The minimum energy hypothesis: a unified model of fixation resolution

J Manipulative Physiol Ther. 2002 Feb;25(2):105-10. doi: 10.1067/mmt.2002.121412.


Objective: To present a new theoretical construct, the Minimum Energy Hypothesis, which explains structural changes observed in the spine concomitant to spinal joint fixation resolution in initial investigations.

Design: Theoretical analysis.

Hypothesis: A unified theory of manipulative effectiveness is proposed that integrates the fixation and sensory tonus models of manipulation. The theory is based on the fact that the spine will assume a position of minimum internal energy when mechanical equilibrium is achieved. By using a simple mathematical model, it is shown that the fixation model and the sensory tonus models are 2 different aspects of the same theoretical construct. The Minimum Energy Hypothesis predicts that the spine will seek an optimal minimum energy configuration if the constraints preventing it from doing so are removed. Constraints are hypothesized to be joint fixations caused by inflammation in and about the spine and its sequella, muscle spasm, fibroadipose and scar tissue, and ultimately, degeneration. It is further hypothesized that the use of a computerized mechanical manipulative device may resolve such fixations, an example of which is radiographically demonstrable cervical hypolordosis.

Conclusion: A unified theory of manipulative effectiveness based on the concept of minimum energy to attain mechanical equilibrium is brought forward to explain the results of initial investigations.

MeSH terms

  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Cervical Vertebrae / diagnostic imaging
  • Cervical Vertebrae / physiopathology*
  • Energy Transfer
  • Humans
  • Joints / physiopathology
  • Lordosis / diagnostic imaging
  • Lordosis / physiopathology
  • Lordosis / therapy*
  • Manipulation, Chiropractic / methods*
  • Models, Biological
  • Radiography
  • Spine / physiopathology
  • Systems Theory