There are many cases where a patient comes in for neck or back pain and leaves with relief of other physical issues like Asthma or Allergies. Here is an explanation of how chiropractic treatment can affect the whole body.
Every adjustment administered by a chiropractor influences the Autonomic Nervous System (ANS). This system regulates everything in the body. All organs, immune system, blood pressure, breathing, digestion. This system works all on its own (autonomic) and does the functions that we don’t have to think about and manage. For instance, we aren’t telling our heartbeat when to happen each second.
According to the Merck Manual:
“Disorders of the autonomic nervous system can affect any body part or process. Autonomic disorders may result from other disorders that damage autonomic nerves (such as diabetes), or they may occur on their own. Autonomic disorders may be reversible or progressive”.
Is it connected to my intestines? Well, yes! It supplies all the internal organs including the blood vessels, stomach, intestine, colon, liver, kidneys, bladder, reproductive organs, lungs, eyes, heart, sweat and salivary glands and digestive track.
It has 2 main divisions:
Each and every second our brain has to process what is happening in our environment and decide how it is going to react.
If we are scared, stressed or exercising, our Sympathetic (fight or flight) system kicks in. If we want to sleep or digest our food, our parasympathetic system overrides the sympathetic system. How we adapt and react to our environment is key to our health.
What else is the ANS responsible for?
Regulation of body temperature
Digestion of food
Metabolism (thus affecting body weight)
The balance of water and electrolytes (sodium, potassium, calcium)
The secretion and production of body fluids (saliva, sweat, and tears)
Many organs are controlled primarily by both the sympathetic and the parasympathetic nervous system. Depending on the situation, the organ may act completely different.
Take the heart and lungs for example, the sympathetic division increases blood pressure and breathing rates and the parasympathetic division decreases blood pressure and decreases breathing rates. Depending on what the body needs the brain takes in this information and chooses which system to kick in more in order to ensure that the body responds appropriately to different situations and different bodily demands.
Generally, the sympathetic division is more of our primal system which is needed for stressful or emergency situations.
This system will increase heart rate and the force of heart contractions and widens (dilates) the airways to make breathing easier. It causes the body to release stored energy to be used for the act of fighting or flighting. Muscles are stronger, palms will sweat, pupils will get big to be able to see our surroundings better. It decreases the need for digesting food and urinating in the case of an emergency. Unless so scared it gets overridden and you urinate out of fear.
The parasympathetic division regulates most daily ordinary situations.
It conserves and restores. It decreases the heart rate blood pressure. It stimulates the digestive tract to process food and eliminate wastes. This energy is then used to help build tissue.
Since the ANS is the spine and brain, when adjusted we are putting an impulse in the spinal areas that have nerves that run to specific organs, muscles and glands. The brain takes that information and decides what system is going to be used for that area. This is how we can affect the whole body and not just deal with pain.
Note: this information can be seen in the Merck Manual which is used by the medical community as well, not just a chiropractic manual.