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Chiropractic Research Review

Responses of Muscles to Spinal Manipulation

The objective of this study was to better understand the physiologic mechanism of spinal manipulative therapy (SMT) by determining the magnitude and extent of electromyographic responses elicited by spinal manipulative treatments.

Ten asymptomatic male volunteers (aged 20-41) received, during each visit, the 11 SMTs that are standard in chiropractic care and are in common use.

High-speed, low-amplitude manipulations were delivered systematically to the cervical, thoracic, and lumbar levels and on the sacroiliac joint. Prior to the manipulation, each patient was fitted with 16 pairs of electromyographic electrodes to record possible responses to the SMT. Electrodes were placed at several paraspinal points as well as several points laterally, such as the deltoid, latissimus dorsi, and gluteus maximus muscles.

The manual procedures employed in this study, "provided a repeatable and largely systematic electromyographic response for a given procedure that extended beyond the immediate area of force application in all treatments."

According to the authors of this article, this study is the first in which results show the existence and extent of electromyographic responses in 11 spinal manipulative treatments in general clinical use. The results also showed for the first time reflex activation of upper and lower limb muscles during spinal and sacroiliac joint treatments. Because reflex pathways are evoked systematically during spinal manipulative treatment, there is a distinct possibility that these responses may cause some of the clinically observed beneficial effects, such as a reduction in pain and a decrease in hypertonicity of muscles.

The authors are planning future studies to elicit exact reflex pathways and determine if there is a direct link between the electromyographic response associated with SMT and a reduction in electromyographic activities in hypertonic muscles.

Herzog W, Scheele D, Conway PJ. Electromyographic responses of back and limb muscles associated with spinal manipulative therapy. Spine, Jan. 15, 1999;24(2), pp146-53.

Chiropractic Research Review

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