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Low Back Chiropractic Adjustments Had No Impact on Exercise: Questions Remain on Athletic Performance

 I tend to stay away from issues that claim chiropractic has any benefit besides simple musculoskeletal issues outside what is commonly accepted by the medical community. I am fascinated by intellectual issues, because I am always trying to learn new things and go beyond what is understood out there. There would be no progress made if no one questioned the mainstream ideology or thought outside the box. One has to choose carefully with so many health fads and myths out there. Here is a case that looks at chiropractic adjustments and exercise which is musculoskeletally related. It contradicts some "questionable" chiropractic research which I could not find. The research is not anti-chiropractic but it seems unbiased.
Abstract: This was a single-blinded, randomized, controlled trial of the immediate impact mid-lumbar spine CMT had on exercise science measures during a Bruce treadmill test at Texas Chiropractic College.
Translated, it means that the subject did not know whether or not he had a chiropractic adjustment before exercising on a treadmill.

Results There was no statistically significant difference between participants in the CMT group vs. the no-CMT group at baseline for heart rate, BL, or RPE. There was no statistically significant difference found in response to CMT for any exercise science measure throughout the GXT (Tables 2-5). This preliminarily indicates that lumbar spine CMT appears to have minimal impact on exercise science measures among asymptomatic chiropractic student participants. However, BLC was shown to be lower in the CMT group compared to the no-CMT group at maximal exertion (15.78 mmol/l, compared to 17.72 mmol/l). Effect size was not calculated due to the lack of statistical significance of study-dependent variables.  
The only change that was found was in blood lactate concentration (BLC), but no significant change was found otherwise. Another similar study was performed earlier but on a higher spinal level which found no effect. I am not sure why T12 and now L3 was targeted specifically. The study briefly mentioned adrenal glands which is L2 and lumbar plexus nerves. There is an old school of thought that believes in a spinal level that corresponds to specific organs called The Meric System. Here is the wikipedia for the nerve at the third lumbar segment and the nerves for the heart. There was one study that had mixed results on chiropractic adjustments and heart rate for testing of autonomic function. The subjects in the study were already healthy and young. I am not sure if they would find an effect assuming this is the right level to adjust for an effect on the treadmill exercise. One guess to why there might have been an effect on lactate levels is that the L3 nerve does innervate hip or leg muscles. The guess would be the effect on maximal innervation potential of these muscles. This is just an interesting theory but hard to say with such a small sample. I question whether minor joint misalignments or common chiropractic subluxations have a noticable effect on the nerve. Some say that the pressure as small as the weight of a dime has an effect but I can put light pressure on my wrist or carpal tunnel and the finger muscles seem fine in a practical sense. I will admit that there may be a small 10-20% effect on nerve innervation to a muscle. The real question is if the right chiropractic adjustments can give a small edge which professional athletes strive for. In a practical sense, the study results say no but the small result on BLC raises some questions for future research and athletic performance.

ChiroWorks Care Center
Anthony Tsai, D.C.
Chiropractor in San Jose, CA
Graston Technique Certified
FAKTR Certified

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