There was a time when chiropractors mostly relied on manual manipulation and not much else. But like most areas of health care, technology is making a positive impact and a growing number of chiropractic clinics are using surface electromyography (sEMG), a test used by professional athletes and Olympic champions that checks the health of the muscles and the nerves that control the muscles.
sEMG is based on electromyography, where the practitioner would insert an extremely thin needle electrode into the patient’s muscle. An electrode on the needle registered the electrical activity given off and displayed it on a monitor. That data provided information about the muscles’ ability to respond when the nerves were stimulated such as by contracting them.
sEMG is the non-invasive version for measuring a muscle’s electrical activity that occurs during muscle contraction and relaxation cycles. Instead of using a needle, electrodes are placed against the skin, such as those used in an EKG, which capture the signal generated by the muscle fibers. That data is amplified, converted to a digital signal, and then sent to a computer to be processed by a software program and then displayed.
Chiropractor Dr. Daniel Knowles notes, “You don’t have to be an astronaut or a world-class athlete to want your body operating efficiently. This technology will allow us to have a greater impact on the overall health of our community.”
The devices used for sEMG enables chiropractors to scan their patients’ spinal health. Specifically, the scans are able to accurately identify areas where interference may prevent the nervous system from operating properly. Once identified, chiropractic treatments are used to fix the nerve disruption. Improving the nervous system’s efficiency can result in more energy, better resistance to infectious diseases, and reduced pain. The technology enables chiropractors to analyze their patient’s condition more accurately and to more clearly explain a client’s condition to them. It also lets both doctor and patient track the treatment’s effectiveness.
An earlier version of sEMG technology was used in the NASA space program on two shuttle missions to evaluate the physical condition of the astronauts. The space agency and CLA were recently praised on Capitol Hill for introducing this technology to the general public.
Representative Nick Lampson of Texas observes, “Lost in the romanticism of space travel is NASA’s development of technologies that are changing – if not saving – lives.”
Researchers now believe using surface electromyography (sEMG) technology could result in the development of a reliable way to prevent lower back pain. It’s suspected poor muscle function is related to injury and damage to spinal structures resulting in low back pain because the muscles can no longer provide adequate support to spinal joints.
Dr. Ken Kamei, a researcher at RMIT University notes, “For many years, scientists and medical specialists have been exploring the use of sEMG to find clues to effectively and efficiently investigate differences between individuals suffering recurrent episodes of acute low back pain and those that don’t. We hope that our current work will allow us to investigate this. For the first time we have found which simple static postures and electrode placements may be confidently used to investigate the discriminative power of sEMG between non-low back pain and mechanical low back pain groups.”
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