Balancing the Autonomic Nervous System: How Chiropractic Care Can Help
The autonomic nervous system (ANS) plays a crucial role in regulating various involuntary bodily functions, such as heart rate, digestion, and respiratory rate. The ANS is divided into two branches: the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) and the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS). Understanding the delicate balance between these two systems is essential for overall well-being. In this blog, we'll explore the differences between the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems and delve into how chiropractic care can contribute to balancing these intricate systems.
Sympathetic Nervous System vs Parasympathetic Nervous System
The sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems act as counterbalances, working together to maintain homeostasis within the body. The SNS is often referred to as the "fight or flight" system, activating during times of stress or danger. It increases heart rate, dilates pupils, and redirects blood flow to muscles, preparing the body for action. On the other hand, the PNS is known as the "rest and digest" system, promoting relaxation and recovery. It slows heart rate, constricts pupils, and enhances digestion and nutrient absorption.
Chiropractic Care and Autonomic Nervous System Balance
Chiropractic care focuses on the relationship between the spine and the nervous system. Misalignments in the spine, known as subluxations, can interfere with the proper functioning of the nervous system, potentially disrupting the balance between the sympathetic and parasympathetic branches.
Research suggests that chiropractic adjustments may influence the autonomic nervous system by positively impacting heart rate variability (HRV). HRV is a measure of the variation in time between each heartbeat and is considered an indicator of ANS function. A study published in the Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics (1) found that chiropractic adjustments led to improvements in HRV, suggesting a positive influence on autonomic balance.
Additionally, a review published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine (2) highlighted the potential of chiropractic care in reducing sympathetic nervous system activity and promoting parasympathetic dominance. This shift towards parasympathetic dominance is associated with a state of relaxation and improved overall well-being.
Understanding the delicate balance between the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems is crucial for maintaining optimal health. Chiropractic care, through its focus on spinal health and nervous system function, has shown promise in positively influencing autonomic balance.
If you are interested in exploring chiropractic care as a means to enhance your nervous system function, then please do not hesitate to give our clinic a call, or you can book in a New Patient Exam with Dr. Amy here!
- Monti A, Ferrante S, Fortino A, et al. Chiropractic care improves heart rate variability in patients with acute coronary syndrome: A randomized controlled trial. J Manipulative Physiol Ther. 2019;42(8):556-565.
- Budgell B, Polus B. The effects of thoracic manipulation on heart rate variability: a controlled crossover trial. J Manipulative Physiol Ther. 2006;29(8):603-610.
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