Author's Note: As full-time practitioners in the Virginia suburbs of Washington, D.C., my partner and I are aware that our patients readily pick up on chiropractic press, both good and bad. Unfortunately, the "danger" of chiropractic cervical adjusting periodically becomes a hot topic. Invariably, the media coverage of this topic is sensationally emotion-rich and fact-poor. Introducing your patients and the general public to a bit of solid science related to the benefits of cervical adjusting is a much-needed public service. Please feel free to use the following article for your bulletin board, lay lectures or front-desk handouts.
Most people are aware of the value of chiropractic adjustments in hastening recovery from injuries involving pain or spasm in the muscles of the back or neck. It's important to understand, however, that the muscles involved in these painful injuries - skeletal muscles - are only one type of muscle in human anatomy. Another type of muscle - smooth muscle - lines every artery in your body. Like skeletal muscle, smooth muscle is influenced by spinal nerves. Just as vertebral misalignment or restriction (subluxation) can cause painful spasm in skeletal muscle, it's possible they also can cause tension in these smooth muscles. Tension in the smooth muscles lining your arteries can bring about elevated blood pressure or hypertension. Recent research indicates aggravation of hypertension by vertebral subluxation might be much more than just a theoretical possibility.
A research team organized by a University of Chicago professor randomly divided 50 hypertensive patients into experimental and control groups.1 Experimental patients were referred to a doctor of chiropractic for adjustment of subluxations in the upper cervical spine (upper neck). The control patients were placed on a chiropractic table, but the doctor's hand positioning was not designed to move the upper cervical vertebrae - a sham procedure. After 8 weeks, the experimental patients experienced an average decrease of 17 mm/Hg in their systolic blood pressure, while the control group had an insignificant average drop of 3 mm/Hg. The improvement in blood pressure in the experimental group is equivalent to that usually seen by prescribing two blood pressure medications simultaneously. While the experimental patients were checked once per week, most of them only needed to be adjusted once. Interestingly, there was one symptom absent in all of the patients studied - none of them had neck pain.
This study supports previous research indicating subluxation can elevate blood pressure and the chiropractic adjustment can help normalize it.2 These studies are of great interest, since hypertension is a risk factor for stroke. If additional research supports these findings, the implication is that chiropractic adjustments, and adjustments of the cervical spine in particular, may help prevent stroke.
- Bakris G, et al. Atlas vertebra realignment and achievement of arterial pressure goal in hypertensive patients: a pilot study. Journal of Human Hypertension, 2007;21:347-52.
- Masarsky CS, Cremata EE. Chiropractic care and the cardiovascular system. In: Masarsky CS, Todres-Masarsky M. Somatovisceral Aspects of Chiropractic: An Evidence-Based Approach. Neurological Fitness, 2008.
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