High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure, also called hypertension, is freqently in the news these days. Often called "the silent killer", hypertension has been diagnosed in nearly 80 million American adults and may affect many more. High blood pressure affects nearly as many women as men.
If you have high blood pressure, your heart will have to work extra hard in order to pump blood to the rest of your body, causing the potential for heart problems. High blood pressure can also contribute to hard arteries, or atherosclerosis.
Your blood pressure (BP) reading is affected by a complex number of variables, such as age, weight, exercise, diet, medications such as birth control, drinking, smoking, genetics, stress, hormonal imbalance, time of day, time of month, and other conditions or diseases that you might have acquired.
If you have been diagnosed with high blood pressure, then there are many avenues towards protecting your heart and your health. First steps may include exercise modifications, diet modifications, smoking modifications, other behavioral changes, or other methods as suggested by your doctor. But there is a direct cause for elevated blood pressure... found in your own nervous system.
Why The Sympathetic Nerves Are Important
A large body of scientific evidence shows that patients with high blood pressure also have increased sympathetic nerve control (or "sympathetic tone"). The sympathetic nerves cause many of your unconscious functions, and are often called the "fight or flight" response because their activitiy increases stress and alertness. Increased sympathetic tone helps you to react quickly in the short term, but will add to your total stress and anxiety in the long term.
The sympathetic nerves increase heart rate while constricting blood vessel size, which significantly increases blood pressure. Balancing the sympathetic tone with the parasympathetic tone (nerves which generally control the exact opposite unconscious responses, such as decreasing heart rate and dilating blood vessel size) may have a significant impact on high blood pressure and other stress-related diseases.
According to the Seventh Report of the Joint National Committee on Prevention, Detection, Evaluation, and Treatment of High Blood Pressure, even a mechanism as simple as an extended bladder will increase sympathetic tone, triggering a "substantial increase in BP." Again: "Hypertension is very common in the early postoperative period, related to increased sympathetic tone and vascular resistance." And again: "Episodes of apnea with repeated oxygen desaturation in OSA have been shown to stimulate strong sympathetic nervous system discharges that directly elevate BP."
It stands to reason that patients with high blood pressure may need a therapy which can help reduce sympathetic tone and balance the autonomic nervous system. Chiropractic does just that.
How We Can Help Your High Blood Pressure
Research continues to confirm that the specific chiropractic adjustment effects the autonomic nervous system. Studies have demonstrated this by measuring heart rate variability, pain, pupillary diameter, pulse rate and... blood pressure. In fact, the blood pressure study showed that chiropractic adjustments in the neck region directly affected the parasympathetic nerves and chiropractic adjustments in the upper back and mid back regions directly affected the sympathetic nerves.
A groundbreaking study was published in the Journal of Human Hypertension in 2007 which showed that a specific chiropractic adjustment of the first cervical vertebrae (just under the head) lowered blood pressure. At the time of this writing (2012), larger trials are underway to expand our scientific knowledge of this phenomenon.
The Activator Methods analysis and instrument adjusting system has also been studied for blood pressure effects. A large randomized clinical trial showed significant changes in blood pressure after the Activator adjustment. Another study showed that Activator adjustments lowered anxiety and blood pressure.
The purpose of the Activator Methods chiropractic adjustment is to eliminate vertebral subluxations and promote proper nervous system communication and function. One of the many positive "side effects" of the chiropractic adjustment is the restoration of normal body function, such as the restoration of normal blood pressure. It is possible that the Activator adjustment may be one avenue for you in helping to lower your high blood pressure.
Please note: if you are currently taking prescription blood pressure medication, you must speak with your prescribing doctor regarding any medication questions. Dr. Johnson does not advise patients on prescription medication questions.