Adjusting the Spine Changes the Brain

Many of my patients initially come to The Winchester Institute in pain and with loss of function.  In the initial phases of care, my focus is on pain reduction and restoring function.  Once the patient is feeling better, I often get the question,

“Doctor, if I’m no longer in pain, why do you still want to see me?”

There are many reasons why regular Chiropractic Care is important for a patient’s overall health and wellness, but one of the effects of Chiropractic adjustments I find particularly amazing is that adjusting the spine changes the brain.

A recently published study in the Journal of Plasticity documents these changes. This was an independent study with data collected and analyzed by scientists who had no preconceived ideas about Chiropractic. Heidi Haavik, DC, Ph.D., one of the researchers behind the study, said about the findings, “We do know that spinal function does affect brain function. There’s now solid evidence that adjusting the spine changes brain function. This is the fourth time that the effect of adjusting the spine has on the brain has been studied. This last time it was studied and confirmed by an independent medical researcher.”

What is particularly exciting about this study is it indicates Chiropractic adjustments impact the prefrontal cortex. The prefrontal cortex is the part of the brain located behind the forehead that is responsible for executive function, meaning it acts like a conductor communicating, guiding, and coordinating the functions of the different parts of the brain. It is the area where higher learning and cognition happen. The study showed a change in brain function by almost 20%. Haavik explains: “An effect on the function of the prefrontal cortex could explain many previous research results, such as improvements in sensorimotor function relevant to falls-prevention; better joint-position sense in both the upper limb and the lower limb; improved muscle strength in lower limb muscles; better pelvic floor control; and better ability to carry out mental rotation of objects.”

My patients often comment of feeling better, having better focus, and improved movement and coordination early on in their treatment. I also have a number of patients whose parents claim regular adjustments help their child with ADHD symptoms such as, inability to focus, behavioral issues and retention at school. This study helps us to understand why patients notice these improvements. Haavik and her team are excited about the evidence regarding the location of changes post-adjustment. “This is solid scientific evidence that adjusting the spine changes the way the prefrontal cortex of the brain is processing information from the arm. It demonstrates we change the way the brain works and shows that spinal function impacts brain function. One of the most interesting things about the changes we observed was that the prefrontal cortex is responsible for behavior, goal directed tasks, decision making, memory and attention, intelligence, processing of pain and emotional response to it, autonomic function, motor control, eye movements and spatial awareness.”

What does this mean for my patients?  It means every time they are adjusted, it actually improves the way their brain communicates with their body, and a brain that’s functioning differently and conducting its activities better is sure to have a positive effect on the body. It also means that everyone needs Chiropractic Care. It is not merely about neck and back pain.


[1] Lelic, D, Niazi, IK, Holt, K, Jochumsen, M, Dremstrup, K, Yielder, P, Murphy, B, Drewes, A and Haavik, H (2016), “Manipulation of dysfunctional spinal joints affects sensorimotor integration in the pre-frontal cortex: A brain source localization study,” Neural Plasticity, Volume 2016 (2016). Online. [2] Haavik, H (2016), correspondence with Spinal Research via Nimrod Weiner

Spinal Research, April 12, 2016