Although the mechanisms of spinal manipulation are poorly understood, the clinical effects are thought to be related to mechanical, neurophysiologic, and reflexogenic processes. Animal studies have identified mechanosensitive afferents in animals, and clinical studies in human beings have measured neuromuscular responses to spinal manipulation. Few, if any, studies have identified the basic neurophysiologic mechanisms of spinal manipulation in human beings or animals.
The purpose of this clinical investigation was to determine the feasibility of obtaining intraoperative neurophysiologic recordings and to quantify mixed-nerve root action potentials in response to lumbosacral spinal manipulation in a human subject undergoing lumbar spinal surgery.
An L4-L5 laminectomy was performed in a 62-year-old man. Short-duration (<0.1 ms) mechanical force, manually assisted spinal manipulative thrusts (150 N) were delivered to the lumbosacral spine with an Activator II Adjusting Instrument. With the spine exposed, spinal manipulative thrusts were delivered internally to the L5 mammillary process, L5-S1 joint, and the sacral base with various force vectors. This protocol was repeated by contacting the skin overlying respective anatomic landmarks. Mixed-nerve root recordings were obtained from gas-sterilized platinum bipolar hooked electrodes attached to the S1 nerve root at the level of the dorsal root ganglion during the spinal manipulative thrusts and during a 30-second baseline period during which no spinal manipulative thrusts were applied.
During the active trials, mixed-nerve root action potentials were observed in response to both internal and external spinal manipulative thrusts. Differences in the amplitude and discharge frequency were noted in response to varying segmental contact points and force vectors, and similarities were noted for internally and externally applied spinal manipulative thrusts. Amplitudes of mixed-nerve root action potentials ranged from 200 to 2600 mV for internal thrusts and 800 to 3500 mV for external thrusts.
Monitoring mixed-nerve root discharges in response to spinal manipulative thrusts in vivo in human subjects undergoing lumbar surgery is feasible. Neurophysiologic responses appeared sensitive to the contact point and applied force vector of the spinal manipulative thrust. Further study of the neurophysiologic mechanisms of spinal manipulation in humans and animals is needed to more precisely identify the mechanisms and neural pathways involved.
J Manipulative Physiol Ther. 2000 Sep;23(7):447-57. [PMID:11004648]
Author information: Colloca CJ, Keller TS, Gunzburg R, Vandeputte K, Fuhr AW. Postdoctoral and Related Professional Education Department Faculty, Logan College of Chiropractic, St. Louis, MO, USA.