The Weight of a Dime

The Weight of a Dime

Enough to stop a nerve from working.

In 1975, Seth Sharpless, a neuropsychologist at the University of Colorado discovered that the weight of a dime (10mm Hg) at the spinal nerve root was enough to drastically alter nerve function.  According to the report:

“A pressure of only 10 mm Hg produced a significant conduction block, the potential falling to 60% of its initial value in 15 minutes, and to half of its initial value in 30 minutes. After such a small compressive force is removed, nearly complete recovery occurs in 15 to 30 minutes. With higher levels of pressure, we have observed incomplete recovery after many hours of recording.” (1,2)

I want you to take a moment to think about what a small amount of pressure this is that could cause so much adversity.  Imagine you are sitting down and you place a dime on your lap.  Would you even notice it?  Your clothing probably creates more pressure.  At the spine, this amount of pressure is devastating.

Why is the nerve root vulnerable?

The slightest misalignment can create pressure on your nerve root.   The nerve root is vulnerable because:

  1. It exits through the narrow opening (foramen) between two vertebrae and adjacent to the disc.
  2. It has lacks a protective sheath (epineurium or perineurium).
  3. Each nerve root has only one artery, and if circulation is blocked, the nerve stops working properly.

Now take a minute to think about what it would be like to lose 60 peercent of your nerve activity.   What if you were holding your child’s hand and it was 60 percent numb? Would you notice?  Maybe, maybe not.  Normally our medical system won’t even acknowledge a nerve problem until you have declined to the point of severe weakness or disabilty, such as with a disc herneation.  Chiropractic is different.  Our science is to optimize the function of the nerves now, while it is reversible, before it becomes permanent.

One year ago we started using grip strength as an objective measurement for our patients.  Remarkably, we are noticing that some of our patients are increasing their grip strength by 10% or more after every 12 visits.  Most noteworty, not one of these guests reported having weakness when they began care, and yet there was a latent reduction in strength with all of them that improved while under chiropractic care.

  1. Kent, Christopher: Nerve Compression Physiology (contains further references)