Why chiropractic care works

do I need to see a chiropractor?

Here in the UK, most people seeking chiropractic care do not know that there are many different types of chiropractic techniques. The different techniques are:

  • Gonstead
  • McTimoney
  • Toggle
  • Nucca
  • Network
  • Diversified
  • Biophysics
  • Drop table
  • Activator

and the list goes on.

The cool thing about chiropractic is that they all work!

As a student I always asked myself, how is that? Why does it work? What’s happening?

We now know the answer. Chiropractic works because of its effects on the brain. Your brain is constantly trying to control your body as best as it can. It does this by regulation of your autonomic nervous system. Your autonomic nervous system is split into two divisions, sympathetic and parasympathetic.

Sympathetic nervous system

Your sympathetic nervous system is your flight or flight mode. If you have ever been in a fight, or run from a bear (OK, so we probably reached a little on this last one!), this system saved your life. When your brain/body are more sympathetically driven, your blood will shift to your arms and legs to help you run and fight for your life, rather than to your internal organs for digestion.

Parasympathetic nervous system

In contrast, your parasympathetic state is your resting, digesting, and sexual function state. In this state, your brain will shunt blood to your internal organs for healing and digestion rather than your extremities.

At all moments of the day, your brain is alternating between these to two states or divisions. When the sympathetic division is high, parasympathetic division is low and vice versa. Ideally, we want to our brain to spend more time in our parasympathetic division.

For simplicities sake (but still quite complex), you have a region in your spine that is responsible for activating your sympathetic activity. This region is called your intermediolateral cell column (IML) – aka sympathetic chain ganglion, which runs from your T1 disc, down to your L2 on both sides of your spine. The region responsible for inhibiting your IML, is called your pontomedullary reticular formation (PMRF), which activates your parasympathetic state. The PMRF is located in your brain stem.

Your IML and your PMRF are constantly opposing each other, it’s like two sides of a political system, constantly arguing – both think they’re right.

Depending on what life throws our way, how well we eat (or commonly, how poorly we eat!), and our own thoughts, we will either be in a more sympathetic state or parasympathetic state.

So, when our IML is raised, our PMRF is low and your probably stressed at work, sleep deprived, or eating unhealthy foods. When your PMRF is high, your IML is low and you’re probably watching a movie, doing yoga or Pilates, exercising, and wait for it, seeing your chiropractor. Yes, we did just throw that in, but as I hope you can see, we do actually manipulate your central nervous system into this ideal state. As chiropractors, we have the ability to affect this system.

The four functions of the PMRF are the following:

  1. Decrease in pain
  2. Decrease the tone of your anterior muscles above T6, and posterior muscles below T6
  3. Inhibit your IML (sympathetic)
  4. Facilitate global muscle tone

This is why after your chiropractic treatment, you often feel better with regards to your pain, looser, and lighter overall.

Chiropractic works because of its effect on the brain. Historically, chiropractic became famous because an adjustment brought a hard of hearing person’s hearing back. His name was Harvey Lillard, and is known as the first chiropractic patient. It wasn’t until more recently that we have actually been able to understand how that happened. We now know that chiropractic beneficial effects are because of its ability to influence the central nervous system.

What does that mean? When we adjust your back, neck, foot, or your fingers. The adjustment stimulates your brain which in turn effects the way your brain controls your body.
Dr. Anthony Putrus-Schnell

Chiropractor @ London Wellness Centre

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