Browsed by
Category: Pinched Nerve

Chiropractic Care and Your Sympathetic Nervous System

Chiropractic Care and Your Sympathetic Nervous System

While chiropractic physicians are generally thought of as experts in diagnosing and treating musculoskeletal problems (particularly those related to back and neck pain), chiropractic treatments can also help the body’s nervous system function more effectively. From freeing pinched nerves and relieving generalized pain to regulating the immune system and stimulating healing, chiropractic care can achieve a wide range of long-lasting health benefits. 

To understand how chiropractic care can have these broader benefits, it’s useful to know a little bit about how your nervous system works. Doctors use a few different frameworks for describing the structure and function of the nervous system. One of the most basic frameworks distinguishes between your autonomic nervous system (ANS) or “involuntary” nervous system and your somatic nervous system (SoNS) or “voluntary” nervous system. The remainder of this article is about the two main branches of the ANS, the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. 

The body’s autonomic nervous system is actually made up of three parts—the sympathetic nervous system, the parasympathetic nervous system and the enteric nervous system. All of these parts work together to act as a control system that regulates the functions of the internal organs, such as the heart, stomach and intestines. From a structural point of view, the ANS operates as a complex network of neurons that originates inside the spinal cord and extends throughout the body via a series of interconnected hubs (called “ganglia” or “trunks”).   

The ANS is active at all times and is responsible for unconscious regulation of our glands and organs. In very general terms, the sympathetic nervous system regulates the “fight or flight” responses during times of stress or anxiety, including increased awareness, heart rate, blood pressure, respiratory rate and sweating. In contrast, the parasympathetic nervous system coordinates processes associated with the “rest and recover” or “rest and digest” responses, such as salivation, tears, sexual arousal and digestion. 

The sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems have a complementary, push-pull relationship that allows the body to respond very swiftly when necessary (through the sympathetic nervous system’s quick mobilization) and to slow down to perform other, less urgent activities in the background when appropriate (through the parasympathetic nervous system’s more gradual dampening). Together, these systems act a bit like an accelerator and a brake for our bodies and also help to maintain balance, or “homeostasis.”   

During the fight or flight response, your body slows or shuts down many of the rest and repair processes so that more energy is available for the processes necessary for near-term survival. In nonemergency situations, the parasympathetic nervous system is supposed to go to work, conserving energy and directing it to rest and repair responses, including healing. This is where chiropractic care can be very helpful. 

While stress hormones and the physiological changes they trigger can be helpful (maybe even life-saving) when we’re facing real physical threats, they can do significant damage to our health over the long term if they’re switched on all the time. Certain types of chiropractic adjustments have been shown to affect the autonomic nervous system by helping to down-regulate the sympathetic nervous system and stimulate parasympathetic activity. Quieting the fight or flight responses in turn promotes healing, bolsters the immune system and helps relieve the immediate sensation of pain. 

There’s no doubt that chiropractors can help patients find relief from acute injuries and chronic musculoskeletal conditions. But we may also be able to help you address neurological problems. If you’re interested in learning more, we encourage you to call or visit the office today! 

 

Additional Resources 

Sympathetic and parasympathetic responses to specific diversified adjustments to chiropractic vertebral subluxations of the cervical and thoracic spine. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2686395/ 

Short-term effects of cervical manipulation on edge light pupil cycle time: A pilot study. http://www.jmptonline.org/article/S0161-4754%2800%2981597-3/abstract 

Hormones: Chemical Messengers and the Chiropractic Link. http://www.theamericanchiropractor.com/articles-integrative-healthcare/4895-hormones-chemical-messengers-and-the-chiropractic-link.html 

What is a “Pinched Nerve”?

What is a “Pinched Nerve”?

‘Tearing her hair out’ Metaphor or bad hair day

A “pinched nerve” refers to a condition in which a nerve is compressed by surrounding tissue, such as ligament, cartilage, tendon or bone. The term “pinched nerve” is not a standard medical expression, but it’s an intuitive expression that almost anyone will understand.

Nerves radiate from your brain, down your spine and to all other parts of the body. Signals are sent from and to the brain along the nerves, and if a nerve is compressed (“pinched”), it will interfere with proper signal transmission. Usually, this will manifest as pain, not only at the site of compression, but sometimes radiating from that point to surrounding parts of the body. Misalignment of the spine can result in pinched nerves that can give you back pain and even a deadening ache or sensitivity along your arms (cervical radiculopathy) or legs (sciatica).

Any pain of this sort is a warning signal that there is a problem that should be treated right away. Left untreated, pinched nerves can lead to a loss of the protective barrier around the nerves which could generate fluid buildup. And this fluid would create swelling, more pressure, more pain, and possibly scarring. When nerves have been scarred, they may no longer function properly.

Pain isn’t the only indication of a pinched nerve. Sometimes a compressed nerve will generate numbness or tingling, a burning or “pins and needles” sensation, or even weakness during certain activities.

Pinched nerves can occur more often when the following risk factors are involved:

  • Overuse—Repetitive actions such as movements during work or while involved in a hobby or sport.
  • Posture—Bad posture creates more pressure on the spine and the nerves traveling through it.
  • Gender—Women’s carpal tunnels are smaller and are at greater risk for carpal tunnel syndrome.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis—Inflammation of any kind can compress nerves, especially at the joints.
  • Obesity—Increased body weight can increase pressure on nerves throughout the body.
  • Bone spurs—Bone thickening (from conditions such as osteoarthritis) or trauma can lead to bone spurs that stiffen the spine and narrow the space through which the nerves pass.

Mainstream medicine frequently recommends drugs, including NSAIDs, oral corticosteroids, narcotics (for emergency, short-term pain relief) and steroid injections to treat the symptoms of a pinched nerve. The Mayo Clinic suggests that patients can sometimes recover within a few days or weeks from pinched nerves with rest and additional “conservative treatments.” Other mainstream medical treatments may include physical therapy, a splint to immobilize a limb to give it a bit of rest, or surgery.

A chiropractor specializes in nerve health and non-invasive methods of reducing pain and restoring proper function, including spinal adjustments and other treatments that take the pressure off the nerves without the need for drugs or surgery. Sometimes a single adjustment can lead to immediate relief. In other cases, repeat visits may be required for full recovery. If you or someone you care about is suffering from a pinched nerve, you should know that there are alternatives to drugs and surgery and that chiropractic care has proven effective in treating the source of the problem so it is less likely to recur in the future.

If you would like to be seen by Dr. Oblander for treatment of a pinched nerve or any other ailment, please call our office at 406-652-3553 to schedule an appointment.

 

google-site-verification: google27ea280976b3c539.html