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Trials. 2019 Jan 3;20(1):5. doi: 10.1186/s13063-018-3133-2.

Effect of chiropractic manipulative therapy on reaction time in special operations forces military personnel: a randomized controlled trial.

Author information

Palmer Center for Chiropractic Research, Palmer College of Chiropractic, 741 Brady St., Davenport, IA, 52803, USA.
Palmer Center for Chiropractic Research, Palmer College of Chiropractic, 741 Brady St., Davenport, IA, 52803, USA.
Department of Kinesiology and Health, 26E Phillips Hall, Miami University, Oxford, OH, 45056, USA.
Chiropractic Clinic, Blanchfield Army Community Hospital, 650 Joel Drive, Fort Campbell, KY, 42223-5349, USA.
Present Address: The Spine Institute for Quality (Spine IQ), Davenport, IA, USA.



Chiropractic manipulative therapy (CMT) has been shown to improve reaction time in some clinical studies. Slight changes in reaction time can be critical for military personnel, such as special operation forces (SOF). This trial was conducted to test whether CMT could lead to improved reaction and response time in combat-ready SOF-qualified personnel reporting little or no pain.


This prospective, randomized controlled trial was conducted at Blanchfield Army Community Hospital, Fort Campbell, KY, USA. Active-duty US military participants over the age of 19 years carrying an SOF designation were eligible. Participants were randomly allocated to CMT or wait-list control. One group received four CMT treatments while the other received no treatment within the 2-week trial period. Assessment included simple hand/foot reaction time, choice reaction time, and Fitts' Law and whole-body response time. On visits 1 and 5, the same five assessments were conducted immediately pre- and post-treatment for the CMT group and before and after a 10-min wait period for the wait-list group. Primary outcomes included between-group differences for the pre-CMT/wait-list period at visit 1 and visit 5 for each test. Secondary outcomes included between-group differences in immediate pre- and post-(within visit) changes. Analysis of covariance was used for all data analysis.


One hundred and seventy-five SOF-qualified personnel were screened for eligibility; 120 participants were enrolled, with 60 randomly allocated to each group. Due to technical problems resulting in inconsistent data collection, data from 77 participants were analyzed for simple hand/foot reaction time. The mean ± standard deviation (SD) age was 33.0 ± 5.6 years and all participants were male. No between-group statistically significant differences were found for any of the five biomechanical tests, except immediate pre- and post-changes in favor of the CMT group in whole-body response time at both assessment visits. There were four adverse events, none related to trial participation.


A single session of CMT was shown to have an immediate effect of reducing the time required for asymptomatic SOF qualified personnel to complete a complex whole-body motor response task. However, sustained reduction in reaction or response time from five tests compared with a wait-list control group was not observed following three sessions of CMT.

TRIAL REGISTRATION:, NCT02168153 . Registered on 12 June 2014.


Chiropractic; Military; Reaction time; Response time; Special Operations Forces; Spinal manipulative therapy

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