New Zealand Research Team Discovers Conclusive Evidence That Spinal Adjustments Lead to Improved Muscle Function


For years, patients and practitioners have stated that chiropractic medicine has an amazing effect on injuries and common problems, such as back pain. Now, a study from New Zealand has found significant amount of data to support this claim. This research suggests that chiropractic care could have an important role in maximizing athletic performance and assisting in recovery, especially in cases where muscle function has been compromised.

In a report published in the journal Experimental Brain Research, researchers from the New Zealand College of Chiropractic’s Centre for Chiropractic Research successfully demonstrated that a full spine adjustment session lead to an increase in the subject’s ability to contract one of their leg muscles. The study found that the chiropractic procedure resulted in an increase of muscle electrical activity readings reaching almost 60%, as well as a 16% increase in absolute force measures. Researchers also noted a 45% increase in the ‘drive’ from the brain to the muscle, defined as the degree to which the brain can activate a particular muscle. There was also a small but noteworthy shift in the participants’ H reflex curve, a neurophysiological measure of spinal cord excitability.

Dr. Heidi Haavik, the Director of Research at the New Zealand College of Chiropractic commented that the centre’s study was the first to indicate that spinal adjustments can induce significant changes in the net excitability for low-threshold motor units. Additionally, the study’s results indicated that spinal adjustments can prevent fatigue, supporting the use of chiropractic care as treatment for patients who have lost muscle tone or are recovering from muscle-degrading conditions, such as a stroke. Likewise, the study findings suggest that the improved muscle contractions were probably due to the increased drive from the brain. Haavik speculated that these results could be helpful to athletes and said that the research team has recommended a similar study be conducted among a sports population.

Given the unique nature of the study, the team’s findings have already attracted attention from far beyond New Zealand. The results have been particularly well-received in the healthcare community, where chiropractic services have begun to shift towards new methods and protocols.

However, the study is not only noteworthy for its evidence: the research was funded by a grant partnership between Spinal Research, formerly called the Australian Spinal Research Foundation, the New Zealand Hamblin Trust and the New Zealand College of Chiropractic. The project also involved a collaboration between the college’s Centre for Chiropractic Research and world-renowned neurophysiologist Professor Kemal Türker, from the School of Medicine at Koc University in Istanbul, Turkey.

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