Chiropractic Adjustments: The Importance of Spinal Health

By: Michael Lam, MD, MPH; Justin Lam, ABAAHP, FMNM

Chiropractic adjustments has become more popular over the past three decadesDid you know chiropractic adjustments are the most sought-after form of natural health care in the world? Although it’s been around for approximately 120 years, it has become more popular over the past three decades and continues to grow every day. Once considered an alternative form of medicine, it is now very mainstream. Chiropractors are licensed and practice in all 50 states of the US and are covered by many insurance plans, getting the same recognition as conventional doctors and nurses.

As a natural and drug-free approach to wellness and healing, chiropractors lead their patients to reach health goals through the basic principles of alignment. The main principle behind chiropractic adjustments is the belief that most often the body has the ability to heal itself with spinal alignment. Therefore, it is the chiropractor’s primary responsibility to align the body to facilitate inner healing.

Medically speaking, the nervous system is responsible for the proper function of every cell and organ in the human body. It is for that reason that chiropractors place the greatest emphasis on the proper alignment and health of the spine, the main source of communication between the brain and the rest of the body. If the spine shifts out of line, many systems in the body become inefficient. Chiropractic adjustments are then performed to realign the spine.

A Brief History of Chiropractic Adjustments

The father of chiropractic care is David D Palmer. He successfully helped his first patient, William Harvey Lillard, with chiropractic care on September 18, 1895. Lillard suffered from hearing difficulties related to a compression of nerves surrounding the ear. After some extensive research on anatomy and physiology, Palmer correctly assessed that the hearing loss may have been due to a misalignment that blocked spinal nerves and successfully executed the first chiropractic adjustment known in history.

After helping multiple patients with many disorders, he began to train other practitioners and eventually inspired the first college of chiropractic education to be founded in 1897.

The Benefits of Receiving Chiropractic Adjustments

The benefits of chiropractic care are beyond measure. Many cite chiropractic care as being able to help relieve problems associated with:

  • Arthritis and joint pain
  • Asthma and allergies
  • Headaches
  • High and low blood pressure
  • Weak immune system
  • Cognitive thinking
  • Organ function
  • Pregnancy
  • Prevention of back, hip or joint surgery
  • Regulating bowel movements
  • Relief from back and neck pain
  • Scoliosis
  • Ear infections

Chiropractic Adjustments for Back Pain

The most well-known chiropractic interventions relate to managing back pain. Very few procedures can duplicate the relief and healing many people experience from receiving chiropractic adjustments. Clinical trials have shown adjustments to have a 72% success rate for one of the most painful back conditions, sciatica. In comparison to the other main available therapies, receiving cortisol/steroid shots had a 50% success rate for sciatica, followed by physical therapy with only a 20% success rate.

Adjustments for Headaches

Chiropractic adjustments can prevent and ease headachesAnother common cause for visits to the chiropractor’s office is headaches. Chronic headaches and migraines are debilitating conditions that can be relieved or diminished altogether through chiropractic care. Adjustments have been proven to prevent and ease headaches and migraines. They reduce the time headaches last, lower their intensity, and decrease the number of their occurrences per month. In some cases, they can replace the need for a prescription or over the counter drugs.

Regulating Blood Pressure with Chiropractic Care

Once vertebral subluxations are removed and the body begins to balance itself, many patients have experience blood pressure levels regulating. One upper cervical adjustment has been equated to the use of two blood pressure medication tablets. These effects are even more significant because they eliminate the side effects of prescription medications. In some cases, each adjustment can last for over six months.

Building the Immune System

An optimal immune system is important for everybody’s health. The pathway of the nervous system requires open communication with the immune system to help the body fight illness, repair itself, and heal properly. Regular adjustments remove any and all obstructions that could be blocking the lines necessary for this interaction. Chiropractic care enables the body’s immune system to function at its maximum without medical or pharmaceutical intervention.

Chiropractic Adjustments for Sleep Quality

Spinal care has been known to promote better sleep. Not only does a chiropractor help his or her clients find the ideal position for blood circulation and alignment, but adjustments in the spine can improve the length of time which an individual is able to sleep. Sleep quality has been directly correlated to the body’s performance and is a vital element in overall health.

Reducing Allergies and Asthma

While additional studies and more documentation are needed to support this, chiropractic care has been linked to improved allergies and asthma conditions in children. A decrease in symptoms such as fewer asthma attacks and a decrease in needed medications have been reported, improving quality of life.

Chiropractic Adjustments and Stress

Chiropractic adjustments can help relieve stressStress is one of the most prevalent causes of health problems in our country, and most chiropractors know it. Because of the focus they place on the central nervous system, chiropractors are often the first to notice adrenal fatigue symptoms in relation to specific spinal misalignments. They are trained to understand the relationship between the autonomic nervous system and stress. Chiropractors also take into consideration the correlation that exists between the autonomic nervous system and hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis.

When chronic stress requires the axis to respond accordingly, it results in the sub-optimal operation of the adrenal glands. This eventually leads to chronic and debilitating conditions such as Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome (AFS).

Misalignments and nerve pressure present in the spine at specific vertebrae can result in insufficient nerve signals being sent back and forth from the brain to the adrenal glands. This leads to improper function of the organs and inconsistent hormone production.

It is important for chiropractors to have the ability to assess and address issues in their patients such as AFS, as adjustments will hold better and provide more relief once the HPA axis and adrenal hormones are balanced. Some AFS patients are able to find temporary relief from chiropractic adjustments in reference to other symptoms they experience as well such as:

  • The relief in tension
  • Assistance with sensitivities to allergens
  • Inflammation
  • Neck and back pain

How to Help Your Spine

In our culture, we have a developed unnatural habits of bad posture by sitting down all day, looking down at our cell phones, and slouching, all of which cause damage to your spine. Very few people are taking the time-outs necessary to stretch, acknowledge their posture, or engage in physical activity to loosen and activate muscles and joints.

Chiropractors have noticed that many patients are now carrying their heads 2-3 inches forward, adding an extra 20-30 pounds of pressure on their neck. This is dangerous for spinal health which in turn causes damage to other parts of your body.

However, there are things you can do to maintain good posture and eliminate such unnecessary stressors on your body.

When standing:

  • When standing, the majority of your weight should be on the balls of your feet.
  • The knees should never be locked, but slightly bent.
  • Your feet should be approximately shoulder width-apart.
  • Hands should hang naturally down with shoulders pulled back.
  • The stomach should be tucked in and pelvis tilted slightly forward.

When laying down:

  • Avoid sleeping on your stomach.
  • Place a pillow between or under your knees.
  • Use a pillow and a comfortable mattress that feels good to you.

When sitting down:

  • Do not cross your legs or ankles. Keep your feet in front of your knees.
  • Your knees should be at or below hip level.
  • Relax shoulders and keep forearms parallel to the floor if typing or writing.
  • Never sit in the same position for too long. Allow for intermittent stretching and moving.

Cons of Chiropractic Therapy

Those with adrenal fatigue must take caution before they get chiropractic adjustmentsChiropractic adjustments are one of the safest natural therapies in healthcare today. Chiropractors are highly trained, just as any conventional doctor would be, and most perform alignments with precision and care. However, there are always precautions to be taken with any therapy to ensure it is right for you and your body.

Those who suffer from conditions such as AFS must be aware that adjustments can open meridian channels in the body that can lead to an overwhelming flood of hormone production and crashes in advanced stages.

Using adjustments, chiropractors are sometimes able to decrease nervous tension and produce a more relaxing state through enhancing the sympathetic/parasympathetic balance. This can be helpful to those with mild adrenal fatigue. Unfortunately, some people feel worse, especially after aggressive adjustment sessions. Realignment of the spine can open up meridians and energy channels. Blood flow can increase. While this is positive for some people who experienced reduced fatigue after each session, those with advanced AFS can fair worse. The increase in circulation can bring on toxic overload and trigger retoxification and adrenal crashes. Retoxification reactions can lead to brain fog, migrating pain, anxiety, insomnia, increase fatigue, and reactive hypoglycemia.

The weaker a person in AFS, the greater the risk. If you suffer from AFS, always consult your doctor first prior to embarking on chiropractic care unless you have had positive experiences and faired well in the past. If you experience a crash, stop therapy immediately and consult with your primary care provider.

Caution is also recommended for pregnant women as the human body is extremely sensitive during this time. Precautions need to be taken for children as well.

Minor side effects of receiving adjustments often include:

  • Temporary discomfort
  • Soreness, pain, or irritation
  • Temporary headaches
  • Stiffness or tenderness in the area of the body where the adjustment was made

More severe or rare side effects include:

  • Potential for bone or nerve damage
  • Possible strokes caused by torn arteries

In summary, chiropractic adjustments boost the body’s ability to heal and repair itself. When properly used and managed, it offers great benefits to many people. For those with advanced AFS, however, chiropractic care can release toxins that the body is unable to flush out, and needs to be undertaken with caution.

© Copyright 2018 Michael Lam, M.D. All Rights Reserved.

Dr. Lam’s Key Question

Caution must be taken when chiropractic adjustments are given to those who suffer from Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome and other chronic illnesses as meridian channels are opened and can often flood the body with an overabundance of hormone resulting in adrenal crashes.

Chiropractic adjustments