Can SMT enhance reaction time? An interesting research question indeed…
Special operation forces (SOF) are required to maintain high levels of fitness and reaction time in order to respond to diverse and potentially life-threatening situations, both in training and real-world environments. Efficient, high-level neurological function and the ability to integrate sensory information for coordinated motor responses are necessary components of maintaining combat readiness. Theoretically, any dysfunction in the neurological system could lead to delayed reaction/response time, even if it does not result in clinical or observable symptoms.
Spinal manipulation may impart some of its therapeutic benefit through spinal and cortical responses in the central nervous system. Spinal manipulation (SM) has been demonstrated to cause plastic changes in sensorimotor integration, particularly within the prefrontal cortex, and appears to alter the net excitability of low-threshold motor units, increase cortical drive and prevent fatigue. Studies have also demonstrated improved reaction time, movement time, motor control and muscular strength following spinal manipulation (references in the Review). While these studies demonstrated short-term improvement, it is unknown if performance can be optimized in a pain-free population with a high level of baseline motor control and coordination skills. It is also unknown if multiple applications of SM have a cumulative effect or long-term changes. If this is possible, optimizing reaction and response times in SOF military personnel may be able to improve coordination, instantaneous decision-making and overall performance.
The aim of this randomized controlled trial was to determine whether chiropractic manipulative therapy (CMT) can lead to improved reaction and response time in combat-ready SOF personnel with little or no pain.…LOG IN OR SUBSCRIBE TO ACCES THIS REVIEW!
reaction time
THIS WEEK'S RESEARCH REVIEW: “Effect of SMT on Reaction Time in Military Personnel – RCT”
This paper was published in BMC Trials (2019) and this Review is posted in Recent Reviews, Cervical & Lumbar Spine - Manipulation/Mobilization, Spinal Manipulation - Mechanism of Effect and the 2019 Archive.
"Although this study did not demonstrate statistically significant differences in reaction or response time over a short trial period, this was the first study to explore these variables in healthy, pain-free SOF personnel.  Although previous studies have demonstrated improvements in neurological variables following CMT, it must be noted that the population in the current study was exceptionally trained, so it is likely their neuromuscular systems were already functioning optimally (or at least at a better level than average, non-trained people!)."

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