The ‘side effects’ of Chiropractic: a personal review
As many of my patient’s know, I am an evidence based, musculoskeletal practitioner however today I wanted to write about some ‘other’ benefits of chiropractic. I do write this in trepidation as it really goes against my scientific grain but I think I have written a very diplomatic view!
- Chiropractic gives you more ‘p-zaz’ or more ‘energy’
Have you ever seen a clip in the movie where a person gets an adjustment and they just bounce off the table like a new person? Well obviously this is exaggerated but i do sometimes hear patients state that they have improved energy levels. I am sure this is pain related as those experiencing chronic pain will find it at times debilitating. They will be scared to move or they just feel low in energy because of the emotional and physical consumption of chronic pain.
If you use chiropractic, or any form of physical therapy for that matter, and the pain stimulus is taken away you will often see patient’s bounding in their next appointment!
Research to support this claim is difficult or even impossible as energy levels are difficult to measure aside from the patient’s subjective experience. A case study by Patel and Russell followed the care of an 82-year-old female using score based questionnaires at different time points during her care. Following 5 months she subjectively noted ‘improvements in mobility, with an increased willingness to exercise in the form of walking’ 
Another aspect of fatigue, albeit controversial, is the loss of energy related to ‘adrenal fatigue’. This is described as occurring following a prolonged stress response where the adrenal glands just can’t keep up with adrenaline or cortisol production required. Symptoms can manifest as tiredness, poor sleep. Sometimes in this instance hormones such as testosterone will be used in its place resulting in the addition of low testosterone hormone levels.
Some chiropractors believe that chiropractic can relieve stress particularly if those chiropractors look at all aspects of wellness. For example, if I have a chronic neck pain patient, I will also combat the stress response and advise self-care techniques such as meditation or relaxation breathing techniques. Often patients don’t even relate their stress levels to their pain and I love seeing that light bulb moment when they connect the dots!
- Chiropractic helps with sleep
Now this is one I definitely see reported often with patients. Please note, I am not saying that Chiropractic cures insomnia, we are just talking about improved quality of sleep. Again, I believe this is often to do with pain. As we tend to do more during the day, when we stop and slow down and feel less distracted, our pain response can be intensified which in turn will affect the quality of sleep we have.
A pilot study issued in the Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics looked at 221 patients and their sleeping patterns following chiropractic. One third of the 154 patients who completed the interview reported their sleep pattern changed immediately after their chiropractic adjustment. However, their findings were erratic and non-consistent.
- Chiropractic aids in anxiety and depression
Now this could be ‘dicey’ ground as mental health is a complex. The only research in this area are usually case studies alone but i do want to talk here about my daughter. I can talk of my own experience where I often use chiropractic when she is experiencing higher levels of anxiety. In fact, she will ask for a treatment during these times and I feel it is purely related to the aspect of touch that helps her.
A case study promoted by Spinal Research found that with the reduction of pain, anxiety and depression levels were also reduced. As they state:
‘So far, we know that chiropractic care has an influence on the brain, physical functioning and quality of life. As time marches on, we are gaining more insight into exactly how this occurs. Until we finally reach a verdict on whether or not chiropractic care can indeed be used as part of a management plan for anxiety and depression, this case report offers at least a little evidence that the possibility exists.
You can read the full report, including specific details of the subluxation findings, here.’Quoted from : https://spinalresearch.com.au/case-report-reduction-in-anxiety/
As you can see, there is very little research in all of these areas and again this is due to the difficulty and almost impossible aspect of being able to reduce bias when the research relies only on personal experience.
One thing I do know, occasionally a patient will describe one of the aspects above as a side product and I will always have a little smile to myself as I secretly hope we give more than just pain relief. Just quietly i hope that we improve quality of life………
 Patel D and Russell D (2015), “Improvement in Mobility, Emotional Wellbeing and Quality of Life in an Older Adult Following Subluxation Based Chiropractic Care: A Case Report,” Annals of Vertebral Subluxation Research, September 17, 2015, pp 157-162