The chiropractic management of musculoskeletal complaints such as low back pain, neck pain, headaches, and the like is well established in peer reviewed literature and recommended care guidelines throughout the world. Put simply, chiropractic care WORKS consistently well for many problems involving the neuromusculoskeletal system. What about its effects on cardiovascular health and in particular, blood pressure (BP)? Let’s take a look at the evidence, but let’s first define hypertension.
As the chart above indicates, there is such a thing as “too low” of a BP (<90/60), technically called “hypotension” which includes symptoms of light headedness/dizziness, fatigue/weakness, fainting and when it’s severe, shock can occur. At some point, we’ve all felt the brief light headed sensation if we “stand up too fast” which simply means not enough oxygen is reaching our brains. Causes include infections (sepsis), hemorrhage (blood loss), certain toxins (including too much BP meds), hormonal conditions such as Addison’s disease, and eating disorders (particularly anorexia nervosa and bulimia). High blood pressure (“hypertension,” >140/90) can damage the brain over time (stroke), the eyes (retinopathy), the heart (heart attack, enlargement), the kidneys (renal failure) and the blood (high sugar levels). The heart is a pump, and like any pump, it can wear out if it pumps against too much resistance for too long a time. If the arteries the heart pumps blood into become rigid (hardening of the arteries – arteriosclerosis), the top number (systolic BP) goes up. The lower number (diastolic pressure) can go up with obesity, improper diet, and stress as well as smoking and a sedentary lifestyle.
So, can spinal manipulation lower blood pressure? In 2007, 25 patients in the early stages of hypertension received an upper cervical (upper neck) chiropractic adjustment vs. 25 patients who received a placebo adjustment. None of the patients took blood pressure medication for eight weeks and their blood pressure was measured at the start and end of the study period. Researchers were shocked to discover that those who received the chiropractic adjustment experienced decreases in blood pressure as significant as if they had been taking blood-pressure medications. While the study was limited to 50 patients and further research is warranted, it appears to show what chiropractic care has been demonstrating for over a century: spinal dysfunction prevents the body from functioning at an optimal level.