It’s bedtime, and your reading lamp has failed to light. You replace the bulb. Still no light. Flick the switch a few times. Wiggle the bulb. It still won’t work. The lamp is clearly dead. You lift it from your nightstand to escort it to the trash can. It pulls away easily—too easily—and you realize, “It wasn’t plugged in!”
What would happen if parts of your body were not properly plugged into the nervous system that powers them? Doctors of chiropractic regularly ask this question when caring for patients. To understand how chiropractic care works and how it can positively influence your health, think of your chiropractor as the electrician for your body, and your spinal column as its circuit breaker
For spine-related pain, chiropractic care been shown to prevent the need for back surgery. It works as well or better than many pharmaceutical options and is highly cost-effective. Treatment typically feels wonderful and results in high levels of patient satisfaction. This article will introduce you to important studies that bring to light the impact chiropractic care has on other aspects of your health and wellness!
Reduction of High Blood Pressure
Placebo-controlled research published in the Journal of Human Hypertension demonstrates the effectiveness of chiropractic care with people suffering from high blood pressure. Compared to the patients receiving fake adjustments, those who had a real chiropractic adjustment saw an average 14 mm Hg greater drop in systolic blood pressure (the top number in a blood pressure count), and an average 8 mm Hg greater drop in diastolic blood pressure (the bottom blood pressure number). Both groups were not taking any blood pressure medication during the eight week study. (1)
Study leader George Bakris, M.D., director of the University of Chicago Hypertension Center, stated in an interview with WebMD, "This [chiropractic] procedure has the effect of not one, but two blood-pressure medications given in combination." He further noted, "…it seems to be adverse-event free. We saw no side effects and no problems." (2)
Stronger Immune Response
The results of an extensive review of the scientific literature regarding spinal adjustments (the primary procedure used by chiropractors) and the immune response was reported by Jack Neil of the Anglo-European College of Chiropractic at the 9th Chiropractic, Osteopathy, and Physiotherapy Conference in the United Kingdom. Neil’s review looked at all research up to 2012 and confirmed that spinal adjustments may lead to the reduction of chemicals associated with inflammation while increasing the number of antibodies that are part of the immune response. Spinal adjustments may also increase the number of leukocytes (white blood cells involved in defending the body against infectious disease and foreign matter) as well as positively affecting other immune system cells. (3)
Lower Stress Hormones
In a 2011 Japanese study, chiropractic spinal adjustments were found to have a direct effect on the autonomic nervous system (the part of your nervous that controls organs, blood vessels and glands).
Twelve men with neck pain were given PET scans (functional imaging that produces a 3-D view of the functional processes of the body) to evaluate the activities within the brain after chiropractic spinal adjustments. The areas of the brain that involve stress reactions and pain processing were shown to be altered. Additionally, salivary lab testing revealed that the subjects had significantly lower levels of the stress hormone, cortisol. (4)
Still unclear about the connections? Wondering how realigning spinal bones can have anything to do with stress, blood pressure or any other function within your body? If so, please read on.
The answer lies within the nervous system. Twenty-four bones make up the spinal column. Each of the segments connects by a moveable joint to the bone above and below. The top bone articulates with the skull, and the bottom one connects to the tailbone. The bones are much like a stack of doughnuts. Within the hole resides the protected spinal cord. The cord extends down from the brain. Electrical messages are transmitted to the cells of the body and back via the wire-like nerves, connected to the cord, that exit or enter from a small hole created when two spinal bones come together. The nervous system is the master control and communication system of the body. Its health is vital for overall health.
Misaligned spinal bones, called “vertebral subluxations” in chiropractic terms, often damage the exiting nerve and/or cord internally. The “short-circuited” nerve tissue is frequently unfelt, but is detected during chiropractic examination. Gentle, specific chiropractic adjustments are performed with the doctor’s hands or an instrument. The result is improved nerve flow to the organs, muscles, glands and other parts of the body. Lost function is restored. Symptoms diminish or vanish.
Do the above studies suggest that chiropractors treat high blood pressure, poor immune function or stress? Not exactly. Chiropractic focuses on correcting imbalances and not on treating the symptoms of disease. Treat the person. Create balance. Improve health and vitality. The disease will often disappear. If the issue stems from nerve interference caused by vertebral subluxation, only a chiropractic adjustment will solve the underlying problem.
Recognizing the importance of a clear bidirectional flow of electrical nerve impulses between the brain and body, you can appreciate greater comfort, function and levels of health. Blood pressure can be lowered, the effects of stress reduced and immunity enhanced. By viewing your own health with the same courtesy given to a table lamp, you don’t have to be left in the dark!
(1) Bakris G, Dickholtz M, Meyer PM, et al: "Atlas vertebra realignment and achievement of arterial pressure goal in hypertensive patients: a pilot study." Journal of Human Hypertension 2007:1‑6
(3) Neil J. Manipulative therapy and immune response: A literature review of the chiropractic and osteopathic evidence. Clinical Chiropractic 2012; 15(3): 186.
(4) gura, Takeshi and Manabu Tashiro, Mehedi,Shoichi Watanuki, Katsuhiko Shibuya, Keiichiro Yamaguchi, Masatoshi Itoh, Hiroshi Fukuda, Kazuhiko Yanai. Cerebral Metabolic Changes in Men After Chiropractic Spinal Manipulation for Neck Pain. Alternative Therapies. 2011, November/December; 17 (6): 12-17.