Under chiropractic care, patients can experience all sorts of system wide secondary effects to getting their spine in alignment. When people hear about side effects they most often think about medication and all the negative side effects that go along with them. With chiropractic, however, the side effects tend to be positive. One such instance is chiropractic’s effect on blood pressure.
As the bones of your spine move, shift, and become misaligned, they begin to stretch and distend the connective tissue, nerves, and blood vessels around them. The stretch on the blood vessels themselves will directly affect blood pressure, not allowing these vessels to be as accommodating to blood flow and therefore increasing pressure. As the nerves become irritated, communication begins to be impaired resulting in the muscles and tissues supplied by them to lose integrity and not function to the best of their ability. This results in over or under active muscle groups that will then cause postural deviations. Researchers at the University of Leeds, UK, have found a direct neural connection between neck muscles and a part of the brainstem – called the nucleus tractus solitarius (NTS) – which plays a crucial role in regulating heart rate and blood pressure1. Along with other basic physiological responses, blood pressure is one of the functions most easily affected by posture2.
The upper neck is a very crucial area to examine when looking into issues regarding blood pressure. The close proximity to the brainstem, the tension that can be applied to both the jugular veins and carotid artery when misaligned, as well as the influence over the bodies nervous system through the vagus nerve and spinal cord directly, all allow for multiple ways for the upper neck to affect blood pressure. The Journal of Human Hypertension states that anatomical abnormalities of the cervical spine at the level of the atlas vertebra are associated with relative ischemia of the brainstem circulation and increased blood pressure. Manual correction of this misalignment has been associated with reduced arterial pressure3. Therefore, specific upper cervical chiropractic care is a crucial part in the efforts to better control blood pressure.
- THE JOURNAL OF NEUROSCIENCE, DOI: 10.1523/jneurosci.0638-07.2007
- AMERICAN JOURNAL OF PAIN MANAGEMENT Lennon, J. Shealy, N. Cady, R. Postural and Respiratory Modulation of Autonomic Function, Pain & Health. AJPM Vol 4. No 1 January 1994
- Bakris, G. Journal of Human Hypertension, advance online publication, March 2, 2007. Grassi, G. Journal of Human Hypertension, advance online publication, January 25, 2007.George Bakris, MD, director, hypertension center, University of Chicago. Marshall Dickholtz Sr., DC, Chiropractic Health Center, Chicago.