Chiropractic Care and Mental Health

Chiropractic Care and Mental Health gives to a recent survey of 34,000 people in the United States, almost 70% of them who had received chiropractic care reported that it improved their health and made them feel better. Chiropractic adjustments change a part of the brain called the prefrontal cortex.

Anxiety and Depression

The two most common mental health disorders are anxiety and depression. Mental health disorders can affect people’s daily lives and make everyday things such as sleeping, eating, working, socializing, or looking after your family really difficult.

Healing and Calming

Chiropractic care has been shown to enhance the healing and calming parasympathetic nervous system and to change processing within the prefrontal cortex. This may be why thousands of people who see chiropractors report that it helps them to relax, to feel less stressed, and why they just feel better.

 

Did you know that many people who receive chiropractic care report that it helps with much more than just reducing pain? According to a large recent survey of almost 35 thousand people in the United States, almost 70% of them who had received chiropractic care reported that chiropractic care improved their overall health and made them feel better1. And over 40% of them also reported that chiropractic care improved their sleep, helped them to reduce their stress, or helped them to relax1.

This is very interesting, considering the amount of stress globally and the rising problem of mental health disorders. Mental health disorders, such as anxiety and depression, are a global issue and have been increasing at concerning rates over the last few decades2,3. In 2017 it was estimated that almost 800 million people lived with a mental health disorder worldwide and depression is considered by the World Health Organisation to be one of the leading causes of disability in the world2,4.

You may be suffering from a mental health disorder yourself, or have in the past, or have a loved one or friend that is struggling with it now. Let’s explore what is known about mental health disorders and how chiropractic care may help.

The two most common mental health disorders are anxiety and depression2,5. Mental health disorders can affect people’s daily lives and make everyday things such as sleeping, eating, working, socializing, or looking after your family really difficult4, 6. Some people experience such severe anxiety, depression, or other mental health issues that they can’t even leave their own homes.

Because mental health disorders can be caused by so many things and are different for each person, they can be very difficult to treat. Often doctors will prescribe a combination of medication, counseling or psychological therapy, and self-care strategies like exercise, getting more quality sleep, and meditation6,7 all of which are known to help some people.

But have you ever considered trying chiropractic care? You may be wondering how an adjustment to your spine can help with mental health problems? Well, over the past twenty years scientists have been exploring how chiropractic care affects a person’s nervous system and they have found that chiropractic care undoubtedly changes the brain9,10. And in particular chiropractic adjustments change a part of the brain called the pre-frontal cortex11. The prefrontal cortex is an area of the brain that is heavily involved in emotional control, and it influences our behaviors by dampening what is called the brain’s limbic system12.  Now the brain’s limbic system is your emotional brain, your threat detector is there and it’s always on high alert looking for dangers. And the prefrontal cortex calms down that limbic brain.

People with anxiety and depression have been found to have an over-active limbic system13 and a low- functioning pre-frontal cortex12. This is probably due to chronic stress because chronic stress shuts down the prefrontal cortex and boosts the limbic brain responses.

Chronic stress like this usually results in an imbalance between our fight and flight autonomic nervous system, called the sympathetic nervous system, and the healing and calming autonomic nervous system called the parasympathetic nervous system14. We know that people who suffer from depression and anxiety and other mental health disorders have an imbalance in their autonomic nervous system with a heightened fight and flight stress response, and a shutdown healing and calming the parasympathetic nervous system. So, they end up with high levels of adrenaline and stress hormones circulating through their system.

This is why we think chiropractic care can help because chiropractic care has been shown to enhance the healing and calming parasympathetic nervous system. And to change processing within the prefrontal cortex. This may be why so many thousands of people who see chiropractors reports that it helps them to relax, to feel less stressed and why they just feel better. And this makes sense because the prefrontal cortex is known to balance the autonomic nervous system and to calm down that limbic brain. So, this is most likely why so many people experienced improvements under chiropractic care who suffer from anxiety and depression 17-19.

So, let’s take a look at one of these research studies exploring whether chiropractic care may help some people with mental health problems.

There isn’t yet a whole lot of research available that examines the effects of chiropractic care, or other manual therapies for anxiety or depressive disorders, or other mental health disorders. However, the research that does exist is promising and it’s growing.  One study published in 201620 by a group of researchers in Spain looked at the effects of two different forms of manual therapy on the symptoms of anxiety and depression in people with tension-type headaches. In this study 84 people were split into two groups, one group only received soft tissue massage of the base of their skull only, and another group received adjustments to their upper neck. The participants received this care for 4 weeks.  And the researchers reported that the group that received the adjustments to the upper neck had the greatest improvement in their anxiety and depression symptoms.

Now this study was not specifically looking at the effects of chiropractic adjustments but looked at the effects of spinal manipulation or neck manipulation which is something that chiropractors are highly trained to be able to do safely and effectively. Therefore, this study provides some evidence that chiropractic care may be beneficial for people suffering from anxiety or depression. Obviously, we need more research to know for sure whether chiropractic care can help people with the different kinds of mental health disorders and to better understand why so many thousands of people who do see chiropractors feel better, relax more, and feel less stressed when under chiropractic care.1 So if you, or someone you know, is suffering from anxiety, depression, or other mental health disorders why not visit your family chiropractor to see if chiropractic can help you feel better too.




References

  1. Adams, J., Peng, W., Cramer, H., Sundberg, T., Moore, C., Amorin-Woods, L., … & Lauche, R. (2017). The prevalence, patterns, and predictors of chiropractic use among US adults. Spine, 42(23), 1810-1816.
  2. Dattani, S., Ritchie, H., Roser, H (2021) Mental Health. Published online at OurWorldInData.org. Retrieved from https://ourworldindata.org/mental-health
  3. GBD 2017 Disease and Injury Incidence and Prevalence Collaborators. (2018). Global, regional, and national incidence, prevalence, and years lived with disability for 354 diseases and injuries for 195 countries and territories, 1990–2017: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2017. The Lancet. DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(18)32279-7
  4. World Health Organisation. (2019). Mental Disorders. Published online at www.who.int. Retreived from https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/mental-disorders
  5. Martin P. (2003). The epidemiology of anxiety disorders: a review. Dialogues in clinical neuroscience, 5(3), 281–298. https://doi.org/10.31887/DCNS.2003.5.3/pmartin
  6. Bandelow B, Michaelis S. Epidemiology of anxiety disorders in the 21st century. Dialogues Clin Neurosci. 2015;17(3):327-335. doi:10.31887/DCNS.2015.17.3/bandelow
  7. Bandelow, B., Michaelis, S., & Wedekind, D. (2017). Treatment of anxiety disorders. Dialogues in clinical neuroscience, 19(2), 93.
  8. Baldwin, R., & Wild, R. (2004). Management of depression in later life. Advances in psychiatric treatment, 10(2), 131-139.
  9. Haavik, H., Kumari, N., Holt, K., Niazi, I. K., Amjad, I., Pujari, A. N., … & Murphy, B. (2021). The contemporary model of vertebral column joint dysfunction and impact of high-velocity, low-amplitude controlled vertebral thrusts on neuromuscular function. European Journal of Applied Physiology, 1-46.
  10. Haavik, H., Kumari, N., Holt, K., Niazi, I. K., Amjad, I., Pujari, A. N., … & Murphy, B. (2021). The contemporary model of vertebral column joint dysfunction and impact of high-velocity, low-amplitude controlled vertebral thrusts on neuromuscular function. European Journal of Applied Physiology, 1-46.
  11. Lelic, D., Niazi, I. K., Holt, K., Jochumsen, M., Dremstrup, K., Yielder, P., … & Haavik, H. (2016). Manipulation of dysfunctional spinal joints affects sensorimotor integration in the prefrontal cortex: a brain source localization study. Neural plasticity, 2016.
  12. Del Arco, A., & Mora, F. (2009). Neurotransmitters and prefrontal cortex–limbic system interactions: implications for plasticity and psychiatric disorders. Journal of neural transmission, 116(8), 941-952.
  13. Mayberg, H. S. (1997). Limbic-cortical dysregulation: a proposed model of depression. The Journal of neuropsychiatry and clinical neurosciences.
  14. Jochum T, Hoyme J, Schulz S, Weißenfels M, Voss A, Bär KJ. Diverse autonomic regulation of pupillary function and the cardiovascular system during alcohol withdrawal. Drug Alcohol Depend. 2016 Feb 1;159:142-51. doi: 10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2015.12.030. Epub 2016 Jan 4. PMID: 26790823.
  15. Rottenberg J. Cardiac vagal control in depression: a critical analysis. Biol Psychol. 2007 Feb;74(2):200-11. doi: 10.1016/j.biopsycho.2005.08.010. Epub 2006 Oct 12. PMID: 17045728.
  16. Yoo, S. J., Ryu, S., Kim, S., Han, H. S., & Moon, C. (2017). Reference module in neuroscience and biobehavioral psychology.
  17. Kiani, A. K., Maltese, P. E., Dautaj, A., Paolacci, S., Kurti, D., Picotti, P. M., & Bertelli, M. (2020). Neurobiological basis of chiropractic manipulative treatment of the spine in the care of major depression. Acta bio-medica : Atenei Parmensis, 91(13-S), e2020006. https://doi.org/10.23750/abm.v91i13-S.10536
  18. Welch A, Boone R. Sympathetic and parasympathetic responses to specific diversified adjustments to chiropractic vertebral subluxations of the cervical and thoracic spine. J Chiropr Med. 2008 Sep;7(3):86-93. doi: 10.1016/j.jcm.2008.04.001. PMID: 19646369; PMCID: PMC2686395.
  19. Budgell, B. S. (2000). Reflex effects of subluxation: the autonomic nervous system. Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics, 23(2), 104-106.
  20. Espí-López, G. V., López-Bueno, L., Vicente-Herrero, M. T., Martinez-Arnau, F. M., & Monzani, L. (2016). Efficacy of manual therapy on anxiety and depression in patients with tension-type headache. A randomized controlled clinical trial. International Journal of Osteopathic Medicine, 22, 11-20.
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