A little more information on NIP – dysafferentation

The Neuroimpulse Protocol (NIP) is one of many chiropractic techniques. We know that some of the concepts of functional neurology related NIP chiropractic are new to many people so we’d like to explain them in a little more detail.

One of the central concepts in NIP is “dysafferentation”. [dys = bad or faulty, afferent = input to the central nervous system, ation = an action or process]. So let’s have a look at that first. Your central nervous system is made up of your brain and spinal cord. All the other parts of your body are constantly sending information to your brain and spinal cord related to 1) their position and motion and 2) whether or not they are suffering any kind of damage or irritation.

As long as your body is moving normally and the tissues are not under abnormal strain or suffering any kind of damage, the information being sent to your central nervous system will be the wonderfully nourishing, enlivening and health promoting movement information known as “mechanoreception” (mechano as in mechanical, so touch, pressure, stretch etc; reception as in receiving of information). If, on the other hand, there are joints that are not moving correctly, muscles that are too tight or too lax, or any tissue that is undergoing any kind of damage or irritation, the information being received by your central nervous system will be the detrimental, pain producing and energy sapping tissue stress signals known as “nociception” ('noci' comes from the Latin 'Nocere' which means to injure or damage).

The balance of these types of information should be heavily in favour of mechanoreception (movement information). If the balance begins to shift in favour of nociception (damage information), the result may be further muscle tightness or weakness and loss of normal joint motion placing you at an increased risk of aches and pains etc.

"Dysafferentation" then is simply the word used to describe this change in input to your central nervous system where there is reduced movement information and increased damage information. 

During your chiropractic examination we measure the output from your brain (known as 'efferent' output). We do this by measuring movement patterns of spinal and other related joints, testing the strength of certain muscles, the quality of certain reflexes and by looking at your posture. That detailed examination allows us to identify which part of your body is causing the altered afferent input (or “dysafferentation”) with the aim of restoring normal input through the adjustment.

And a little bit more information – the dura

Almost every structure in your body is capable of generating nociceptive afferent input and therefore dysafferentation. That’s why it’s possible for us to ache in so many different places! There are however some structures that have a particularly significant input to the central nervous system. One of these is the dura mater, or 'dura'. The dura is a tough protective covering around your brain and spinal cord. The outer layer is attached to the inside of the skull and to various points in the spine – particularly the top and bottom of the spine. That means that if a person has a loss of the normal motion at the top or bottom of their spine or between the bones of their skull this can create a pull on the dura resulting in what is known as “dural tension”. When this is added to the effects of increased stress signals (nociception) from the joints, this further overloads the central nervous system and leads to even greater dysafferentation! It is for this reason that an NIP assessment always starts with an examination of the upper neck – because this part of the spine has such an effect on dural tension.

And one last little bit – layering

Another concept important to the process of NIP is that of layering. This will explain why we tend to recommend a course of adjustments and then a review. Dysafferentation, the inability of the cortex to match the incoming information with an appropriate output, appears to occur in layers – just like the skins of an onion. It is not possible to get to the deeper layers until the outer layers have been peeled away. Sometimes the layers are very close together and this may result in you needing more than one adjustment at a single appointment. At other times the layers are more widely spread and you may not need to be adjusted for a period of time. We aim to tailor our recommendation for how many visits and how frequently you need them to you as an individual.

So there you have it, an introduction to the exciting science of NIP. If you have any questions about any of the concepts discussed here please don’t hesitate to give us a call and ask one of the chiropractors.