Balance and Movement and The Effect
of Chiropractic Care
Utilization with the Elderly, Cerebral Palsy, the Athlete
and the General Population
Chiropractic care reverses maladaptations in sensorimotor integration
and improves motor control
A report on the scientific literature
Mark Studin DC, FASBE (C), DAAPM, DAAMLP
William J. Owens DC, DAAMLP
Sensorimotor is defined as our ability to feel and move. With infants, Piaget, the renowned researcher, categorized the first 2 years of an infant’s life as the sensorimotor stage. “During this period, infants are busy discovering relationships between their bodies and the environment. Researchers have discovered that infants have relatively well developed sensory abilities. The child relies on seeing, touching, sucking, feeling, and using their senses to learn things about themselves and the environment. Piaget calls this the sensorimotor stage because the early manifestations of intelligence appear from sensory perceptions and motor activities” (Anderson, n.d., http://facultyweb.cortland.edu/andersmd/PIAGET/sms.html).
As we develop and our nervous systems have acquainted us to our surroundings, we need the neurological “hookups” to remain intact to function optimally and pain free. In addition, our sensory and motor systems need to work in tandem in order for us to function normally.
To further break it down, our sensory system is part of the nervous system that consists of receptors that receive stimuli from both our internal and external environments. These receptors, such as the ones located in our fingertips, sense external stimuli, such as hot or cold, or what we feel. An internal receptor may be found in the tendons (connect your muscles to your bones) and lets you know what your joints are doing, such as are my fingers sensing if they are relaxed or in a fist. The sensory system is also controlled by the brain that processes what we feel.
Pain is part of the sensory nervous system and to the surprise of many, pain is an important component to protecting yourself. Without pain, you could get seriously hurt, such as by keeping your finger on a hot stove too long or touching a sharp object too heavily and cutting your hand. Internally, pain is a warning sign that an organ or system is “sick” and alerts you to seek medical care.
All pain receptors are free nerve endings, meaning they only bring information to your brain and function as the “pain receptors.” There are three types of pain receptors; mechanical, thermal and chemical. They are found in skin and on internal surfaces such as the coverings of the bone and joint surfaces. “Deep internal surfaces are only weakly supplied with pain receptors and will propagate sensations of chronic, aching pain if tissue damage in these areas is experienced. Pain receptors do not adapt to stimulus. In some conditions, excitation of pain fibres becomes greater as the pain stimulus continues, leading to a condition called hyperalgesia [commonly known as, “WOW, that hurts a lot!”]” (Global Oneness, n.d., http://www.experiencefestival.com/a/Pain_-_Physiology/id/597137).
Your motor system is what allows you to move, maintain your posture and control your muscles. The motor system is controlled through nerves similar to the sensory system and like the sensory system, has a controlling element in the brain.
Functional tasks are defined as those things we do in our lives. Answering a telephone, putting a key in a door lock or picking up a fork to eat are all examples of functions. These functions, just like Piaget described in infants, are how we have a relationship with our body and the environment and require an integrated motor and sensory nervous system. Every functional task that we do involves both the motor and sensory components of our nervous system and while performing these tasks, we are protected by our ability to perceive pain.
Due to the development and integrategration of the world around us necessary to complete every task in our lives, as we get older, postural disturbances can arise and negatively affect how we integrate the sensorimotor information we are receiving both internally and externally and lead to significant balance disorders. Lord and Ward (1994) reported that, “All of the sensory, motor and balance system measures showed significant age-associated differences” (http://ageing.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/abstract/23/6/452). This means that as one gets older, his/her sensorimotor system often fails to integrate the internal and external environment as it once could.
A research study by Taylor and Murphy (2008) concluded that chiropractic care reverses maladaptations in sensorimotor integration and improving motor control. The study suggests that spinal dysfunction may lead to muscle specific alterations of the brain’s ability to process motor control. The “real-life” implications of this finding affect every facet of our lives and every person. Whether it be an older person who is starting to exhibit balance disorders, or a cerebral palsy victim who struggles on a daily basis with the simple tasks of life or a world class athlete looking to increase his/her fine motor skills just 1/10 of 1%, the results of chiropractic care can be dramatic.
From the clinical observation of Dr. Mark Studin, a co-author of this article and a practicing chiropractor for 30 years, “This now gives scientific evidence and validation to what patients have been sharing after receiving chiropractic care. The most common comment from patients post care is, ‘I perceive my surroundings more acutely and feel straighter.'” Dr. Studin continues, “Although I have heard this from every age group, my first patient was a cerebral palsy patient who stated that without getting adjusted he could barely function. With care, he walked to and from the office, a distance of 3 miles.”
These studies, along with many others conclude that a drug-free approach of chiropractic care is one of the best solutions to increase integration between the motor and sensory systems of your body. To find a qualified doctor of chiropractic near you, go to the US Chiropractic Directory at www.USChiroDirectory.com and search your state.
1. Anderson, M. (n.d.). Sensorimotor stage. Jean Piaget’s Theory of Development. Retrieved from http://facultyweb.cortland.edu/andersmd/PIAGET/sms.html
2. Global Oneness. (n.d.). Pain – Physiology. Retrieved from http://www.experiencefestival.com/a/Pain_-_Physiology/id/597137
3. Lord, S. R. & Ward, J. A. (1994). Age-associated differences in sensori-motor function and balance in community dwelling women. Age and Ageing. Retrieved from http://ageing.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/ abstract/23/6/452
4. Taylor, H. H. & Murphy, B. (2008). Altered sensorimotor integration with cervical spine manipulation. Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics, 31(2), 115-126.