hours in front of a computer or all day commutes in our vehicles the stress on the thoracic spine (middle back)and chest continues to increase. Unfortunately when we sit and slouch forward, the brunt of the forces are condensed to the area just below our shoulder blades and our breast bone. We have all been cautioned to “have good posture”, but anyone that has worked a full day knows, once you are tired there is really not much you can do about your posture.
A recent study stated that “Traditionally, patients with chest discomfort are admitted to a cardiology ward because the heart is under suspicion as the pain source; however, the etiology of pain may be non-cardiac in up to 50% of cases”1 (p654). The authors continue on to say “Although patients with non-cardiac chest pain have an excellent prognosis for survival and a future risk of cardiac morbidity [complications] similar to that of the general population, approximately 3 quarters of these patients continue to suffer from residual chest pain, one half remain or become unemployed, and one half report being significantly disabled”1 (p 654)
The most important aspect of this study states “There is a broad agreement among clinicians that the musculoskeletal system is a potential source of pain in non-cardiac chest discomfort, but very few studies have addressed this issue systematically despite the compelling issues discussed above.”1 (p 654)   This study found that there was a significant reduction in the anxiety associated with the patient’s chest pain, the patients had a better understanding that the musculoskeletal system was the source of their discomfort and 96% of patients believed that chiropractic treatment had helped.1
In a case study published in 2003, the authors discovered that after the possibility of cardiac involvement was considered, Vertebral Subluxation Complex located at the junction of the breast bones and ribs in the front of the chest was the cause. Reducing the Vertebral Subluxation Complex with Chiropractic techniques had resolved this patients symptoms. 2
Chiropractic interventions into managing and/or eliminating chest and middle back pain have been shown to be safe once cardiac causes have been ruled out. Doctors of Chiropractic are trained to not only evaluate for non-musculoskeletal conditions, but to work as part of your healthcare team. 3
1.       Henrik W. Christensen, DC, MD, PhD, Werner Vach, PhD, Anthony Cichangi, Claus Manniche, MD, DMSc, Torben Haghfelt, MD, DMSc, and Poul F. Hilund-CaHsen, MD, DMSc. Manual Therapy for Patients with Stable Angina Pectoris: A Nonrandomized open prospective trial. J Manipulative Physiol Ther 2005;28:654-661
2.       Bradley S. Polkinghorn, DC, Christopher J. Colloca, DC. Chiropractic management of chronic chest pain using mechanical force, manually assisted short-lever adjusting procedures. J Manipulative Physiol Ther 2003;26:108-15.

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