Why Did My Blood Pressure Improve After Starting Chiropractic Care?
Since the inception of Chiropractic over 100 years ago there have been reports of improvements in blood pressure readings in patients under Chiropractic care. The objective of Chiropractic is not to treat any specific condition (high/low blood pressure included), our goal is to identify misaligned vertebrae which are producing detrimental effects on nervous system function.
By correcting these misalignments we observe and measure improvements in nervous system function, allowing the body to operate at its best potential. When we achieve this objective we tend to see marked and measurable improvements of physiological function. One of the improvements we measure and observe is the normalising of blood pressure, but why?
The upper cervical spine (where the top of the neck meets the skull) is a vital area of the spine which requires specific and specialised analysis. When there are problems in this area it can have profound effects on the health of the brain and body. In relation to abnormal blood pressure there are two components of this area which can affect this change, the brainstem and the vagus nerve.
The brainstem controls many of the functions that our body performs that are not under conscious control, this includes blood pressure control. The functioning of the brainstem can be negatively impacted by misalignment of the top vertebrae of the neck. The part of the brainstem responsible for regulating heart rate and blood pressure sits just inside the skull, directly above the bones of the upper neck. If the misalignment at the upper neck is not addressed, over time neurological dysfunction occurs and the negative effects accumulate. One of these effects can be blood pressure increasing or decreasing from the normal range.
The vagus nerve is one of the largest nerves in the human body. It runs to all of our internal organs including, the heart, lungs, and digestive tract. This nerve is vital for regulating normal function and is responsible for parasympathetic control, this or the body's “rest and digest” state. The opposite being “fight or flight” which is sympathetic control. The vagus nerve exits the lower part of the brainstem and runs out from the space between the vertebrae at the upper neck, it then continues past the front of the top bones in the neck and down towards the torso to supply the organs.
When the top vertebrae become misaligned it can interfere with the vagus nerve on its course out of the skull as it travels down the neck. This can have a cascade of effects relating to blood pressure control.
- Firstly the vagus nerve may not be able to communicate effectively with the heart so the brain’s control of the heart may not be as accurate. Because there is a lack of parasympathetic control the heart may start to beat faster thus increasing blood pressure.
- Secondly, this down regulation of parasympathetic control may also lead to an increased stress response as the nervous system is in fight or flight. If this stress response becomes chronic we often see an increase in blood pressure as a result.
We can measure vagus nerve function via assessing heart rate variability which I have written about in a previous blog. We have seen improvements in heart rate variability when taking measurements pre and post Chiropractic Adjustment. This positive change indicates improvement in vagus nerve function, this is likely why we then observe improvements in blood pressure values after a course of Chiropractic care.
Remember this is not a treatment for high blood pressure, but a nervous system that can work freely with no interference gives you a much better chance of maintaining good health.
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