There is some talk of spinal manipulation improving motor control. We know that pain, fatigue, joint or neurological issues affect motor control. There seems to be evidence that manipulation can help any one of these factors. But how?
So I searched, and found this study… by Chiros…(Publication Bias Warning!) Daligadu J, Haavik H, Yielder PC, Baarbe J, Murphy B. Alterations in cortical and cerebellar motor processing in subclinical neck pain patients following spinal manipulation. Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics. 2013: 36(8); 527-537.
So the cerebellum has a role in inhibiting the motor cortex and when this inhibition is reduced, motor tasks are seemingly better performed. (Cerebellar experts please correct me…) Daligadu et al. seem to show that manipulation reduced this inhibition, thereby increasing the ability of the cortex to promote motor tasks.
After reading the article, the take home message seems to be that, for an improvement in motor output, motor learning paints with a broad brush and is a definite “go-to” treatment. In certain cases, movement will be minimally improved with cervical manipulation as well. This makes sense in knowing about training specificity, so the fact that manipulation had any impact in improved motor output is quite interesting.
What I did like about the study was they searched for a electro-chemical-objective-type of outcome from manipulation, as opposed to a subjective “I feel better” outcome.
For more on Cervical Manipulations in Physical Therapy: check this extremely comprehensive blog post at orthopedicmanualpt.com
There continues to be questions about the causes, benefits and mechanisms of all clusters of manual therapy. This small sampled study points to cerebellar inhibition as a mechanism by which manipulation may contribute to motor outcomes.