EDITOR’S SUMMARY: If you thought chiropractic care was solely for relieving neck, back, and other musculoskeletal pain, you may not be aware of the wider health implications in this field of medicine. Certainly, the need to pay attention to your “immunity,” has been lit up with a huge spotlight over the last few years, during and post-”pandemic.” Chiropractic treatment carries the potential to bridge the gap between proper joint alignment, and the vitality of your immune system.
Just over 100 years ago, our world was devastated by an invisible invader. An estimated 20–40 million lives were lost world wide, including at least 675,000 in the United States alone. Categorized as perhaps the second worst pandemic in recorded history, second only to the Black Plague, the 1918 Spanish Flu epidemic was documented to have decimated patients in the state of Iowa, under traditional medical care at a rate of 1 in 15. Amazingly, only 1 in 789 patients under chiropractic care perished from the virus.
Another astonishing statistic from this time comes from the state of Oklahoma. As well as having treated 3,490 cases of influenza with only 7 resulting deaths, chiropractors were called in to attend to cases that medical doctors had labeled “lost” or “beyond hope.” Out of the 233 patients who were already near death, only 25 actually lost their lives after receiving chiropractic treatment.
When the New York state authorities released their findings from the same epidemic (Spanish Flu), they found that “under chiropractic care only 25 patients died of influenza out of every 10,000 cases, and only 100 patients died of pneumonia out of every 10,000 cases.”
Sophisticated Body Systems
You may ask, how can adjusting people’s spines save their lives? The answer lies in the intricate network within your body involving the sympathetic (responsible for fight or flight response in the body), parasympathetic (part of your autonomic nervous system that restores the body after stress to normal baseline/healthy conditions), endocrine (comprising several organs that produce hormones that coordinate functions within the body), and immune (the network of organs, cells, chemicals, and proteins that coordinate to protect you) systems.
When these systems are working optimally, your body is fine-tuned, and can respond to invading pathogens appropriately, efficiently and quickly. Your body utilizes the systems and resources necessary to identify, destroy, and dispose of the “invader.” Where chiropractic comes in, is by identifying and removing a type of “roadblock” to proper function of your body’s organs and musculoskeletal system, called a vertebral subluxation, or simply, subluxation.
When a vertebrae shifts out of its normal position by tilting or rotating, it can put pressure on vertebral discs and corresponding nerves, sometimes causing pain and discomfort in your neck or back. This is a subluxation. This might be the result of an accident, injury, physical, emotional, or environmental stressor, poor posture, or disease causing weakness in the body. You may have sought out treatment for the pain of a subluxation by a chiropractor, and found relief, but pain is not always there to indicate a vertebral subluxation.ﾠ
In 2016, a group of German chiropractors participated in a study regarding this phenomenon. They reported that nearly 94% of their patients had asymptomatic subluxations (vertebrae out of place without causing pain) that they were not aware of. Why is this a big deal? Well, when your vertebral subluxations are left out of alignment, putting pressure on nerves, they interfere with vital messages coming from and going to your brain, via your spinal cord—the “information superhighway” of all body systems.
In the 1970s, Dr. Chung Ha Suh, Ph.D., along with his colleagues at the University of Colorado Biometrics Department, conducted a series of studies that showed 10mmHG (mmHG = millimeter of mercury used as standard measurement in blood pressure and nerve conduction) pressure on a nerve (about the weight of a dime) can cause 40–60% less electrical transmission down a nerve. As one chiropractor exclaimed:
“Nerves provide a pathway for this information to travel. They are literally like roads leading to glands which control your hormones, muscles, tissues, lymphatic vessels and every organ in your body.”
A practical way to think about it is if you turned on your garden hose (the nerve) full blast and let the water (electrical signal) run through, you would see it shoot out the other end unobstructed. If you were to then stand on the hose (vertebral pressure on the nerve), the water would be diminished or even stop. This is similar to how electrical signals from your brain to your body, along the nerve, can get interrupted from a vertebral subluxation.
Over 100 years after Daniel David (DD) Palmer, (March 7, 1845 – October 20, 1913), the founder of chiropractic, delivered the first modern chiropractic adjustment,and thousands of years after ancient Chinese and Greek wrote about the many benefits of spinal manipulation, we are still seeking out data to quantify the benefits of a spinal adjustment. If historical statistics regarding patients saved from the Spanish Flu, or word of mouth praise from top athletes and personalities hasn’t sold you on the value of chiropractic medicine, take a look at the science.
Follow the research:
- Published in 1987 by Dr. Felton (an endocrinologist) and his team: They found the link between the nervous system and the immune system. The team discovered “the neurotransmitter, norepinephrine, is present in sympathetic nerve fibers that innervate lymphoid organs and act on the spleen.” They determined:
“Stressful conditions lead to altered measures of immune function, and altered susceptibility to a variety of diseases. Many stimuli, which primarily act on the central nervous system, can profoundly alter immune responses.”
- Dr. Ronald Pero Ph.D., chief of cancer prevention research at New York’s Preventive Medicine Institute, and professor of medicine at New York University, monitored the immune systems of people under chiropractic care opposed to those who were not, as well as individuals with cancer and other serious conditions. All 107 people that had been under the care of a chiropractor for 5 years or more showed 200% greater “immune competence” compared to the people not under chiropractic care. Compared to the people with cancer or other serious conditions, they showed 400% greater “immune competence.” Amazingly, the benefits of having superior immune function under chiropractic care did not lessen with age.
- In 1991, Patricia Brennan, Ph.D., and a team of researchers documented an immediate immune boost following a single chiropractic adjustment via “phagocytic respiratory burst of polymorphonuclear neutrophils (PMN) and monocytes.” Phagocytes are “cells that protect the body by ingesting harmful foreign particles, bacteria, and dead or dying cells.”
- In 1994, researchers at Life Chiropractic University, gave chiropractic adjustments regularly to a group of HIV-positive patients. They found the patients who received the adjustments had a 48% increase in CD4 cells (white blood cells that fight infection) compared to the control group that did not receive chiropractic adjustments, and had a 7.96% decrease in CD4 cells.ﾠ
- A 2004 study in the Journal of Orthopedics, “Nerve Information & Blood Circulation,” evaluated vertebral deformity (subluxation) and the immune system, and found that chronic nerve compression in the thoracic region had a “significant” effect on the function of the immune system.
There are many more additional studies showing how chiropractic care positively impacts your immune system, as well as a short informative video on how chronic pain negatively affects your immune system. More well known, and also important, are the many studies that show how chiropractic care is connected to the reduction of pain, allowing for less medication (including opioids), and supporting a high quality of life.ﾠ
Despite the science that backs up the health-restoring assertions of many highly qualified chiropractic researchers and practitioners, in some circles, chiropractors get slammed with a bad reputation. Whether this comes from a personal account with a subpar doctor, or from academic arrogance and distrust of alternative health care from doctors in different fields, the snarky remarks and nightmare stories about chiropractic exist. This is why it is important (along with every other decision involving your health) to consider implementing the following:
- Take your time choosing a well-trained, skilled chiropractic practitioner. You can search the Chiropractic Association in your state for details and specific locations.
- Source a good referral from someone you trust, that has a long-standing, wonderful relationship with their chiropractor.
- Educate yourself on what to expect, and what will be expected of you.
- During a visit, if you feel uncomfortable for any reason, leave. You MUST be comfortable in your chiropractor’s hands.
- If you are unsure, or disagree with the diagnosis or treatment plan, get a second opinion (or a 3rd!). Above all else … follow your gut instinct.
As a general rule, chiropractors are highly trained and educated. The education they receive is comparable (if not more extensive) to what a traditional medical doctor receives. Where a medical doctor (M.D.) studies in-depth areas such as obstetrics, psychiatry, and pharmacology, a chiropractor spends more time than an M.D., learning neurology, radiology, and nutrition.
Beyond Traditional Medical Protocols
While a good medical doctor may be up to date with the latest surgical techniques, and new pharmaceuticals, a great chiropractor will not only be able to deliver a life-restoring spinal adjustment but will be up to speed with many non-invasive, natural treatments and procedures, including holistic, whole-body wellness and healthy eating.
This is in part due to the continuing education (C.E.) requirements that each chiropractor needs to stay licensed. Some of the areas that a chiropractor may choose to review on a regular basis to receive C.E. units include side effects of pharmacological drugs, nutrition, and general wellness. Another reason chiropractors are one of the most knowledgeable experts in wellness and nutrition is because many seek to live a pharmaceutical-free, holistic lifestyle themselves, and have personal motivation to stay informed.
The “chiropractic lifestyle” is a philosophy discussed amongst chiropractors, that includes keeping the body properly aligned through chiropractic adjustments, proper nutrition, and exercise. You may hear them refer to “ADIO” (above, down, inside, out), or “innate intelligence”—“the intelligence wired into you that governs every single act in your body.” Chiropractors believe that divine intelligence created you perfectly, and if you remove the “interference,” the body will heal on its own.
Jack LaLanne, nutritionist, chiropractor, bodybuilder, fitness enthusiast, and juicing guru was quoted as saying, “The spine is the lifeline. A lot of people should go to a chiropractor but they don’t know it.” This echoes the sentiments over 2000 years ago from Hippocrates who said, “Look well to the spine for the cause of disease,” and Socrates who said, “If you would seek health, look first to the spine.”
Throughout your life, you will undoubtedly encounter periods where your physical body will tell you it needs chiropractic care. However, the tiniest among us will not be able to express this need, regardless of feeling physical pain. One study found that 80% of infants develop a spinal misalignment (subluxation) from the birthing process, as doctors may use up to 90 lbs of pressure to pull a baby out of the womb.
Imagine having to silently endure not only limited mobility in your newly developing spine due to vertebral subluxation, but having decreased immune function from birth, and not being able to tell anyone about it! Many of us have not been “firing on all cylinders” most of our lives, with a dysfunctional nervous/immune system caused by spinal misalignments.
Luckily, to reverse the interference, it’s not too late to correct the vertebral subluxations you may already have. With so many environmental stressors to contend with, getting checked regularly for subluxations can prove vital. Activating your body systems through spinal adjustments will allow you the opportunity for 100% expression of nerve flow/communication, resulting in dynamic life energy restoration.
Note: It’s not the chiropractor who’s doing the healing. They are merely removing the interference, allowing your body to function as nature intended. B.J. Palmer, the son of the founder of chiropractic, D.D. Palmer, said it best, “The power that made the body, heals the body. It happens no other way.”