Since the early days of chiropractic care, the practice has been controversial, and many have questioned whether it actually provides benefits to patients. This is understandable enough, particularly in the late 19th and early 20th century when the science of internal medicine was still being developed and neurology was barely understood.
Today, however, such criticisms persist despite an ever-growing body of scientific evidence that, yes, functional chiropractic practices absolutely can improve neurological function. A great example of this is a recent study out of New Zealand, published in the well-respected journal Neural Plasticity, which showed significant benefits from a chiropractic adjustment.
How Chiropractic Practices Improve Neural Functioning
One of the biggest challenges to demonstrating the effectiveness of chiropractic care is that so much of its success seems to be subjective. For an individual patient, going to a chiropractor and then feeling better for days afterward is all the proof they need. However, to the scientific community, “feeling better” just isn’t objective or quantifiable. They need harder evidence.
So this study, conducted by Dr. Heidi Haavik, et al, sought to use brain scans before and after spinal adjustment to show the changes brought about.
Putting it simply: They hooked patients up to equipment capable of scanning their brains and other neurological activity and put them through some simple tests of their motor skills and reflexes. Then they gave these patients spinal adjustments, followed by a second similar set of tests. The results showed significantly better/faster responses.
To be clear, the second set of tests weren’t identical to the first, so this wasn’t simply a matter of the test subjects becoming better at the tests.
As Dr. Haavik said in her paper:
The latest study suggests that the changes that we do see in the brain when we adjust the spine do occur in the prefrontal cortex. … An effect on the function of the prefrontal cortex could explain many previous research results, such as improvements in sensorimotor function relevant to falls-prevention; better joint-position sense in both the upper limb and the lower limb; improved muscle strength in lower limb muscles; better pelvic floor control; and better ability to carry out mental rotation of objects.
This is exciting stuff, particularly since it means more opportunities to help people through chiropractic care!