Forces exerted during spinal manipulative therapy

SPINE, 1993, Volume 18, # 9, pp 1206-1212


Spinal manipulative therapy has been widely recognized in the medical fields as a conservative treatment modality for spinal dysfunction and pain. Spinal manipulative therapy consists of an application of a thrusting force on a specific part of the spine in a well-defined direction. The magnitude of this force has been associated with positive treatment effects such as realigning vertebral bodies, mobilizing spinal joints, relaxing back musculature through reflex pathways, and producing a respiratory burst. However, direct force measurements during spinal manipulative therapy in a clinically relevant situation have not been performed to date. The purpose of this study was to measure the forces exerted onto patients during spinal manipulative therapy on various locations of the spinal column. Force measurements were obtained using a thin, flexible pressure mat. The results indicate that peak and preload forces are considerably smaller for spinal manipulative therapy performed on the cervical spine compared to corresponding values obtained on the thoracic spine and sacroiliac joint. Furthermore, for treatments on the thoracic spine and sacroiliac joint, a significant relation was found to exist between preload and peak forces.