Chiropractic Care Can Support Your Mental Health

Chiropractic care can alleviate the pain and discomfort of tight muscles and knots caused by stress. By adjusting the spine and removing the interference in the nerve system, messages to the brain flow better, mood improves and people can feel more relaxed.

Mental health awareness is spreading in the US and around the world and it’s a topic that is now more openly discussed. In your experience as a chiropractor, can you describe some of the physical symptoms of anxiety and depression that people experience?

Dr. Gregg Rubinstein: Absolutely. Anxiety and depression really feed into our stress cycles and the stress reactions typically occur in people who are anxious and all hyped up. They tend to be kind of like living their life on edge or what we call in sympathetic overdrive. The sympathetic nervous system is kind of like that fight or flight where you nearly got hit by a car and you feel all adrenalized and all fired up. The body’s putting out a lot of adrenaline and cortisol.

When the body is heavily adrenalized and has cortisol coursing through it, two things happen that create physical symptoms in relation to stress and anxiety. First, the muscles are going to have an increased tone or higher tension, and that can manifest as tight muscles, knots or trigger points where lactic acid and carbon dioxide build up in the muscles, and that can be quite painful and those muscles can start to contract and cause a lot of pain.

Eventually the muscles, if they get tight enough, can start to pull bones out of alignment and create subluxations which chiropractors really help with. But when those bones are out of alignment, they irritate the nerves and they make the nervous system even more hyper-excitable. So, these people are highly stressed, easy to anger. And when your body’s cranking out cortisol in that fight or flight response, the body’s only really paying attention to things that are survival-related, not really taking or wasting time or energy on nonessential things like healing at the moment. It just wants to take care of the survival thing.

So, when you push your body that hard and you have stress and anxiety, you always end up in that stress-related, mind-body realm where things get a little amped up. Healing occurs at rest when you’re more comfortable and not stressed out. That’s what is really important is trying to keep those stress levels and those chemical levels down.

How can chiropractic care help alleviate some of these physical symptoms of anxiety or depression such as the aches and pains?

 Dr. Gregg Rubinstein: Well, as I said before, people who are under a great deal of stress are always cranking out that cortisol and adrenaline. Chiropractic can specifically move the interference from the nerve system by correcting the mal-aligned vertebrae. When there’s more tension on the left side than the right, these bones can subluxate or misalign, irritate the nerves. And then simply stated, if the bone is out of place, fixed or stuck in that abnormal position and creating some interference or putting pressure on the nerves, by eliminating that pressure, the muscles are relaxed, the communication in the body is more at ease. There’s a lower resting tone so the bones don’t get pulled out of place by the tight muscles. And all those things really help to just kind of alleviate the physical symptoms. And when people are feeling better, then hopefully their anxiety and things will decrease as well. So, the body is much more sensitive to pain and discomfort when it’s adrenalized and chiropractic can’t stop their stress from coming on, but it can certainly help alleviate some of the physical manifestations, the tight muscles and the pain and the discomfort.

Please explain the effect a chiropractic adjustment has on how the brain and body function and how an adjustment can benefit our mental health.

 Dr. Gregg Rubinstein: There’s some really great research coming out now particularly pertaining to the opioid crisis and there’s been a lot of talk about how chiropractic adjustments affect the nerve system and in particular the brain’s pleasure and reward centers. There’s some surprising new research showing how chiropractic can stimulate these areas in the nerve system and help people with dependencies and addictions. But generally speaking, when the body feels better, you perceive things as better, the brain secretes more of the “happy chemicals” and puts the body in a more relaxed state which allows it to function at a much higher level of healing.

And plus, general operations, neural regulation of our heart, our lungs, our kidney, our spleen, our intestines, our nerve system controls our immune system. So, when all these things are functioning better, a person’s going to feel better and their outlook is going to be more positive and they’re not going to go into those downward spirals as easy. It’s not a panacea, chiropractic doesn’t replace mental health counseling, but it can certainly help with those physical manifestations, really looking at the neurology and how it affects the brain centers, particularly again with the pleasure and reward center. So that’s really great research coming out that’s really on fire now.

Many people have trouble sleeping. How might chiropractic treatment help people relax and achieve better sleep?

Dr. Gregg Rubinstein: Again, we kind of talked about these things. When your body is in pain, you tend to be more sympathetic-driven, meaning that you’re more fight or flight, you’re more adrenaline, more cortisol. And when you want to be sleeping, it’s the opposite. It’s actually the parasympathetic nerve system that takes over and that allows the body to relax, counterbalance all the adrenaline in the sympathetic nerve system. It puts the body in a better chemical state allowing it really to enhance the rest. You remember, we’re talking about this mind-body connection and chiropractic can help relieve some of the pain and discomfort. I can’t relieve anxiety, anything above the atlas, the first cervical vertebrae, I’m not really trained to handle. But when we clear those pathways, I’ve said it many times before, you restore the proper neural connection, the body can heal. It can break down products of adrenaline and cortisol and help the body process those things faster.

It’s just so important to make sure that you’re getting enough rest and a relaxed body and a pain-free body is going to be easier to get to rest than someone who’s in pain or discomfort and constantly thinking about those things.

In what other ways can holistic chiropractic care benefit our mental health?

Dr. Gregg Rubinstein: It really helps more with the physical manifestations of stress, but obviously it can’t prevent stress. You have to eliminate a lot of the physical manifestations, but you’ll generally feel better. It won’t keep feeding into the cycles of stress and those things won’t be magnified.

I feel this is an important role in the chiropractor’s office. There’s been a lot of research showing people under chiropractic care have a higher sense of well-being and health. Just a positive attitude and a positive outlook can really make a world of difference in someone who’s suffering from depression and anxiety.

And again, I just want to close it and make sure that people understand that chiropractic is not a replacement for mental health counseling or anything like that. It’s just another tool in your tool belt that you can use to make sure that these things don’t get magnified and take over your life.

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