To investigate the effects of a single session of spinal manipulation (SM) on voluntary activation of the elbow flexors in participants with subclinical neck pain using an interpolated twitch technique with transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), eighteen volunteers with subclinical neck pain participated in this randomized crossover trial. TMS was delivered during elbow flexion contractions at 50%, 75% and 100% of maximum voluntary contraction (MVC) before and after SM or control intervention. The amplitude of the superimposed twitches evoked during voluntary contractions was recorded and voluntary activation was calculated using a regression analysis. Dependent variables were analyzed with two-way (intervention × time) repeated measures ANOVAs. Significant intervention effects for SM compared to passive movement control were observed for elbow flexion MVC (p = 0.04), the amplitude of superimposed twitch (p = 0.04), and voluntary activation of elbow flexors (p =0.03). Significant within-group post-intervention changes were observed for the superimposed twitch (mean group decrease of 20.9%, p < 0.01) and voluntary activation (mean group increase of 3.0%, p < 0.01) following SM. No other significant within-group changes were observed. Voluntary activation of the elbow flexors increased immediately after one session of spinal manipulation in participants with subclinical neck pain. A decrease in the amplitude of superimposed twitch during elbow flexion MVC following spinal manipulation suggests a facilitation of motor cortical output.
Keywords: elbow flexors; interpolated twitch technique (ITT); maximum contraction force; spinal manipulation; voluntary activation.