Chiropractic Care and its Effects on Mental Health


On average, 1 in 5 Americans experience mental illness with a total 43.8 million adults battling mental illness in a given year.1 Physical symptoms often accompany mental illnesses, sometimes even being the presenting symptoms.2 Symptoms often associated with mental illness are chronic joint pain, back pain, tiredness, sleep disturbance and headaches, all of which can be relieved through chiropractic care.2,3


The Effects of Adjustments on the Body


When the body cannot adapt to the stress it’s under it can lead to a subluxation. A subluxation is typically defined as a misalignment of the vertebrae of the spine.4 The nervous system runs from head to toe, using the spinal cord to relay messages between the brain and the body.5,6 One misaligned vertebrae can lead to a miscommunication that comprises nervous system function and in result, can affect mental health.7 Chiropractic care involves analyzing and correcting vertebral subluxations thus placing its patients on a more optimal physiological path.7


Physical pain and depression share a deep biological connection as pain and depression share a neurological pathway.8 The brain responds to painful physical stimuli with serotonin and norepinephrine, chemicals that also affect mood.8 A controlled study containing 30 individuals found that immediately after a chiropractic adjustment, significantly higher levels of neurotensin and oxytocin were observed.9 These findings are significant as neurotensin is known to regulate dopamine pathways and oxytocin, also known as the love hormone, triggers and modulates a full range of physiological functions and emotions such as happiness, attraction, love and affection while also counteracting the effects of the stress hormone cortisol.11 In essence, this study proved chiropractic adjustments can move your body into a parasympathetic state and decrease stress.


A less than desirable effect of mental illness is increased stress and muscle tension.12 Stress can cause your muscles to tense up but getting adjusted can help your body to relax. Studies have shown that after a chiropractic adjustment muscle activity was reduced by 25%!12 This kind of relaxation is ideal in helping individuals who have increased stress and muscle tension due to anxiety and depression.12


Headache Relief and Prevention


Recent studies have found that chiropractic care helps to reduce the frequency of pain as well as the duration and intensity of headaches.13 It has even been found that spinal manipulation is as helpful as medication in relation to migraine prevention.14 A case study involving a school teacher suffering from depression and chronic headaches reported that after 3 months of chiropractic care she was able to reduce the dosage of her medications.13 After 6 months of care, she was symptom free and able to discontinue all medications.13 Another study of 62 women who regularly suffer from tension headaches found that after just one month of chiropractic care, they showed improvement in bodily pain and social functioning.13


Sleep Well


Sleep problems are more likely to affect individuals suffering from mental illness than people in the general population.15 They are especially common in people with anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder and ADHD. Sleep problems affect more than 50% of adults with generalized anxiety disorder and 65%-90% of adults with depression.15 Sleep disruption affects levels of neurotransmitters and stress hormones, which in turn can impair thinking and emotional regulation.15 “While Chiropractors generally aren’t thought of as being experts on sleep issues, one-third of people who have a chiropractic adjustment report that they experience immediate sleep improvement.”16 Manual therapy, a treatment often utilized by chiropractors, has been shown throughout multiple studies to have positive outcomes on patients who suffer from insomnia.17 One thing we always recommend to our patients is the Proper Pillow. The Proper Pillow is specifically designed to promote proper alignment of the neck and spine to alleviate discomfort in the neck and promote a more restful sleep.


Exercise Daily...for your brain


Depression limits the ability of neurotransmitters, such as serotonin and dopamine, to facilitate communication in the brain.18 This makes it more difficult for the brain to work its way out of a depressing situation, locking it in a negative loop.18 Exercise promotes the production of proteins that help those neurotransmitters encourage communication in the brain.18 Exercise also increases the levels of endorphins in the body. Endorphins are feel-good brain chemicals that trigger positive feelings in the body.18 High endorphin levels improves mental energy, relieves tension and stress and overall makes you feel good.18 We are very passionate about our exercise program here at Carney Chiropractic Center. Every patient gets prescribed a unique list of therapeutic exercises by their third visit for them to do every day both in the office and at home. We update each patient’s exercises every 2-3 weeks as they grow stronger, and we see repeatedly the incredible effects moving your body can have on your overall health.



Mood Boosting Essential Oils


There’s a saying in the oily community that goes, “There’s an oil for that”, so it would make sense that essential oils are a great tool to relieve symptoms relating to mental illness. The tricky part is finding which oil works best with your body chemistry. Everyone reacts differently to oils, much like prescription drugs. They are the heart of the plant and incredibly powerful, although natural tools for wellness. Some types of lavender essential oil has balancing properties that calm the mind and body. It can help promote feelings of calm, fights nervous tension and be used as an aid to help you sleep. Another type of lavender can actually lead to nervous tension because it stimulates the nervous system. A study of 221 patients suffering from anxiety found that when ingested, Lavandula angustifolia can be used to help treat insomnia and to improve the quality of sleep without causing unwanted sedative or drug specific side effects.19 A study of 36 patients admitted in an intensive care unit found that those exposed to lavender aromatherapy reported an alleviation of anxiety and mood improvement.19 Another oil to have on hand when depression hits is bergamot. A study found that after 15 minutes of exposure to bergamot essential oil, participants reported improved positive feelings.20 At Carney Chiropractic Center, we use oils daily on patients. We are a Young Living Professional distributor, and you can purchase oils directly through our office without worrying about shipping costs. Some other favorites for happiness include Frankincense, Joy, Stress Away, Peace & Calming, Marjoram, and Inner Child.


We are living in stressful times! Six months of quarantine can make even the happiest of people feel down. We are here for you if you need us- give us a call or text at (410) 882-0720 to schedule an appointment, inquire about essential oils, get your exercise prescription refreshed or just to check in.



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