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Chiropractic Care

Quick start tips for a Healthy Spine

What do Tom Brady, Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods, and Michael Phelps all have in common? Besides being A-list professional athletes who have distinguished themselves as the best in their respective fields, they all seek routine chiropractic care.

And they are not alone. From hockey to gymnastics to swimming, chiropractors serve on the medical staff of nearly every professional and Olympic-class sports team.

You might be thinking, “That’s great, but I’m not a professional athlete. I don’t have the wear and tear of being tossed around a field.” And, this might be true.

However, these athletes would likely tell you that the benefits of building a relationship with a chiropractor extend well beyond the musculoskeletal system.

The successful treatment of a sore back or a tweaked neck is just the tip of the iceberg for regular chiropractic adjustments.

Most people are surprised to learn that chiropractic care addresses many problems, from poor sleep to anxiety to sexual dysfunction. But, perhaps most importantly, chiropractic care can have a significant impact on cardiovascular health.

Yes, regular chiropractic care can help you achieve your 100 Year Heart!

In addition to addressing current symptoms such as heart palpitations and high blood pressure, regular visits with your chiropractor can help prevent more serious cardiac events, such as heart attacks and strokes.

Can a chiropractor heal my health woes?

Did you know that your chiropractor can’t heal you? Neither can any other health practitioner! While it’s common to seek answers from medical professionals during a health crisis, it’s time to shift the thinking. A chiropractor can’t “fix” you.

But don’t worry, there’s good news! You are not broken. You don’t need fixing. Your body has the incredible ability to heal itself.

Chiropractic aims to assist your body’s innate intelligence — a pearl of wisdom that we were all born with. Our bodies seek balance and health. Given the right conditions, we can achieve it.

Unfortunately, in this current day and age, the body’s innate wisdom is often drowned out by poor diet, toxins, lack of sleep, stress, and poor body mechanics.

As such, chronic health issues are skyrocketing. Unfortunately, many seek quick relief through dangerous medications rife with side effects. In turn, the body’s wisdom is silenced. The result? Illness.

A chiropractor can help awaken health by opening up the necessary channels for healing. Much like a plumber who discovers a clog in the middle of a pipe resulting in poor water flow, a chiropractor finds blocked nerves in the back. By addressing these restrictions in the spine, the proper pathways open, and the body can heal itself.

In this guide, we’ll talk about the role of chiropractic care on the nervous system, how getting adjusted can protect your heart and body, and ways to find a reputable chiropractor near you.

The incredible nervous system

To fully appreciate the work of a chiropractor, one must have a basic understanding of the nervous system. As the body’s communication center, the nervous system includes the brain, the spinal cord, and an extensive network of nerves. The brain and spinal cord comprise the central nervous system (CNS), while the remaining nerves make up the peripheral nervous system (PNS).

Much like your home’s wires, these nerves send and receive electrical and chemical signals throughout the body. The nervous system helps us walk, digest our food, feel emotions, and even breathe. The nervous system is further divided into two parts.

The somatic nervous system is the voluntary nerve system under our control. For example, it tells us to pull our hands away from a hot stove. Conversely, the autonomic nervous system controls bodily functions without our thought. It’s the system that regulates heart rate, breathing, and digestion.

The nerves in the human body are dynamic and ready to respond to any potential threats. For example, if a small child begins to run towards a busy street, the sympathetic nervous system kicks in, alerting us to danger. As a result, pupils dilate, the heart rate accelerates, and blood shunts to the extremities, preparing us to run.

However, the parasympathetic nervous system returns the body to a calm and composed state when the danger has passed. Subsequently, the heart rate and breathing slow, blood returns to the stomach, and pupils normalize.

Subluxations: a kink in the hose

The nerves flow from the brain down the back, enclosed in the spinal cord and protected by the hard bones of the spinal column, also called vertebrae. Pairs of nerves exit the vertebrae at each level of the spine. The nerves must have sufficient room between each spinal bone to exit properly.

normal vertebrae
subluxated

Misaligned vertebrae stress the spinal nerves, surrounding blood vessels, and muscles. Compression of these nerve roots can cause pain, numbness, tingling, and interference. For example, compression of the nerves between any upper thoracic vertebrae can cause problems with the arms, heart, lungs, and throat.

A variety of factors can cause vertebrae to move out of alignment, which a chiropractor refers to as a subluxation. Subluxations can result from significant trauma such as a fall, a car accident, or a sports injury.

However, they can also occur due to repeated minor offenses, such as sitting for long periods, poor posture, sleeping habits, and stress. In fact, many infants get subluxations simply by coming through the birth canal.

Prolonged physical nerve stress creates stress for the entire body. As the brain-body signaling is impeded, the stress hormone cortisol is released. While small amounts of cortisol in the body are beneficial, excess release of the hormone leads to narrowing of the arteries, digestive problems, decreased immunity, weight gain, and fatigue.

The chiropractor’s goal is to locate these spinal restrictions and return the vertebrae to their proper alignment. Then, by mobilizing the spine through a manual adjustment, the body can heal and maintain homeostasis.

Chiropractic: a holistic model of health

Our current medical model often treats body systems in isolation. For example, individuals with a rash often make an appointment to see their dermatologist, who likely will prescribe medication or cream. While the remedy may temporarily alleviate the inflammation, it begs the question: Was the root cause of the illness addressed?

What if the dermatologist consulted with a gastrointestinal doctor to determine that the rash resulted from poor gut health? Sadly, we often put bandaids on medical problems instead of addressing the body as a whole.

Chiropractors, on the other hand, treat the body holistically. For example, while poor body mechanics could cause lower back pain, it could also point to digestive woes. After all, the nerves that control digestion are connected to the spine in the lower back.

Impaired digestion leads to numerous health issues such as fatigue, skin disorders, and even cardiac problems. By addressing the root cause of the pain, a chiropractor can help your body heal in ways beyond symptom management.

The heart of chiropractic care

Individuals with heart disease — or those trying to prevent it — often look to diet and exercise as the best antidotes to cardiac illness. Both are indeed imperative in maintaining a healthy cardiovascular system.

However, several key components must be addressed to keep the heart healthy. Quality sleep, elimination of toxins, stress reduction, and regular chiropractic care are significant factors in heart health.

Chiropractic care may be one of the best-kept secrets for maintaining a healthy heart. The marriage of chiropractic and cardiology is a sweet one. Together, the two work to heal and restore body systems.

While some mainstream health practitioners have dismissed the effectiveness of chiropractic work, the tide is truly beginning to change. A 2018 article points to the effectiveness of a model by which chiropractors and cardiologists work together to provide a higher level of care to cardiovascular patients.

The heart-brain connection

As much as we often think of organ systems in isolation, the heart-brain connection is indisputable. Studies have demonstrated a bi-directional relationship between the two. In addition to being connected hormonally and energetically, the heart, blood vessels, and brain are physically connected through millions of nerves.

The long and wandering nerve

The longest nerve connecting the heart and brain is the vagus nerve. From the Latin term “wandering,” this 10th cranial nerve meanders from the brain to nearly all organs in the body, including the heart. As the main component of the parasympathetic nervous system, the vagus nerve is responsible for keeping heart rate, blood pressure, breathing, digestion, and relaxation in check.

Misalignments in the spine can cause the vagus nerve to lose function, also called vagal tone. Individuals with poor vagal tone are prone to heightened stress, including anxiety and depression. Living in a constant fight or flight state also leads to digestive issues, inflammation, and cardiac problems.

How would one tell how well their vagus nerve is working? Vagal tone is measured by a heart-rate variability (HRV) test. This non-invasive test examines the variation of time that occurs between each heartbeat. Those with a robust vagal tone have high HRV. High vagal tone results in lower blood pressure, better blood sugar regulation, improved digestion, and reduced risk of heart disease.

Additionally, individuals with high vagal tone are more resilient, have stronger immune systems, and experience less stress. Conversely, a lower HRV is associated with strokes, heart attacks, and diabetes.

Chiropractors work to identify restrictions in the spine that could impact the vagus nerve. Studies have shown that chiropractic adjustments improve vagal tone and thus improve heart health. A 2017 study concluded that continuous, long-term chiropractic care significantly enhances heart rate variability.

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How Chiropractic Care And Mindset Are The Gatekeepers Of Health And Wellness

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8 ways chiropractic care improves heart function

Lowers blood pressure

Improves heart nerve function

Decreases inflammation

Decreases chest pain

Promotes weight loss

Reduces oxidative stress

Improves lung function

Improves posture

Strengthening the vagus nerve is just one of many ways that chiropractic care enhances cardiac function. Below are eight science-backed ways that regular spinal adjustments help the cardiovascular system:

1. Lowers blood pressure

Nearly half of all US adults have high blood pressure, and many treat it with dangerous medications. High blood pressure quietly damages blood vessels and raises the risk of heart attacks and strokes. A 2007 study randomly assigned individuals to one of two groups.

One group received chiropractic adjustments to their necks, while the other group received fake adjustments. Eight weeks later, the group receiving actual adjustments experienced a significant drop in blood pressure. In fact, the researchers concluded that the cervical adjustments were as effective as taking two blood pressure medications.

2. Improves nerve function of the heart

The autonomic nervous system controls many functions in the body, including contraction of the heart, heart rate, and the resistance of blood vessels. Chiropractors have long known that subluxations of the spine interfere with the autonomic nervous system.

A 2021 study confirmed what chiropractors asserted all along: manipulation of the thoracic spine has an immediate impact on balancing the nervous system and calming the heart.

3. Decreases inflammation in the body

Most people know that inflammation is associated with poor health outcomes, but what exactly is inflammation? Inflammation is a healing mechanism that the body uses to rid itself of a pathogen or heal an injury. For example, our bodies would be unable to heal a cut or fight a virus without inflammation.

However, sometimes the body has an exaggerated inflammatory response. Excess inflammation in increases the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Spinal manipulation lowers inflammation in the body. Regular chiropractic adjustments reduce chemicals in the body that lead to inflammation.

For example, one study found that blood markers of inflammation, including interleukin-6 (IL-6) and C-reactive protein (CRP), returned to normal levels after a spinal adjustment.

4. Decreases or eliminates chest pain

The number of patients who present to the emergency room or their physician’s office with chest pain is relatively high. While the nature of the discomfort is sometimes cardiac-related, it often stems from the spine’s misalignment.

As the vertebrae, ribs, collarbone, and sternum are intricately linked, poor alignment can place pressure on the nerves. Sometimes, the pain is similar to that of a heart attack.

Beyond musculoskeletal discomfort, chiropractic care may also provide relief for individuals experiencing chest pain of cardiac origin. A 2005 study of 50 patients with stable chest pain found that 70 percent reported positive benefits from twice a week chiropractic care.

5. Promotes weight loss

Obesity is a driving factor for heart disease. Routine chiropractic care may indirectly contribute to the shedding of those unwanted pounds. When the body is in a constant state of chronic stress, it releases cortisol. Cortisol tells the body to store belly fat. A 2018 study found that abdominal fat increases the risk of heart attacks. Regular chiropractic adjustments help balance the autonomic nervous system, thus reducing stress.

Chiropractic work can also help alleviate musculoskeletal aches and pains that limit an individual’s ability to exercise. Millions of people find pain relief and improved mobility by visiting a chiropractor.

6. Reduces oxidative stress

Oxidative stress occurs in the body with too many circulating free radicals and not enough antioxidants. Poor diet, stress, and exposure to toxins contribute to free radical accumulation. As a result, oxidative stress damages DNA and leads to premature aging. It is also a leading cause of cardiovascular disease, contributing to arrhythmias, heart failure, and death.

A 2005 study found that chiropractic adjustments decreased oxidative stress in the body. For the study, researchers measured antioxidant compounds called thiols. Thiols work to neutralize free radicals in the body. Long-term chiropractic patients had higher thiols in their bodies than those who did not receive chiropractic care.

7. Improves lung function

The nervous system plays a significant role in breathing. Spinal misalignments are often in play with lung disorders like emphysema or asthma. Further, restrictions in the spine can limit the full expansion of the lungs.

Studies have found that chiropractic adjustments improve lung function for many individuals. Proper oxygen exchange is vital for heart health, and poor lung capacity is linked to higher rates of heart failure. Therefore, improving lung function through chiropractic ensures better cardiac outcomes.

8. Improves posture

One of the health crises in America right now is that of posture. Take a walk through any shopping mall, airport, or even a park, and you will see most people hunched over their phones. Poor posture is detrimental to heart health.

Studies have found that poor posture leads to decreased heart rate variability and poor air exchange. A 2004 study followed 1,400 people after measuring posture. Individuals with hyperkyphosis, an excessive curvature of the spine, were found to have higher mortality rates due to the hardening of the arteries.

Chiropractic Benefits after a Cardiac Event

While it’s always best to be proactive and prevent disease before it occurs, not everyone is aware of the incredible benefits of chiropractic care. Sometimes people come to chiropractic after unsuccessful medical treatment of an illness or injury. While chiropractic care may not cure diseases, it can help optimize health and bring individuals to their best possible state.

One such example is published in a 2017 study demonstrating that patients receiving adjustments shortly after undergoing cardiac surgery experienced decreased pain, improved lung capacity, and shorter hospital stays. The authors concluded that combining standard care with manipulation greatly improved the management of patients after surgery.

The idea that chiropractic care helps speed the healing process extends to stroke survivors. For example, studies found significant improvements in motor function when stroke patients added chiropractic care to their therapy regimen for just four weeks.

Chiropractic care and the whole body

The benefits of chiropractic care extend beyond the musculoskeletal system and the heart. Nearly every health condition responds well to chiropractic care. After all, the nervous system communicates with every cell in the body.

Chiropractors have had success treating an array of health conditions, some of which may surprise you:

Is chiropractic care safe?

Medical care in the United States, and even throughout the world, is big business. Big pharma rakes in billions of dollars off the sales of pharmaceuticals. The global cancer industry is worth approximately 160 billion dollars. Why is this important?

Sadly, chiropractic care is in direct competition with the medical industry. Indeed, there are well-meaning, excellent doctors who care about the well-being of their patients. However, the medical sector loses money by making people healthy.

As a result, there have been vigorous campaigns against chiropractic and other wellness communities. The 2011 book The Medical War Against Chiropractors: The Untold Story from Persecution to Vindication documents some of the history between the professions. According to the author, the American Medical Association (AMA) waged an attack on chiropractors, referring to them as “dogs” and “killers.”

Slowly, the professions are building a bridge, but as with all things, it takes time. One such assertion by traditional doctors is that chiropractic is not safe. For example, many have claimed that chiropractic care causes vertebral artery dissections or strokes.

To date, chiropractic has been clinically proven to be safe. Numerous studies have found that the risk of stroke due to spinal manipulation is nonexistent. One study found the risk of stroke to be one in three million. While case studies have pointed to rare instances of stroke after an adjustment, chiropractors assert that the unwell individuals already had elevated stroke risk factors.

Considering medical errors are the third leading cause of death in the United States, killing over 250,000 per year, chiropractic is an incredibly safe alternative.

Isn’t Chiropractic Care Expensive?

There are few things more expensive than dealing with a chronic illness using the traditional medical model. Prescriptions, co-pays, and lost time from work are just a few of the financial expenses associated with health conditions.

However, the emotional costs of disease far exceed the financial ones. One can not place a price on the value of living a healthy and vibrant life. After all, what is life about if you can’t enjoy it to its fullest?

Chiropractic care is highly cost-effective when compared to the alternative. Numerous studies have examined the cost-benefit analysis of chiropractic care versus surgery or pharmaceuticals. Chiropractic is the less expensive and safer alternative in almost every circumstance.

Thankfully, chiropractic care is being increasingly recognized as a cost-effective treatment. In addition, studies are finding that chiropractic care is superior to traditional medical care when it comes to results. For example, a 2016 study concluded that 56 percent of patients who consulted a physician experienced a 30 percent reduction in back pain after four weeks, while 94 percent of chiropractic patients saw the same results.

Most insurance companies are now covering at least some chiropractic visits. For example, in 2020, UnitedHealthcare announced that covered individuals who seek chiropractic care for low back pain would have zero out-of-pocket costs.

The company concluded that chiropractors could reduce spinal imaging tests by 22 percent, spinal surgeries by 21 percent, and pain medication use by 19 percent.

How to Choose a chiropractor

As with all professions, chiropractors display a wide variety of skill levels. Therefore, it’s essential to do your research when seeking chiropractic care.

Consider the Following:

Seek Referrals

Whether you are looking for a new hairdresser or accountant, you often turn to friends and family for referrals. The same should be true for your chiropractor. Talk to community members to get a sense of local chiropractors with excellent reputations. Online reviews may also help determine the quality of care an office provides. Your primary care physician may not be the best source for referrals, as some do not ascribe to the health modality.

Research credentials, education, and experience

Chiropractors are licensed professionals who must maintain good standing with their regulatory board to continue practicing. Ask your chiropractic office about their licensing, training, experience, and skills. A well-rounded doctor will help you reach your health goals more quickly.

Schedule a consult

Most chiropractic offices will offer a free or low-cost consultation to get to know the doctor and the practice. Successful treatment depends on good rapport between the patient and the doctor. Follow your excellent gut instincts when choosing a chiropractor.

Research chiropractic techniques

Believe it or not, there are multiple approaches to chiropractic care. From network spinal analysis (NSA) to the activator method, there are many different ways that a chiropractor can adjust your spine. Finding the right match between your health needs and their approach will be integral to your healing.

Ask about insurance and fees

While some chiropractic offices accept insurance, others do not. Having a clear understanding of your budget will help you make the best choice for chiropractic care. Remember, you either invest in your health or you pay for your sickness.

Whether you are looking for a new hairdresser or accountant, you often turn to friends and family for referrals. The same should be true for your chiropractor. Talk to community members to get a sense of local chiropractors with excellent reputations. Online reviews may also help determine the quality of care an office provides. Your primary care physician may not be the best source for referrals, as some do not ascribe to the health modality.

Chiropractors are licensed professionals who must maintain good standing with their regulatory board to continue practicing. Ask your chiropractic office about their licensing, training, experience, and skills. A well-rounded doctor will help you reach your health goals more quickly.

Most chiropractic offices will offer a free or low-cost consultation to get to know the doctor and the practice. Successful treatment depends on good rapport between the patient and the doctor. Follow your excellent gut instincts when choosing a chiropractor.

Believe it or not, there are multiple approaches to chiropractic care. From network spinal analysis (NSA) to the activator method, there are many different ways that a chiropractor can adjust your spine. Finding the right match between your health needs and their approach will be integral to your healing.

While some chiropractic offices accept insurance, others do not. Having a clear understanding of your budget will help you make the best choice for chiropractic care. Remember, you either invest in your health or you pay for your sickness.

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Reap the Rewards Tomorrow

Most individuals were raised on the premise that doctors know best. Led to believe that the almighty physician can heal health problems, they put all their faith in the healthcare system. Sadly, this paradigm is false, and the system is severely broken. The only one who can heal your body is you.

The best way to achieve and maintain health is to build a team of educated, compassionate, open-minded healthcare professionals who acknowledge that the body has innate healing capabilities.

The right individuals will help you feel that they are equal members of your team, not the ones directing or calling the shots. Having a chiropractor in your corner is perhaps one of the best ways to ensure a long, healthy, vibrant life.

Medical Review: Dr. Lauren Lattanza, 2022

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