I find it rather entertaining the variety of responses I receive when people ask me what my occupation is. As a chiropractor, I get anything from people grabbing their neck or back, or sharing with me how bad they need an adjustment, or nodding with a glaze while recalling the frightening story their Aunt Sally told about going to a chiropractor 75 years ago behind the hidden back alley. There has been quite a transformation of the perception of chiropractic over the last century, although some of the core philosophies that chiropractic was founded on have grown and been proven through scientific research and technology. In fact, this research and technology show that chiropractic goes well beyond neck and back pain.
Innate Intelligence Communicates Through Your Nervous System
As long as you are alive, you have an inborn innate intelligence that regulates all processes in your body (i.e. regulating your blood pressure, balancing your hormones, secreting the right balance of digestive enzymes after you have eaten a meal just to name a few of the millions of functions), along with providing your body the ability to heal on it’s own. Much of the communication of this innate intelligence is carried out through your nervous system. Messages about what’s happening in your body are being sent up your spinal cord to your brain, where these messages are evaluated. When your brain perceives a change or correction is necessary, messages are sent back down the spinal cord to that part of your body. What happens if these messages are not being communicated clearly between your body and your brain? A computer programmer may refer to this as “Garbage in, garbage out”. If this goes on long enough you may start to manifest different symptoms—digestive disturbances, a weak and vulnerable immune system, hormone imbalances, fatigue, aches and pains, difficulty sleeping, difficulty concentrating and staying focused, and headaches are some of the more common problems we see walk through our office door.
Chiropractic and Your Nervous System
Why did I get sick and other people at work or home didn’t get sick? What caused this back pain, neck pain and headaches that keep me from enjoying life? These are the types of questions I hear many patients pose to me while searching for an explanation to their unexplained health challenge. Chiropractic doctors will typically first look at your nervous system to see how clearly and uninterrupted the messages are being sent between your brain and body. Technological advances allow us to measure these neurological processes going on in your body through infrared thermal imaging along with measuring the electrical activity of the muscles surrounding your spine. Heart rate variability (HRV) is another advanced reading that we measure to assess the overall balance and tone of your autonomic nervous system, the part of your nervous system that controls your organs, glands and circulation. Lower HRV is associated with increased risk of developing chronic disease such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer and is indicative of a poorer prognosis or outcome if these chronic diseases are already present.1,2 Chiropractic adjustments have been shown to increase or improve your HRV.3 Having these objective measurements available also provides a great way to track progress over time.
How Stress Affects Your Nervous System
So what causes these interferences and imbalances in the nervous system? During the dawn of chiropractic, stress was referred to as the “three T’s—thoughts, trauma and toxicity”. Today these are known as emotional/mental stress, physical stress and environmental stress. We have further divided each of these stresses into healthy (eustress) and unhealthy (distress). For example, when we are assessing mental and emotional stress, happiness and joy can be considered healthy stress, while anger and fear can be considered unhealthy stress. As we encounter more unhealthy stress compared to healthy stress in our life, our nervous system is unable to effectively and efficiently process this stress, leading to interference and imbalance. In addition to providing chiropractic adjustments to the nervous system, chiropractors will often work with patients on various lifestyle management strategies to help prevent this build up of negative stress in the body. Some of the drug-free strategies commonly used include nutritional counseling and supplementation, proper sleep habits, developing a healthy exercise program and effective ways to manage mental and emotional stress.
This safe, effective, drug-free approach to health and wellness is not focused on treating disease and illness, rather, the main direction is aimed at providing the body what it needs to heal and regulate on its own, as well as removing those obstacles that hinder the body from being able to do what it was meant to do—flourish and reach it’s optimal potential.
1. De Souza, Naiara Maria; Vanderlei, Luiz Carlos M.; Garner, David M. (2 January 2015). “Risk evaluation of diabetes mellitus by relation of chaotic globals to HRV”. Complexity 20 (3): 84–92.
2. Mani, AR; Montagnese, S; Jackson, CD; Jenkins, CW; Head, IM; Stephens, RC; Moore, KP; Morgan, MY (February 2009). “Decreased heart rate variability in patients with cirrhosis relates to the presence and degree of hepatic encephalopathy.”. American journal of physiology. Gastrointestinal and liver physiology 296 (2): G330–8.
3. Effect of chiropractic care on heart rate variability and pain in a multisite clinical study. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16690380