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New Study Reveals Impact of Spinal Manipulation on Cortical (Brain) Drive to Limb Muscles

Here at Katherine Sports & Family Chiropractic we see a lot of people who are involved in various sporting teams, local gyms, golf clubs, exercise programs and weekend leisure sports.

Does this sound like you? If so, you will definitely be interested in these latest research findings.

Chiropractor and acclaimed Neurophysiologist Dr Heidi Haavik and her team have published an exciting new study looking at the effects of spinal manipulation on how your brain uses your muscles.
The study looked at whether chiropractic adjustments lead to changes in the way the brain controls muscles and was recently accepted for publication in the Journal ‘Brain Sciences’.
This latest scientific paper adds to a growing body of evidence surrounding chiropractic care, and examines whether changes in muscle drive occurred at a brain or spinal cord level.

With previous research showing that chiropractic spinal adjustments can increase the strength of leg muscles, the team was interested to know more about whether the increase in strength was occurring at the brain or spinal cord level.

“We used transcranial magnetic brain stimulation and tested the muscle responses with increasing brain stimulations,” says lead author Heidi Haavik (PhD, DC). “We also tested spinal cord excitability to the same muscles using a method called F waves. One other thing we measured in this study was a type of brain measure that we know is 100% happening in the brain (and not the spinal cord) called a Movement Related Cortical Potential (MRCP).”

In this particular study, Haavik and her team looked at both a hand muscle and a leg muscle in different experiments, before and after either a control intervention or a chiropractic intervention.

  • The results of their study showed large changes in the maximum output of the muscle after an adjustment session when they stimulated over the brain, with no changes in the spinal cord measure and significant changes in the MRCP brain measure.

  • These results are consistent with previous findings that have suggested increases in strength following chiropractic adjustments were due to descending cortical drive from the brain and that the strength changes could not be explained by possible changes at the level of the spinal cord.

“This research has big implications,” said Heidi Haavik. “It is possible that patients who have lost muscle tonus and/or are recovering from muscle degrading dysfunctions such as stroke or orthopaedic operations could also benefit from chiropractic care. These findings are also very relevant to sports performers (although this too must also be followed up with more research), because it indicates that chiropractic care may help their brains to more efficiently produce greater outputs. So all in all a very exciting study!”

Think about how these changes might relate to you using your muscles in the gym, on the golf course, football field, at your next bootcamp session, or in the swimming pool!

Call Katherine Sports & Family Chiropractic today to book your next appointment or spinal assessment 08 8971 2882


(1)Haavik H, Niazi IK, Jochumsen M, Sherwin D, Flavel S, Türker KS. (2017) Impact of spinal manipulation on cortical drive to upper and lower limb muscles. Brain Sciences. In Press


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