Background: Spinal manipulation has been found to create demonstrable segmental and intersegmental spinal motions thought to be biomechanically related to its mechanisms. In the case of impulsive-type instrument device comparisons, significant differences in the force-time characteristics and concomitant motion responses of spinal manipulative instruments have been reported, but studies investigating the response to multiple thrusts (multiple impulse trains) have not been conducted. The purpose of this study was to determine multi-axial segmental and intersegmental motion responses of ovine lumbar vertebrae to single impulse and multiple impulse spinal manipulative thrusts (SMTs).
Methods: Fifteen adolescent Merino sheep were examined. Tri-axial accelerometers were attached to intraosseous pins rigidly fixed to the L1 and L2 lumbar spinous processes under fluoroscopic guidance while the animals were anesthetized. A hand-held electromechanical chiropractic adjusting instrument (Impulse) was used to apply single and repeated force impulses (13 total over a 2.5 second time interval) at three different force settings (low, medium, and high) along the posteroanterior axis of the T12 spinous process. Axial (AX), posteroanterior (PA), and medial-lateral (ML) acceleration responses in adjacent segments (L1, L2) were recorded at a rate of 5000 samples per second. Peak-peak segmental accelerations (L1, L2) and intersegmental acceleration transfer (L1-L2) for each axis and each force setting were computed from the acceleration-time recordings. The initial acceleration response for a single thrust and the maximum acceleration response observed during the 12 multiple impulse trains were compared using a paired observations t-test (POTT, alpha = .05).
Results: Segmental and intersegmental acceleration responses mirrored the peak force magnitude produced by the Impulse Adjusting Instrument. Accelerations were greatest for AX and PA measurement axes. Compared to the initial impulse acceleration response, subsequent multiple SMT impulses were found to produce significantly greater (3% to 25%, P < 0.005) AX, PA and ML segmental and intersegmental acceleration responses. Increases in segmental motion responses were greatest for the low force setting (18%-26%), followed by the medium (5%-26%) and high (3%-26%) settings. Adjacent segment (L1) motion responses were maximized following the application of several multiple SMT impulses.
Conclusion: Knowledge of the vertebral motion responses produced by impulse-type, instrument-based adjusting instruments provide biomechanical benchmarks that support the clinical rationale for patient treatment. Our results indicate that impulse-type adjusting instruments that deliver multiple impulse SMTs significantly increase multi-axial spinal motion.