Date: 16th July 2012
Chiropractic May Reduce Deaths And Injuries From Falls Among Older People Say NZ Researchers
Chiropractic care for older people may reduce deaths and injuries from falls according to researchers taking part in a
study by Auckland University and the Chiropractic Research Centre (CRC) at the New Zealand College of Chiropractic on
the neurophysiological effects of chiropractic on the brain.
According to chiropractor, PhD candidate and principal investigator of the study Dr Kelly Holt, falls often occur due to
a decline in nervous system function with advancing age. This can lead to a loss of balance, or poor control of the
limbs, which dramatically increases the risk of falling.
Dr Holt says: `Already it is estimated that in New Zealand slips, trips and falls cost almost $300 million per year in
treatment and rehabilitation costs and as the population ages this will likely get worse.’ He says that ‘falls result in
approximately 450 deaths per year in New Zealand and for older adults in particular, a fall can lead to a downward
spiral that involves a loss of confidence, a cessation of day to day activities and eventually increased frailty and
There is no doubt that falls are a major health concern for older adults. They are a significant cause of death, injury
and loss of quality of life. In people over the age of 65, falls account for over 80% of injury related hospital
admissions and they are the leading cause of unintentional injury related death in older adults in New Zealand.
Dr Holt explains: `In the past ten years researchers at the New Zealand College of Chiropractic have objectively
demonstrated that chiropractic adjustments can change aspects of nervous system function including the way the brain
controls muscles, responds to sensory stimuli and controls limb function which are all important when it comes to
Earlier this year Dr Holt published a review of The Effects of Manual Therapy on Balance and Falls in the Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics. This study found that although a number of studies
had found statistical links between manual therapies and an improvement in balance there was a need for more research to
better understand the clinical implications.
He says: `This latest New Zealand study will investigate the relationship between chiropractic care and components of
the nervous system important for maintaining balance and preventing falls in older adults. To study this relationship
the researchers will follow and assess two groups of older participants at regular intervals over a 12 week period. One
group will be under regular chiropractic care for 12 weeks and the other group will receive no chiropractic care during
the study but will be offered the programme at the completion of the study. Besides tracking changes in nervous system
function the study will also monitor the participant’s quality of life.’
Dr Heidi Haavik, the Director of Research at the New Zealand College of Chiropractic adds: `We have been looking at the
effects of chiropractic on the function of the nervous system for the last decade. This latest collaboration between the
College and the University of Auckland is part of Dr Holt’s PhD research for which he is receiving a Senior Health
Research Doctoral Scholarship, one of only three awarded by the University each year.’
`We hope that by better understanding the impact of chiropractic care on this group of patients we may be able to
improve the way we care for older people and reduce their risk of falling.’
For further information on the New Zealand Chiropractors’ Association visit www.chiropractic.org.nz.
Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics March/April 2012, Holt et alManual Therapy, Falls and Balance