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  • Jones Chiropractic

Impact of Neck Pain

Scientists know that your brain uses sensory information from your muscles and joints around your spine to help control your balance and posture, and to make sure that you’re moving properly. If that information from your spine isn’t very good, your brain will struggle to control what’s going on in your body.

People with neck pain have poor communication between neck and brain

Sensorimotor Function

When your brain takes sensory information and uses it to help guide movement and control muscles we call this sensorimotor function. Research has shown that people with neck had poor communication between their neck and their brains which meant that they weren’t as good at controlling their balance and other types of sensorimotor function.


Scientists at the Centre for Chiropractic Research at the New Zealand College of Chiropractic have even shown that chiropractic care for older adults improves specific forms of sensorimotor function that is very relevant to falls prevention. For example, they have shown that chiropractic care for older adults improves how accurately your brain knows where your ankle joint is, even though you have got your eyes closed.


Video Transcript

Scientists know that your brain uses sensory information from your muscles and joints around your spine to help control your balance and posture, and to make sure that you’re moving properly.1 2 When your brain takes sensory information and uses it to help guide movement and control muscles, we call this sensorimotor function.3 One particular study looked at whether neck pain has an impact on proper sensorimotor function in older people.2 In this study, the researchers ran a whole lot of sensorimotor function tests, like how well they could control movements of their eyes or how good their balance was, and they took into account their age and other conditions that the subjects might be suffering from.2 


They found that the older people with neck pain were worse than those without neck pain at most of the tests they performed. For example, the people with neck pain couldn’t control their eyes as well or their balance wasn’t as good as people who had no pain.


They found that the older people with neck pain were worse than those without neck pain at most of the tests that they performed.2 For example, the people with neck pain couldn’t control their eyes as well and their balance wasn’t as good as people who had no pain.2


The researchers thought that in the people with neck pain they had poor communication between their neck and their brain which meant that they weren’t as good at controlling their balance and other types of sensorimotor function.2 Remember that your brain uses sensory information from your muscles and joints around your spine to help control your balance and posture, and to make sure you’re moving properly. 4-8 So, if that information from your spine isn’t very good, your brain will struggle to control what’s going on in your body.


The scientists who did this study were pretty much saying that the altered information from the neck of these older people who had neck pain was disturbing their brains’ ability to make sense of other sensory information. This in turn potentially affected their balance and increased their risk of falling.


The research team at the Centre for Chiropractic Research at the New Zealand College of Chiropractic agree with these scientists because their own research studies over many, many years suggest that chiropractic care improves the accuracy in the communication between the spine and the brain, which makes it easier for the brain to accurately tell what is going on in and around the body.1 And that spinal dysfunction does not need to be so bad that you are in pain for the brain to be disturbed and that gentle spinal adjustments can help improve your brain’s ability to accurately know what is going on.1 


These scientists have even shown that chiropractic care for older adults improves specific forms of sensorimotor function that is very relevant to falls prevention.9 For example, they have shown that chiropractic care for older adults improves how accurately your brain knows where your ankle joint is, even though you have got your eyes closed.9 They also found that older adults could take a significantly faster step after a period of chiropractic care, and they also showed that their brains got better at processing information from their eyes and their ears at the same time, after a period of chiropractic care.9


So, although chiropractic care does help people with neck pain,10-12 it also has so much more to offer, even if you don’t have neck pain.1 Chiropractic care is all about improving the communication between your brain and your body so that you can function at your optimal potential.1 So, whether you are suffering from neck pain, or have a loved ones that do, or you just want to have a tune up of your brain/body communication, go and see your family chiropractor and have your spine tuned up so you can function at your best.


Video References

  1. Haavik H, Kumari N, Holt K, et al. The contemporary model of vertebral column joint dysfunction and impact of high-velocity, low-amplitude controlled vertebral thrusts on neuromuscular function. European Journal of Applied Physiology 2021:1-46.

  2. Uthaikhup S, Jull G, Sungkarat S, et al. The influence of neck pain on sensorimotor function in the elderly. Archives of gerontology and geriatrics 2012;55(3):667-72. doi: 10.1016/j.archger.2012.01.013 [published Online First: 2012/02/22]

  3. Abbruzzese G, Berardelli A. Sensorimotor integration in movement disorders. Movement Disorders 2003;18(3):231-40.

  4. Brumagne S, Cordo P, Lysens R, et al. The Role of Paraspinal Muscle Spindles in Lumbosacral Position Sense in Individuals With and Without Low Back Pain. 2000;25(8):989-94. doi: 10.1097/00007632-200004150-00015

  5. Haavik H, Murphy B. The role of spinal manipulation in addressing disordered sensorimotor integration and altered motor control. J Electromyogr Kinesiol 2012;22(5):768-76. doi: 10.1016/j.jelekin.2012.02.012 [published Online First: 2012/04/10]

  6. Haavik H, Murphy B. Subclinical neck pain and the effects of cervical manipulation on elbow joint position sense. J Manipulative Physiol Ther 2011;34(2):88-97. doi: 10.1016/j.jmpt.2010.12.009 [published Online First: 2011/02/22]

  7. Lackner JR, DiZio P. Vestibular, Proprioceptive, and Haptic Contributions to Spatial Orientation. Annual Review of Psychology 2004;56(1):115-47. doi: 10.1146/annurev.psych.55.090902.142023

  8. Pickar JG, Wheeler JD. Response of muscle proprioceptors to spinal manipulative-like loads in the anesthetized cat. Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics 2001;24(1):2-11.

  9. Holt KR, Haavik H, Lee AC, et al. Effectiveness of Chiropractic Care to Improve Sensorimotor Function Associated With Falls Risk in Older People: A Randomized Controlled Trial. J Manipulative Physiol Ther 2016 doi: 10.1016/j.jmpt.2016.02.003 [published Online First: 2016/04/07]

  10. Bryans R, Decina P, Descarreaux M, et al. Evidence-based guidelines for the chiropractic treatment of adults with neck pain. Journal of manipulative and physiological therapeutics 2014;37(1):42-63.

  11. Wong JJ, Shearer HM, Mior S, et al. Are manual therapies, passive physical modalities, or acupuncture effective for the management of patients with whiplash-associated disorders or neck pain and associated disorders? An update of the Bone and Joint Decade Task Force on Neck Pain and Its Associated Disorders by the OPTIMa collaboration. The Spine Journal 2016;16(12):1598-630.

  12. Gross A, Miller J, D’Sylva J, et al. Manipulation or mobilisation for neck pain: a Cochrane Review. Manual therapy 2010;15(4):315-33.

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