In the United States, anxiety disorders are the most common mental health issue. According to Anxiety and Depression Association of America, it affects about 40 million adults over the age of 18.
As the database for chiropractic research continues to grow, multiple studies have shown decreases in anxiety, panic attacks, and depression with chiropractic care. Physiological factors such as elevated heart rate and blood pressure that often accompany anxiety disorders, have also shown significant improvement with chiropractic care. Since clinical and patient experience tells us that these improvements occur, let us discuss possible mechanisms.
The connection between the mind and body is well documented and their function should be dynamic in response to a changing environment. Profound emotions directly affect the tension in skeletal muscle. If one becomes frightened or angry, not only does the autonomic nervous system respond, but skeletal musculature also engages. Increases in skeletal muscle activity facilitates mental activities to an extent, but beyond a certain point it becomes a distraction and can interfere with efficiency. Such tensions actually contribute to one’s emotions. Not only will increased emotions cause tense muscles, but the reciprocal is true as well, that with increased muscle tension, one is more emotional. Therefore, a factor that decreases muscle tension will also decrease emotional behavior and other brain-body reflexes. It stands to reason that any factor that will decrease musculoskeletal tension has potential to alleviate issues in the brain body connection.
Furthermore, due to chiropractic’s focus on detection and correction of neurologic interference in an attempt to allow the body to function as it was intended, much of chiropractic’s success can be attributed to restoring balance into one’s autonomic nervous system. The autonomic nervous system is what allows the mind and body to adapt to the external environment. Fundamentally, the autonomic nervous system gives us the ability to shift between a stress response (fight or flight) and a relaxation response (rest, digest, and heal). Balance between these two systems is essential and necessary to maintain the body’s adaptation to all conditions, and its ability to heal!
Man no longer faces major physical threats in his daily life, however he faces threats to his ego, his status, and his usefulness. Insecurities in his career and his home life may be his major stressors. These psychological threats are perceived in the exact same way as physical stress. The same emotions of anger, fear, rage, and depression are activated. The body’s stress response engages, the relaxation response is overly reactive, and anxiety is felt. If this emotional state is too intense or persists, the body’s reactions, activated by the emotions, lead to dysfunction in other bodily systems such as the organs.
No doctor would claim chiropractic as the cure all for any condition, mental health included. However, using chiropractic care to restore balance to the autonomic nervous system can have significant positive effects on the mental and physical state of the body. Continuous stress can break down even the strongest over time. This is one more reason to minimize stress itself in addition to improving the body’s ability to adapt to that stress.
Until the mid fifties and early sixties, the chiropractic profession actually maintained two major mental hospitals. One of these was Forest Park Sanitarium, the other Clear View sanitarium. Although much of their documentation was lost when they closed, some research and many first-hand accounts still remain. Among the admitted suffering from schizophrenia, affective disorders, anxiety and other syndromes, large percentages of these patients were released and socially restored into society. These clinics had many medical doctors and doctors of chiropractic on staff working side by side, they were truly ahead of their time. Modern practices are beginning to come around to this mindset, that an integrated approach managed by a team of providers of different specialties is the way to ensure patients get the best care and results possible.
Overall, clinical experience, patient testimonials, and our increasing knowledge of the human body justifies serious consideration for chiropractic care not only in musculoskeletal conditions but mental disorders as well. Let this be an invitation for further discussion and research into this topic. Please do not hesitate to reach out of you have any questions, concerns our would like to see sources used for this post.