There is a chiropractic researcher who is doing some just awesome work in New Zealand to measure the affect spinal adjusting has on the human nervous system. Data from her most recent study finds promise that we may be able to use spinal adjustments to increase strength. Dr. Heidi Haavik is a chiropractic researcher with a PhD in neurophysiology. Dr. Haavik has published a number of studies with a focus on measuring the effect on the human nervous system a chiropractic adjustment has. I heard her speak at a seminar last summer and she has a passion for the research she is doing and the positive impact it has on our profession and the patients we treat.
Since the inception of the chiropractic profession, chiropractors have held onto the knowledge that a chiropractic adjustment has an affect on the nervous system. Since our nervous system is the organ system through which all body functions are controlled, a chiropractic adjustment can impact the way our bodies function. That the spine through its relationship with the nervous system can impact the way our bodies function was not unique to chiropractic. There is reference to this understanding throughout history and the osteopathic profession was founded on similar principles in 1892. Today the chiropractic professions is really the only profession that continues to champion the influence that the spine can have on health. Some in the osteopathic profession still do but their voices are in the minority today as the osteopathic profession has more in common with traditional medical care today than early osteopathic care.
Where our profession has stumbled is in the are of being able to measure what chiropractors have seen in their patients. If you talk to a group of chiropractors many will have stories of patients who had their illness or diseases resolved by chiropractic care. In our world today, these cases are not enough to show a definite cause-effect relationship to chiropractic care and resolution of disease. What has changed today is technology is getting to the point where we are more able to measure nervous system function an a non-invasive way. This is what Dr. Haavik is doing, using some advanced tools to measure the effect of a spinal adjustment on the nervous system.
In her most recent study Dr. Haavik and her team were measuring nervous system function pre-spinal adjustment and post spinal adjustment compared to a control group. She observed changes in the nervous system function in the spinal adjustment group that were not present in the control (non-adjustment) group. Dr. Havvik and her group of researchers believe that their finding may have important clinical implications as they provide support that spinal manipulation can be used to strengthen muscles. They point to the idea that a follow-up study could be done in patients with reduced muscular strength such as stroke victims.
It is a complex situation to attempt to measure nervous system function in a living human. There are not a lot of ways to do this beyond measuring muscle strength. I have posted on studies that measured somatosensory evoked potentials which basically measure the speed at which a signal travels back and forth along the nervous system and is another way to look at nervous system function. In our office we are looking into measuring heart rate variability as this seems to be a way to measure the affect an adjustment has on nervous system function and health. The great news here is there is a growing body of evidence to prove what chiropractors, as well as other groups like osteopaths, have seen in our patients. Adjusting the spine impacts human health.