Do you suffer from high blood pressure? By suffer I mean is your blood pressure high and are you taking medications to lower it?
Have you wondered if chiropractic can help with high blood pressure? And, if you did, was your next curiosity how that might be?
Before we dive into the ways chiropractic helps high blood pressure let’s put the question of if chiropractic can help with high blood pressure to rest. A study published by the University of Chicago Medical Center demonstrated that by only adjusting the C1 vertebra in the top of the neck they found blood pressure changes equivalent to giving a patient 2 different blood pressure lowering drugs simultaneously.
How Common is High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure or hypertension is one component of cardiovascular disease which is the number one cause of death in the United States.
Here are a few sobering facts about hypertension according to the CDC:
- In 2021 hypertension was a primary or contributing cause in over 691,000 deaths in the United States.
- Nearly half of adults (47%) in the US have hypertension.
- Slightly more men (50%) than women (44%) have high blood pressure.
What are the Risks of High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure often does not cause any symptoms until it is well advanced. It’s another great example of why symptoms are a poor indicator of health. High blood pressure is another great example of a lifestyle related disease. How you live has a tremendous impact on whether you develop high blood pressure.
Here are the top 8 Negative Effects of Uncontrolled High Blood Pressure:
- Raises your risk of heart attack and stroke
- Increases likelihood of heart failure
- Chest pain
- Kidney damage
- Vision problems
- Sexual dysfunction
- Peripheral artery disease in arms and legs
- Risk of a hypertensive crisis with a range of severe symptoms
Relationship of the Nervous System and High Blood Pressure
We’ve clearly established that hypertension is extremely common and poses significant danger to our health and well being. Why would chiropractic help with high blood pressure?
The autonomic nervous system is that part of the nervous system that controls body functions outside of your awareness or control like:
- Blood Pressure
- Heart Rate
- Breathing Rate
- Recovery and Repair
There are 2 complementary divisions of the autonomic nervous system, the parasympathetic system or vagus nerve, and the sympathetic “fight or flight” system. The Vagus Nerve of the parasympathetic system is associated with most functions that support health and well-being:
- Lowered heart rate and blood pressure
- Healthy digestion
- Restorative sleep
- Healthy Immune response
The sympathetic system is activated by the numerous stress triggers in our modern life and over time we begin to live in what I call a state of sympathetic dominance. The sympathetic system causes responses like:
- Increased heart rate
- Increased blood pressure
- Disturbed digestion
- Impaired quality sleep
- Increased inflammation
Anything that results in a chronic elevation of the sympathetic nervous system has the potential to cause an elevation of blood pressure. Let’s take a look at how chiropractic fits in with this.
Top 4 Ways Chiropractic Helps High Blood Pressure
Many people tend to associate chiropractic with the back and treating back pain. The real reason chiropractic is so effective with neck pain, back pain, headaches, anxiety, fatigue, sleep issues, and high blood pressure is because of the spine’s relationship with the nervous system.
#1 Upper Cervical Spine: the Vagus Nerve of the parasympathetic system that is key to a lowered heart rate and blood pressure passes right front of the C1 and C2 vertebrae. A portion of the sympathetic “fight or flight” system also runs through the area.
If the top bones of the neck are misaligned it has a couple of effects. Tension and pressure on the Vagus Nerve lowers its function. This is key with high blood pressure since the Vagus Nerve has the effect of lowered heart rate and blood pressure.
Irritation of the Sympathetic System causes an increase in its activity that is responsible for elevated heart rate and blood pressure.
#2 Cervical Curve: the cervical spine has a natural C-shaped curve going forward. When that curve is lost or reversed it puts tremendous tension on the nervous system, especially the brain stem which is involved in the function of the autonomic nervous system.
When the autonomic system is irritated the response is to turn down the Vagus Nerve and increase activity of the Sympathetic System.
#3 Thoracic and Lumbar Spine: the mid and lower back is more intimately related to the Sympathetic “fight or flight” System. Restrictions and misalignments in this area of the spine tend to cause an increase in sympathetic activity that is associated with high blood pressure.
Correcting sources of tension and irritation to both the Vagus Nerve and the Sympathetic System is critical to how chiropractic helps high blood pressure. Our modern world is full of triggers that activate the sympathetic system and inhibit the Vagus Nerve. This combination is the perfect storm for the development of:
- High blood pressure
- Digestion Issues like GERD, ulcers, indigestion, constipation
- Insomnia and poor sleep
- Pain and inflammation
#4 Vagus Nerve Training: by the time high blood pressure develops and certainly by the time it is identified the nervous system has been in a state of imbalance for a long time. The reduced activity and function of the Vagus Nerve is helped tremendously by chiropractic adjustments.
And, the Vagus Nerve needs a little extra help given the daily stress that repeatedly activates the “fight or flight” system. Supporting the Vagus Nerve is supporting your health and well being.
In my office my primary method of increasing the tone of the Vagus Nerve is the use of conscious breathwork. This can be done easily and almost anywhere, making it perfect for everyone’s lifestyle.
Bill Berkowitz, DC
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. His commitment to delivering corrective chiropractic care has earned him a reputation for excellence among both colleagues and patients alike.
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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