When was the last time you learned that something you thought you understood was actually much different than you thought?
This might be one of those times with Chiropractic and how it works and what it does.
Research has documented that “stress” is a significant factor in well over 90% of all illness and disease. The vast majority of diseases are not genetic. Many have a genetic component but the real factor is what is called epigenetics.
Epigenetics is how your environment, behaviors and lifestyle influence your health. A good analogy is to think of most genes as light switches. While they might be programmed for an illness or disease they have to be flipped on for those problems to manifest.
Stress is THE Epigenetic Key!
When it is said that stress is a factor in more than 90% of illness and disease, the reason is epigenetics. Chronic, repeated stress is the factor that flips the genetic switches. Stress reduces the ability of the nervous system to appropriately respond to stress. This progressively increases the harmful impact of stress, until illness and disease shows up.
What sort of common illnesses and diseases have been demonstrated to be stress related?
- Cancer: According to the MD Anderson Cancer Center stress inhibits a process that kills cancer cells and prevents them from spreading. This can speed the spread of cancerous tumors.
- Heart Disease: stress increases inflammation, a factor in the development of heart disease and is a primary factor in high blood pressure.
- Digestive Problems: a whole host of GI tract issues from acid reflux to ulcers to inflammatory bowel disease are related to stress and the nervous system imbalances caused by stress.
- Insomnia: sleep problems are rampant and while insomnia might not qualify as an illness or disease it is a primary factor in the progression of illness.
- Chronic Fatigue and Fibromyalgia: the imbalance in the autonomic nervous system causing elevated Sympathetic “fight or flight” activity is key in both of these.
- Anxiety and Depression: there is a growing epidemic of mental health issues like anxiety and depression. Web MD notes that “It’s pretty clear that chronic stress raises the incidence level of depression”. There is an even stronger relationship between stress, autonomic imbalance and anxiety.
The Challenge of Stress of Modern Life
We live in a culture that is filled with “stress”. While you can take some measures to reduce it, there is no escaping it. The human nervous system evolved during much simpler times when it had to respond to real threats to our survival. This is what is called the “fight or flight” part of the nervous system.
The world is unrecognizable today from what it was like even a few hundred years ago, but our nervous system has not caught up. It is estimated that lasting evolution takes a million years. Our present world is dramatically different today and changing at what seems like an accelerated pace. What are the consequences of this?
Our nervous system interprets much of our world as a potential threat and this activates the “fight or flight” system and turns down the Vagus Nerve. Together these actions put our body in a survival state and interfere with rest, recovery, healing, and the immune system.
Over time this results in the development of chronic issues listed above. They often develop so slowly that we don’t pay much attention until they start interfering with our life.
The Life Chiropractic Approach to Stress Relief
So, how and where does chiropractic fit in with this and how does it offer a solution?
The imbalance in the nervous system results in a chronically overactive Sympathetic “fight or flight” system. In the spine there is often irritation of the Vagus Nerve in the upper neck and overactivation of the “fight or flight” system coming from the mid and lower back.
Correction of the spinal misalignments or subluxations takes tremendous pressure off the nervous system and helps the body escape from a constant state of survival or “fight or flight”. Oftentimes people I see have been in this state of survival for years and they are amazed at the changes from improved breathing to reduction of pain and tension or headaches to improved sleep.
While releasing pressure and interference on the Vagus Nerve and the Sympathetic System often results in a significant and rapid release of the amount of stress and tension someone is holding, it is often not enough. The longer a body functions from a state of survival the lower the function of the Vagus Nerve.
The Vagus Nerve function is critical to your health and well being. This is why in addition to corrective and balancing chiropractic, we add in Vagal activating practices. These have dual effect of almost immediately relaxing the body while strengthening the Vagus Nerve over time.
About the author:
Bringing more than 3 decades of practice experience, Dr. Bill Berkowitz focuses on balancing and corrective care, applying his expertise to provide patients with predictable, repeatable and measurable results.
Dr. Bill consistently strives to enhance the well-being of his patients by addressing the root imbalances of their problems and promoting optimal balance, alignment, and function of the spine and nervous system.
Bill’s wealth of knowledge and experience has allowed him to develop a nuanced understanding of the human body and its intricate connections. With each adjustment, he supports the body in returning to a state of balance that goes beyond mere symptom relief, focusing instead on long-term correction for his patients’ well-being.
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