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Dynamic Chiropractic – March 26, 2006, Vol. 24, Issue 07

Attitude Adjustment

By Charles Masarsky, DC, FICC
Author's note: Each patient education article in this column details research documented in Somatovisceral Aspects of Chiropractic: An Evidence-Based Approach, co-edited by Marion Todres-Masarsky, DC.

As full-time practitioners in the Northern Virginia suburbs of Washington, D.C., my partner and I find it amazing how many of our fellow citizens have been diagnosed with "chemical imbalances" for which they require psychoactive drugs.

In the case of anti-anxiety drugs, some of the side-effects are not really side-effects at all, but direct results of the primary effects on the central nervous system, including lightheadedness, drowsiness and confusion. Clearly, it is possible for an anti-anxiety drug to make someone too calm. It could be argued that driving with so many of our fellow motorists on these medications is giving the rest of us anxiety!

The following patient education article addresses some recent research in this area. Please feel free to use it on your bulletin board, for lay lectures, and for your practice newsletter.

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A doctor of chiropractic in Idaho recently published the case of a 19-year-old woman with a two-year history of anxiety disorder.1 During this time, she suffered two anxiety attacks, sufficiently severe to warrant emergency room visits. Counseling and anti-anxiety medications failed to afford relief. At the time she began chiropractic care, trembling, heart palpitations and dizziness accompanied her anxiety attacks. She also suffered from severe headaches. On her first visit, she rated both her anxiety symptoms and her headaches a "10" on a 1-10 scale, with 10 representing the most severe symptom level.

The doctor of chiropractic found evidence of misalignment or restriction (subluxation) at several levels of this patient's spine. Two days after a single chiropractic adjustment, the patient's anxiety levels dropped from 10 to 5, while headache pain dropped from 10 to 7. The report goes on to document four more months of chiropractic care. During the last two months of care, the patient's anxiety symptoms never went above 5 and headache pain never went above 4, with most days reported between 2 and 3 for both problems.

This is not the first such report in the chiropractic literature. At least three other papers have demonstrated a reduction in anxiety symptoms under chiropractic care.2-4 In 1992, a study linking X-ray evidence of subluxation to several anxiety-related personality profiles was published.5 In fact, during the first half of the 20th century, patients with anxiety and many other mental health problems obtained substantial relief at several chiropractic psychiatric hospitals.6,7

Of course, it would be irresponsible to propose that chiropractic adjustments or any other alternative should replace medical or psychological intervention for patients with anxiety disorder. Nevertheless, the small but growing body of evidence in this area, coupled with the excellent safety record of the chiropractic adjustment compared to the safety of anti-anxiety drugs, suggest there is little to be lost and much to be gained by including chiropractic care in the anxiety patient's overall regimen.

Even people with no mental health problems frequently find themselves anxious, angry or depressed in response to the stresses of everyday life. Several studies have demonstrated that chiropractic care can help such basically healthy people attain an improved sense of emotional well-being.8 In this sense, a chiropractic adjustment can be a first step toward an "attitude adjustment."

When those around you are in a good state of mind, they are much more pleasant to be around. This is one of the "selfish" reasons to refer friends, co-workers and family members to chiropractic care.


  1. Behrendt M, Olsen N. The impact of subluxation correction on mental health: reduction of anxiety in a female patient under chiropractic care. J of Vertebral Subluxation Res 2004:1-10.
  2. Sullivan EC. The chiropractic management of anxiety: a case report. ACA J Chiro 1992;29:29.
  3. Potthoff S, Penwell R, Wolf J. Panic attacks and the chiropractic adjustment: a case report. ACA J Chiro 1993;30:26.
  4. Peterson KB. The effects of spinal manipulation on the intensity of emotional arousal in phobic subjects exposed to a threat stimulus: a randomized, controlled, double-blind clinical trial. J Manipulative Physiol Ther 1997;20:602.
  5. Koren T, Rosenwinkel E. Spinal patterns as predictors of personality profiles: a pilot study. Int J Psychom 1992;39:10.
  6. Schwartz HS. Mental Health and Chiropractic. Sessions Publishers, New York, 1973.
  7. Todres-Masarsky M, Masarsky CS, Langhans E. The Somatovisceral Interface: Further Evidence. In: Masarsky CS, Todres-Masarsky M (editors): Somatovisceral Aspects of Chiropractic: An Evidence-Based Approach. Churchill Livingstone, New York, 2001.
  8. Hawk C. Patient-Based Outcomes Assessment: "Pencil-and-Paper" Instruments. In: Masarsky CS, Todres-Masarsky M (editors): Somatovisceral Aspects of Chiropractic: An Evidence-Based Approach. Churchill Livingstone, New York, 2001.

Click here for previous articles by Charles Masarsky, DC, FICC.

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