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Is a Stiff Spine really Stiff?

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Lee Wickham DC FRCC

Lee Wickham DC FRCC

I'm a non spine-centric, non tissue-centric Chiropractor who is a 'Training Effect' and 'Neuroplasticity' advocate, who believes, degeneration is not inevitable and a wide variety of movement is healthy.

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A recent Scientific Report published by Nature looked into perceived stiffness of the spine and actual stiffness of the spine and found that when people feel as though their back is stiff it is a lack of sensory motor integration and not directly due to stiffness in the back. The prediction system of the brain uses multi sensory information to predict the movement parameters of our body. When multiple sensory inputs are not integrating then the parameters can be confining felt as a stiffness in the back. The ability to co-ordinate the sensory information of the body in the brain can result in a stiffness perception that is independent of actual stiffness.

The integration of multiple sensory signals, is what can be confused or muddled that result in back stiffness problems. When integration occurs it means that Sensation A and Sensation B are needed simultaneously to understand the body in the brain map of the body. When Sensation A occurs out of sync with Sensation B then the back can feel stiff but not actually be stiffer.

I like this paper because it may help people to step out beyond the ageing model of back problems, the lingering injury / degeneration models and the useless ‘out of place’ and ‘symmetrical’ models.

When the sensory motor experience of our body goes out of kilter we can become better at feeling changes in force generated by muscles having the knock on effect of heightening protection mechanisms because we are not expecting that much effort to move in a comparatively small way.

Regular (Annual or biannual) checks of your back by a Chiropractor is important whether you are in a sense of stiffness, or not. A Chiropractor can help to re-integrate the sensory motor experience of your body.

Nature Scientific Report 7: 9681 (August 2017)

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