By Emily Smith Nguyen, Smith & Prissel Chiropractic and Massage
If there’s one thing we can all agree on, it is that the last couple of years have been hard on our mental health. There have been so many decisions to make and the potential consequences for each choice lends itself to an endless loop of uncertainty, leading to stress that tends to be stored as tension in the neck, upper back and jaw. Over time, this unrelenting pain and tension can result in disease.
As a chiropractor, I often see stress present as symptoms of neck/upper back pain, frequent headaches, difficulty sleeping, trouble concentrating, and even contribute to depression and anxiety. Use of a licensed therapist and medications can be invaluable for addressing mental health challenges, but if you have never considered chiropractic care as a tool to help with these issues, I would encourage you to do so. In addition to relieving tension and pain, a chiropractic adjustment can help to regulate the nervous system and provide emotional and psychological balance.
This isn’t a new concept; in the 1920’s, multiple mental health facilities were opened with chiropractic care being the predominant treatment used with great success. Unfortunately, the facilities struggled to get insurance reimbursement for this holistic drug-free approach and eventually the facilities were forced to close. Over the last 100 years, there have been a number of books written on the connection between chiropractic and mental health, as well as research studies showing positive outcomes.
A somewhat recent study concluded that “there was some evidence that spinal manipulation improved psychological outcomes compared with verbal interventions….The clinical implications are that physical treatments, such as spinal manipulation have psychological benefits.” This is entirely plausible considering that a vertebral subluxation (which is what a chiropractor treats) can cause dysfunction in the nervous system and interfere with the afferent/efferent messages going to/from the brain. The subluxations can also alter how well you adapt to the stressors of life that come your way. The proper function of your nervous system determines the extent of your adaptability, resilience and ability to self-regulate.
There is also a biochemical reason as to how chiropractic can help with mental health: by triggering the release of “feel-good” hormones. These hormones include neurotensin, oxytocin and cortisol. Neurotensin neutralizes stress-induced pain, oxytocin boosts communication between nerves and increases feelings of connectedness, and cortisol blocks pain resulting from inflammation. This accounts for part of why patients can experience a natural “high” following their adjustment. But that’s not all. Endorphins, like dopamine, are released when we exercise or laugh, resulting in a better mood. These same endorphins are released when you get a chiropractic adjustment. People often report improved mood, as well as less pain and improved sleep—all without the need for a prescription!
Medications certainly have their place, but whenever possible, it’s best that they be avoided in order to eliminate the risk of negative side effects. Chiropractic care is a great drug-free option for any age and provides a natural way to improve your mood, while also reducing pain. When it comes to supporting your mental health, it’s worth taking a look at natural methods, such as chiropractic, to help keep your nervous system functioning at its best.