Chiropractic care boosts the immune system. Pretty cool, eh? I could tell you about the cases I have seen in my own clinical practice – about how the mothers of the kids I treat report less runny noses and office professionals miss less days at work – but I thought that you might be more interested in what the research world has to say about this. We don’t understand all the intricacies of this connection yet, but we are working on it. Let’s break down the bits we do know.
Chiropractic adjustments help regulate the autonomic nervous system. Your nervous system (brain, spinal cord, and nerves) controls pretty much everything. It communicates with endocrine and immune tissue to modulate chemical reactions that keep you healthy(3,6). Other documented happy side effects of this autonomic regulation include lowering blood pressure(2), relieving anxiety(10), and reducing inflammatory cytokines and pain(9).
Researchers in New York found that people under chiropractic care for more than five years demonstrated 200% greater immune function that those who had not(7). One very interesting study measured a 48% increase in CD4 cells in HIV patients over a six-month period, compared to an 8% decrease in the control group over the same period of time(8). CD4 cells are important immunoglobulins that play a critical role in HIV and AIDS. Similarly, an enhancement in white blood cells has been measured with chiropractic care(1).
There is so much information out there regarding the effects on the immune system of children specifically. There have been multiple case studies presented investigating ear infections, tonsillitis, colds, asthma, and common childhood illnesses(5). The level of evidence is not substantial yet, but it certainly warrants further investigation.
So, we understand some of the basic physiology and we have resounding reports on a clinical level. We have yet to connect all the dots in the middle but the future looks promising. Chiropractic adjustments do not treat these conditions directly; we address the spinal dysfunctions that we find and this encourages a cascade of reactions that allow your body to do what it does best. I would not go claiming that chiropractic care cures all that ails you, but a little boost in your immune function is a welcome side effect of an already healthy habit.
- Brennan P et al. Enhanced phagocytic cell respiratory bursts induced by spinal manipulation: Potential Role of Substance P. J Manip Physiolog Ther. 1991; 14(7):399-400.
- Crawford JP, Hickson GS, Wiles MR. The Management of Hypertensive Disease: A Review of Spinal Manipulation and the Efficacy of Conservative Therapeusis. J Manipulative Physiol Ther .1986; 9(1): 27-3.
- Elenkov IJ, Wilder RL, Chrousos GP, Vizi ES. The sympathetic nerve-an integrative interface between the two supersystems: the brain and the immune system. Pharmacol Rev. 2000; 52:295-63.
- Felton DL et al. Noradrenergic sympathetic neural interactions with the immune system: structure and function. Immunol Rev. 1987; 100:225-260.
- International Chiropractic Pediatric Association (ICPA). http://icpa4kids.org/Chiropractic-Research/
- Murray DR et al. Sympathetic and immune interactions during dynamic exercise. Mediation via a beta 2 – adrenergic-dependent mechanism. Circulation. 1992; 86(1):203.
- Pero R. Medical Researcher Excited By CBSRF Project Results. The Chiropractic Journal. 1989; 32.
- Selano JL et al. The Effects of Specific Upper Cervical Adjustments on the CD4 Counts of HIV Positive Patients. The Chiro Research Journal. 1994; 3(1).
- Teodorczyk-Injeyan JA, Injeyan HS, Ruegg B. Spinal Manipulative Therapy Reduces Inflammatory Cytokines but Not Substance P Production in Normal Subjects. JMPT. 2006; 29(1): 14-21.
- Yates RG, Lamping DL, Abram NL, Wright C. Effects of Chiropractic Treatment on Blood Pressure and Anxiety: A Randomized Controlled Trial. J Manipulative Physiol Ther. 1988;11 (6): 484-488.