A New Approach for Anxiety

by | Nov 21, 2018

Anxiety can be debilitating. Imagine that you’re a news anchor. You’re at the top of your game, you work for ABC and you’ve got a coveted morning news spot. You’re really good at your job and you’ve done this before a million times before. In fact, this is an easier job than the war reporting that you’ve done in the past. Your broadcast is underway, you’re live, and then, without warning, you feel panic hit. All of a sudden you can’t get your breath, you’re blinking so fast you can barely see, and then the sweating starts. That’s exactly what happened to Dan Harris and he talks openly about it in his book, 10% Happier, and you can see the video clip from this incident here.

Not all anxiety happens as one extreme event like it did with Dan. More often, anxiety is days and years of low level discomfort that holds you back and nags at you. Here’s how anxiety sufferers describe their disability in an article here:

“Anxiety keeps me awake at night; it keeps me as a prisoner in my home. Anxiety makes me feel like a failure; it has taken away my self-worth. Anxiety makes me feel uncomfortable and nervous. Anxiety has taken away friends, family, opportunities, my life.”

“It’s like you have no control; it’s feeling constantly uncomfortable in your own skin. It is isolating, lonely, and it’s soul-destroying.”

Or, how about this one: “It’s like not realizing you’ve been holding your breath so you have to constantly remind yourself to breathe.”

If you suffer from anxiety then you very well recognize these symptoms. And, if you’re reading this article, you’re likely looking for a solution outside of standard medication treatment. As a chiropractor in private practice for the past 13 years, our office has successfully worked with many anxiety sufferers using a variety of non-drug methods. While every patient is different and requires their own plan of care, all patients in our office have had one treatment in common: the chiropractic adjustments. If you’re new to chiropractic care this might not make sense. In fact, I’ve heard patients say, “Before starting care, I thought chiropractic was all about back pain!”

Let’s look at the mechanism behind chiropractic’s unexpected success with anxiety. First, chiropractic doesn’t directly “treat” anxiety- chiropractors only work with the nerve, muscle, and structural system of the body, removing interference from the body. This gives your own body’s healing system a chance to take over and make corrections for better health in all sorts of ways.

So, bear with me for a moment and let’s get technical. When your body’s nervous system is inappropriately stimulated, something that chiropractors call subluxation, it creates nociceptive input into your body’s software (the nerve system). Think of nociception as static. Certain areas of the body are more susceptible to this than others and the most susceptible area of all is at the very top of your spine in an area called Atlas/ C1. Once this area has become misaligned and begins creating pressure on the delicate nerve structures it creates a decrease in vagal tone which the body counters with an increase in sympathetic tone- what’s commonly called a stress response. As the chronic pressure continues over time this sympathetic response begins to drive the body. Sympathetic response causes increased heart rate, sweating, jumpiness, trouble sleeping, poor digestion, rapid blinking, trouble swallowing and much more. Does this sound anything like the symptoms of anxiety? Why yes it does!

Chiropractors are uniquely positioned to break this sympathetic cycle in a couple of ways. First, chiropractors reduce the mechanical structural tension on the delicate nerve fibers and stop the ongoing “static” of nociceptive input. Secondly, with adjustments, especially at Atlas/C1, the vagal nerve is stimulated the body responds by increasing the parasympathetic nervous system. Parasympathetics are exactly opposite a sympathetic response: restfulness, sleeping, digesting, calmness, and healing. Through this process the body can begin to balance between the stress response and the relaxation response. Wow!

Here are a few case studies that have been reported in the literature.

If you suffer from anxiety, please consider upper cervical chiropractic as part of your health care package. When your body works better, so do you!

Find more articles on our sister blog at My Wellbeing Compass.