Meet Joe. Joe suffers from major dental problems. Cavities, decay, disease—you name it, he’s got it. Joe spends a lot of time at the dentist and keeps The Wrigley Company in business with all gum he buys to control his bad breath. When friends suggest to Joe that if he brushed his teeth and flossed, maybe his tooth problems would go away, he scoffs, shoves a handful of gummy bears in his mouth, and heads off to the dentist for yet another filling.
Now meet Joe’s cousin, Fred. Fred has high blood pressure. He tweaks his diet from time to time and exercises a few times per … year. But not to worry! Fred spends $600 a year on blood pressure lowering medication that makes it hard for him to breathe and cause erectile dysfunction.
Also crazy, right? But an all too common story.
According to the CDC, 1 in 3 U.S. adults has high blood pressure. In 2010, high blood pressure was estimated to cost the United States $46 billion in health care services, medications, and missed days of work.
In many cases, blood pressure medications are not fixing the problem, but just slapping on a (very expensive) Band-Aid to cover the symptoms.
What if High Blood Pressure Fred had another option? One that didn’t cost so much and didn’t come with nasty side effects? He does.
Several scientific studies have demonstrated that chiropractic adjustments lower blood pressure as well or better than drugs.
For example, a study reported in a 2007 issue of the Journal of Human Hypertension showed that chiropractic adjustments to the upper neck lowered blood pressure as well a two-drug combination therapy. Fifty people with high blood pressure underwent an 8-week course of chiropractic treatment. During those two months, systolic blood pressure (the top number in the blood pressure reading) fell an average of 17 points! Diastolic blood pressure (the bottom number) fell an average of 10 points. Medications? None. Side effects? Zero.
Another study, reported in the April 2012 issue of the Journal of Upper Cervical Chiropractic Research, involved 42 people with various levels of too-high or too-low blood pressure. Again, chiropractic adjustments to the upper neck were applied. And again, the blood pressure problems were addressed in significant ways. In this instance, hypertensive (too high) patients experienced a decrease in blood pressure, and hypotensive (too low) patients experienced an increase.
How could a chiropractic adjustment help blood pressure problems?
The researchers hypothesize that mis-alignment of the Atlas vertebra can affect blood flow in the arteries at the base of the skull. This might sound strange, but most chiropractors aren’t surprised. For more than 100 years, chiropractors have believed that mis-alignments in the spine interfere with messages the brain is trying to send throughout the body via the nerve system. Correct the mis-alignments, and the messages get through.
People don’t typically go to a chiropractor for help with blood pressure problems. I’ve been a chiropractor for 16 years and I don’t remember anyone ever coming to see me for that specific reason. But lower blood pressure is frequently one of many positive side effects my patients experience as a result of getting adjusted. Over the years I’ve seen dozens of my patients cut their blood pressure medication in half or get off it altogether. The conversation normally goes something like this:
“Dr. Martin, this is going to sound really weird but… could these adjustments be helping my blood pressure?”
“Certainly they can. Why? What have you noticed?”
“I’ve been monitoring my blood pressure for years, and recently it’s dropped. The only thing I’ve done differently is getting adjusted.”
“That’s great news and it makes total sense. Your body is meant to be healthy. Everything works better when your spine is adjusted.”