Sensorimotor integration is the ability of the central nervous system (CNS) to integrate afferent (incoming) information from different body parts and formulate appropriate motor outputs to muscles. Effective sensorimotor integration is essential when learning new skills and when performing tasks at home and in the workplace. Impaired sensorimotor integration may partially explain why people develop pain, why pain becomes chronic, and why workers frequently injure themselves in jobs with a high level of repetitive activity and/or postural stress.
We have proposed a model that assumes vertebral subluxations represent a state of altered afferent input which is responsible for ongoing maladaptive central plastic changes, that over time can lead to dysfunction, pain, injury and other symptoms. Thus, a potential mechanism which could explain how chiropractic adjustments improve function follows: Altered afferent feedback from a vertebral subluxation alters the afferent “milieu” into which subsequent afferent feedback from the spine and limbs is received and processed. This leads to altered sensorimotor integration of the afferent input, which is then normalised by high-velocity, low-amplitude adjustments of the vertebral subluxation. This theory is plausible considering that it is now well established that the human CNS retains its ability to adapt to its ever-changing environment, and that both increased and decreased afferent input leads to changes in CNS functioning.
Our research programme explores the basic science of the interaction between afferent input from the spine and limbs and contributes to a solid scientific foundation that underpins our understanding of the effects of chiropractic care on motor learning, performance enhancement as well playing a role in injury prevention.