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Chiropractic Research Review

Side-Posture Adjustments: Effect on the Lumbar Zygapophysial Joints

Chiropractors often describe spinal dysfunction as "joint complex dysfunction" or the "vertebral subluxation complex." It has been hypothesized that a consequence of such dysfunction is the development of zygopophysial (Z) joint adhesions after hypomobility of these structures.

Another hypothesis suggests that the chiropractic side-posture adjustment of the lumbar spine serves to separate, or gap, the Z joints. To investigate this premise, 16 student volunteers (eight men and eight women, age 22-29) with no history of significant low back pain were randomized into four groups for comparison.

Group 1: neutral positioning, followed by side-posture positioning;

Group 2: neutral positioning, followed by left-side side-posture adjusting, followed by neutral positioning;

Group 3: neutral positioning, followed by left-side side-posture adjusting, followed by side-posture positioning;

Group 4: neutral positioning, followed by neutral positioning. MRI scans were taken before and after positioning and before and after side-posture adjusting.

Results: Group 3 participants showed the greatest increase in gapping of the Z joints (when receiving lumbar side-posture spinal adjusting, then remaining in side-posture positioning). Side-posture positioning (Group 1) also produced Z joint gapping, but less than that noted with side-posture adjusting. The authors suggest further research to determine the extent to which flexion contributes to gapping of the Z joints.

Note: This paper was very well written and is applicable to theories of chiropractic practice.

Cramer GD, Tuck NR, Knudson T, et al. Effects of side-posture positioning and side-posture adjusting on the lumbar zygapophysial joints as evaluated by magnetic resonance imaging: a before and after study with randomization. Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics, July/Aug. 2000:23(6), pp380-94.
Reprints: Tel: (800) 325-4177 (ext. 4350); Fax: (314) 432-1380

Chiropractic Research Review

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