When most people think of chiropractic, they think of the spine. It’s common knowledge that chiropractic adjustments are great for relieving pain. The majority of patients initially seek chiropractic care due to back pain, neck pain or headaches. And the results are astonishing. The overwhelming majority of chiropractic patients are extremely pleased with their results, even with severe conditions when no other health providers could help them. And yet, these outstanding results are the tip of the iceberg. We now know that many significant, far-reaching health benefits can be achieved through chiropractic adjustments. Here’s the how and why, simplified:
The limbic system is the area of the brain that maintains balance throughout your body. It is incredibly important. The limbic system is composed of structures in the brain that deal with emotions of anger, happiness, fear, as well as memories. The hypothalamus and hippocampus are the two most important parts of the limbic system. The hypothalamus is the “brain” of the brain and is the most intricate and perhaps amazing part of the brain. The hypothalamus is where the nervous system and the endocrine system (glands that secrete hormones) meet and talk.
The effectiveness of the hypothalamus is directly proportional to the functional capability of the nervous system to send and receive nerve messages, and especially to maintain the integrity of those nerve messages as they travel along the spinal cord.
The Spinal Cord and Nerve Interference
The spinal cord is both a cable and a switchboard. As a cable, it connects the brain with the rest of the nerves in the body. As a switchboard, it coordinates muscle movement, reflexes and virtually all bodily functions. The spinal cord is a direct extension of the brain. The spinal column consists of 24 movable vertebrae. The 2 basic purposes of the spinal column are to protect the spinal cord and to allow movement. Because the vertebrae are moveable, they are also susceptible to certain stresses and forces which can cause them to lose their proper alignment. These misalignments are called vertebral Subluxations and they lead to damaging stress in the nervous system. Subluxations have 3 causes. 1.) Physical: traumas, injuries, impacts and overuse. 2.) Mental and emotional stress and 3.) Toxic (chemical) stress. The most common subluxation is caused by the birth process, with over 80% of newborns suffering from subluxation. This is why it is so important for babies to be checked at birth or as soon thereafter as possible. When we are subluxated, there is interference to the normal flow of nerve impulses. This can cause either too much or too little nerve activity to the brain.
And then what ?
Subluxations cause two kinds of stress in the brain: 1.) Physical stress from the abnormal pressure on the spinal structures surrounding the vertebra and 2.) Chemical stress from the build-up of inflammation that accumulates in the spinal structures, nerves and brain. Whenever you are subluxated, bad, noxious information goes into the brain. So, in an effort to protect itself, the brain releases stress hormones, Cortisol and Adrenalin. This is a very good thing short-term and it could save your life. But if this “Stress Response” goes on long-term, these chemicals will kill you. This “Stress Response” is the same if you are in a terrible marriage, caring for a sick family member, fighting in a war, or if you are subluxated. The damage is the same. The Hippocampus and Hypothalamus are damaged. In particular, Dopamine, Serotonin, and Oxytocin are not released when Cortisol and Adrenalin are high.
Dopamine (released from the Hypothalamus) needs to be at the proper level for happiness. It is associated with anticipation. If it is too low, we become sad and depressed. If it’s too high, it can result in aggression and in severe cases, schizophrenia. If your levels are off, you aren’t comfortable in your own skin. In a child, low dopamine can cause irritability, restlessness and even ADHD. It makes sense that children should be checked for subluxations regularly and explains why so many adults and children with learning disorders respond to chiropractic care.
Serotonin is considered a hormone and neurotransmitter and is associated with mood, sleep, sexual desire, memory and pain. The more serotonin you have, the less pain you have. This explains why stressed people go into depression easily. Stressed people also crave carbohydrates, which gives them a short-term release of serotonin. Most of the body’s serotonin (80-90%) is found in the Gastrointestinal tract.
Oxytocin is the hormone that helps you attach and bond. Everyone has it, but women have it in higher levels than men. Oxytocin prevents depression and stops aggression, fear and the “Stress Response”. It allows uterine contractions. This is one reason why chiropractic care is is so beneficial to pregnant women. Oxytocin is released by touch. Think about what happens during the adjustment. Hands on care. If you want to calm a distressed person, you touch them.
In a Nutshell
Chiropractic adjustments have a direct effect on the health of the brain. It’s not about putting a bone back in place. What happens is that when we adjust a subluxated spine, we stop the negative stress hormones from flooding the body. When we do not adjust a subluxation, the “Stress Response” continues. This results in high levels of Cortisol and Andrenalin which interfere with our entire hormonal system. Our “happy” hormones, Serotonin, Dopamine and Oxytocin are not released.
Men and women do not have the same stress responses. In men, high levels of Cortisol and Andrenalin lead to “Fight or Flight”, an aggressive state. This explains why men go to their “man cave” when stressed. Long term, prolonged stress is very bad for overall health and will lead to an early death. In women, stress leads to increased Oxytocin levels which results in “Tend and Befriend” behaviors.
Although men and women have different stress responses, the result of long term stress, whether it is from subluxation, a bad marriage, a sick family member, a bad job, PTSD, or any other of the many possible stressors, is that it interferes with the brain’s ability to release the proper chemicals and hormones to keep us healthy. When we are stressed, the body sends the blood and nerve flow to the musculoskeletal system, the heart and brain. This is good in the short term, but will kill you in the long term. There is only so much blood in our bodies. The blood flow is taken away from digestion, reproduction, elimination and the immune system. This can interfere with you body’s ability to digest food, stay healthy, reproduce, and fight off infection. The chiropractic adjustment resets the chemistry of the brain and re-allocates blood flow back to the areas of the body that need it. This reset allows the frontal cortex to work better, so you have better cognitive function. Because Cortisol and Adrenalin are not elevated, your memory, learning, gastrointestinal and immune function work better.
Every single adjustment recalibrates the brain to do what it should be doing. This is why people who are under regular chiropractic care tend to have a happier state of mind. They handle stress better. They concentrate and learn better. They get pregnant more easily. They have babies more easily. They even undergo surprising personality changes. It’s so much more than getting rid of pain. That’s the easy part. The real long term benefits of regular chiropractic care are better brain function, healthier immune system, and overall higher quality of life. Enjoy all the benefits regular chiropractic care has to offer. You deserve it.
It’s not the years in your life, it’s the life in your years.