Chiropractic care for back pain, and neck pain has been around for decades. A new study shows that it may also be beneficial in helping a patient relax, or relieve stress. In order to understand the effects of the trial, it is important to understand certain functions of our nervous system. These two systems are always occurring in our bodies, without us having to think about it. They are known as the sympathetic nervous system, and the parasympathetic nervous system.
The sympathetic nervous system, also known as “fight or flight” is predominately firing when we are in a stressful situation, such as fighting, running from danger, or are in an overall stressed state. It is subconscious, and primitive. When we were once cavemen, and needed to be worried about being eaten by a bear, this system helped keep us alert and alive. Unfortunately, as we adapt away from running away from animals in fear of being eaten, the stress response has adapted to money stress, work stress, and life stress.
The parasympathetic nervous system, better known as “rest and digest” is up and running when we are more relaxed, and do not need to be on high alert to stay alive. It is called rest and digest, because the body needs to expend energy to digest the food we eat, and can’t have you burning energy worried about life, and digesting food at the same time. For many people, this can be part of the reason we feel tired after eating large meals.
So to recap, sympathetic is a more alert, stressed state, and parasympathetic is a more relaxed state. Both systems work in equilibrium at all times, keeping you in balance. Certain situations can cause either the sympathetic or parasympathetic to fire more dominantly. This can be the difference between being constantly stressed, or having the ability to relax.
The study set out to test some reactions of the body to spinal manipulation. It was performed on a group of 37 people in October of this year. Half of the group received a spinal manipulation (or the back cracking done by chiropractors), and the other half received a “fake” or sham spinal manipulation, prior to an athletic event. What they found was the group that received the spinal manipulation showed tendencies of having a higher parasympathetic response. In other words, they seemed to be more relaxed.
Now this is just one study, and there needs to be, and will be more evidence on the effects of spinal manipulation in the future. However, according to this study, it seems as though a chiropractic treatment can not only help patients with back pain, neck pain, or headaches, but it may also help us relax. I know most of the stressed people of Rochester, New York would love some natural relaxation. Especially with the winter looming so close.
A review of the study can be found at the link below.