National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) wants to expand man’s exploration of space. What they also want is a chiropractic opinion on how spaceflight will affect the spines of the astronauts.
In a release dated August 2, 2012, and published in several news outlets, the Foundation for Chiropractic Progress (F4CP) noted that NASA was addressing concerns about the heightened risk of musculoskeletal injuries threatening astronauts. To address these concerns, NASA conducted the Spinal Deconditioning Injury Risk Summit, in which chiropractic input was sought.
The F4CP release reported that “During the Summit, a multidisciplinary panel of experts addressed various issues including identifying impacting factors — such as microgravity exposure, flight weight and landing forces — and defining potential protection and prevention options. Going forward, NASA expects to develop and test new measures to counteract spinal deterioration in space crews, based on the panel’s recommendations.”
John Mayer, DC, PhD, a chiropractor from south Florida, participated on the panel and added input from a chiropractic perspective. He believes chiropractic represents advancement in prevention and protection protocols.
“Deconditioning — the breakdown of the spine’s musculoskeletal support system — is a very common and serious condition occurring in astronauts,” said Dr. Mayer, Lincoln College Endowed Chair in Biomechanical and Chiropractic Research, and associate professor, School of Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Sciences at USF Health. “It is crucial that NASA continues to aggregate data and develop strategies to mitigate this problem. More times than not, this initial breakdown leads to other debilitating health concerns, such as disc herniation — an ailment space crews are five times more at risk for than average individuals.”
“Possible options to enhance safety measures for astronauts can include everything from developing new equipment to altering spaceflight exercise procedures to new healthcare practices,” says Dr. Mayer. “The use of an effective specialized musculoskeletal care, like chiropractic, may ultimately prove to be effective in reducing the incidence of injuries for individuals exposed to a variety of physical demands, such as astronauts.”