As a follow-up to my September column, this month I will be discussing a further benefit of Chiropractic care, that is, when patients report increased mobility and less stiffness after treatment. Recently I discovered a study performed at the University of Utah by a Professor of Physiotherapy who measured certain changes in the spine after it was manipulated.

The authors of this case recruited fifty-one participants with complaints of low back pain. The authors then measured the patient’s spinal stiffness by lying them on their stomachs and utilised a mechanical instrument to apply a downward pressure on the patients spine. After three indents, an average stiffness level was calculated based on how much the patients spine moved with the downward pressure.

Following this, small but very important spinal muscles called Multifidi were measured for their thickness under ultrasound.

Following both of these measurements, a Physiotherapist or a Chiropractor performed a low back manipulation and following the manipulation, spinal stiffness and Multifidus thickness were measured.

The results of this study showed a significant immediate decrease in the stiffness of the patients low back and an immediate increase in Multifidus thickness following spinal manipulation.

This study is important for several reasons, as practitioners who work with the spine we all see people every day who report feeling stronger and less stiff after a Chiropractic adjustment This study provided some preliminary evidence to support the notion that manipulation helps improve stiffness as well as increasing the activity of a group of vitally important low back muscles. It also very important due to the fact that often it is hard to explain to people how what you are doing as a Chiropractor actually works. All of us see hundreds of patients every week who report feelings of wellbeing after care, hopefully more evidence like this will assist in improving our understanding of how our amazing body works.

Fritz JM, Koppenhaver SL, Nawchuk GN, et al. Preliminary Investigation of the Mechanisms Underlying the Effects of Manipulation. Spine 2011: 36; 1772-1781.