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Autonomic Nervous System and Chiropractic

Chiropractic and the autonomic nervous system

The brain controls the body’s ability to adapt

Transcript from video of Dr. Peever speaking in Mississauga prior to moving to Caledonia:
Your body has a far greater ability to heal then you’re led to believe and the curious part that connects to this, it’s coordinated by your brain.  Remember that your brain connects to everything. It co-ordinates how your body heals, functions and adapts – It is essentially an adaptation machine. It adapts, you challenge it, it adapts. It takes time but it learns. It figures out new ways to solve problems.

I hope that you are curious to learn more about how the brain adapts and how the autonomic nervous system connects to chiropractic.  Read on and get curious to make changes to your nervous system. Chiropractic can help.

The research paper linked below highlights the evidence to date (2009) regarding the impact that the spine and nervous system has on the function and healing of the body functions. As a practicing Chiropractor, I enjoy reading papers like this that summarize the research in the past as well as pull it together to learning points with quotes. Check it out:


What a great read of some of the evidence to date regarding the autonomic nervous system.

The quotes were great to read in terms of quick lessons with great wording. The list of papers that have researched into this domain is impressive as well.

In Chiropractic, we have a huge admiration for the nerve system. The autonomic nervous system is the part of the nerve system which is out of our conscious control. It is the “automatic” system. This autonomic system is incredible at running our bodies and has an incredible ability to adapt itself and our bodies to the experiences it runs into.

As a Chiropractor, we try to stimulate, assist, encourage, support, and adjust the autonomic nerve system. When this system functions better, the body is able to handle so much more. This is why we see so many incredible things happen in our patients who are adjusted. They come in to our offices with problems that they “…thought would go away.”  When we check the patient’s spine, we are looking for where the spine and nerve system are struggling. The term we use to describe this in Chiropractic is subluxation. The term in this paper to describe this process is segmental neuro spinal dysfunction as well as the vertebral subluxation complex. When we use specific Chiropractic adjustments to correct subluxations in the patients spine and nerve system, the autonomic system can get back into the proper gear and then may appropriately address the challenges that have been negatively impacting the patient.

Besides watching the improvement of a patient clinically over time, the autonomic nerve system can be watched working through special tests. Some of the tests include thermography, surface EMG, and heart rate variability. It is really amazing to see patients whole neurological system balance after a course of Chiropractic care.

Check out this article on the effect of Chiropractic care on heart rate variability and pain in a multi-site clinical study.

This paper also describes aspects for researchers to look into in the future which will be exciting for a practicing Chiropractor in the field to read, watch evolve, and further our understanding of how a specific Chiropractic adjustment of a subluxation positively impacts a person’s health naturally.

Below is a 2020 research article on the outcomes of Chiropractic care and its effect on heart rate variability and associated autonomic function in a 38-year-old male.  And at the bottom of this blog post there is another post regarding HRV and Chiropractic specifically.

Improvements in Heart Rate Variability and Reduction in Dysautonomia Following Chiropractic Care: A Case Study and
Selective Review of Literature.  Below are a few notes and quotes from the article regarding what other health benefiting efforts were implemented.

The Chiropractor was using a manual adjusting technique called Diversified Adjusting.

“The dietary modifications consisted of the consumption of
vegetables, increase intake of healthy fats such as Omega-3
fatty acids, reduced or eliminated alcohol consumption, and
intake of vitamin D. The Journal of Cardiology has suggested
all of these measures as effective approaches to increase heart
rate variability.” The Relationship of Autonomic Imbalance, Heart Rate Variability and Cardiovascular Disease Risk Factors

The exercise modifications included high intensity interval training or “HIIT”.  “The American Journal of Epidemiology reports that vigorous exercise improves one’s heart rate variability.”  Effects of moderate and vigorous physical activity on heart rate variability in a British study of civil servants

It is amazing how when implementing better function and good routines that the body can adapt and heal.  Chiropractic is a great way to get this process started and maintained.  Read below how Dr. Fred Barge communicated this process in the past.

Read this story below from Dr. Fred Barge as he communicates how Chiropractic can help with people suffering with many different health problems because of its impact on the nervous system.

“If this is your first Chiropractic experience, you may wonder why you see so many patients at this clinic. Let’s say you came to us for care of your backache because this is a common reason for people to seek Chiropractic care. You may wonder then that so many, many people are suffering like you, assuming that they all have backaches. Wrong! The patients you see are suffering from many different problems. I often say, “From adenoids to athlete’s foot.” Now before you say, “absurd, you Chiropractors claim to cure everything,” let me explain. Chiropractors do not claim to cure anything! We quite simply say only the body heals, but if your body has nerve pressure because the spine is out of line, it can cause many health problems.” – Dr. Fred H. Barge, D.C.

Dr. Fred Barge had an amazing ability to communicate Chiropractic.

The above description from him is one of my favourites. It not only comments on how people suffering with many different health challenges find help through Chiropractic care, but also touches in the values of Chiropractic.

Here to help,

Dr. Callum Peever – Chiropractor in Caledonia

Heart Rate Variability, the autonomic nervous system, and Chiropractic

Heart rate variability (HRV) is a way that we can measure and monitor the performance of the autonomic nervous system.

“Heart rate variability (HRV) is a measurement of the time intervals between adjacent heartbeats. Variability in heart rate reflects the vagal tone and sympathetic function of the autonomic nervous system, and has been used as a monitoring tool for clinical conditions characterized by altered autonomic nervous system function.”

The above quote is from a review paper by Dr. Christopher Kent regarding the association of heart rate variability in assessing autonomic nervous system function and vertebral subluxation.

Dr. Kent proposes that thermography and heart rate variability (HRV) can be used as a measure of a chiropractic patient’s autonomic nervous system in relation to the neurological dysregulation associated with vertebral subluxation.  What this means is that if your spine is interfering with your nerves, your heart rate variability could be bad.  By measuring this change in a patient, clinical improvement can be measured and observed objectively.

This change was seen in a case series of two patient who’s premature ventricular contractions (or an irregular/improper heartbeat) resolved while under chiropractic care while monitoring their autonomic nervous system through HRV measurements.  The Chiropractic mechanism to describe this in the research paper was:

“Benign Premature Ventricular Contractions threaten the population as its repetitive and polymorphic changes have been known to occur in otherwise healthy individuals.16-20 The PVC is a ventricular arrhythmia
that could be thought of as a manifestation of vertebral subluxations which have caused disruption in the autonomic nervous system, more specifically vagal tone and sympathetic overactivity. In this instance, one could expect to see an increase in sympathetic activity and a decrease or withdrawal
in vagal activity.18 Such an imbalance of the autonomic nervous system can be assessed through evaluating heart rate variability,21-109 therefore allowing for a more specialized course of care when necessary. HRV has been used as predictor of arrhythmic events and mortality, in addition to
other conditions.21 This interval variability can destabilize cardiac neuronal and electrophysiological control and further alter the activity of the nervous system.19,110 Finding and reducing the vertebral subluxations allowed these patients to innately adapt and restore autonomic function to a more homeostatic state, therefore resulting in improvement and/or resolution of the PVC’s and other symptomatology.”

This same technology is making its way into smart watches and other devices.  I personally have used this technology as a measure of exhaustion and performance through my Suunto watch for running.  Keep an eye out for heart rate variability to make it into more and more devices, as it offers a view into the functioning of your brain and nervous system!

What other industries are finding connections to heart rate variability or HRV?

A 2018 paper by Kent (link just below), highlights studies that have “…reported the potential utility of HRV”

Kent C (2018) titled Chiropractic and Mental Health: History and Review of Putative Neurobiological Mechanisms. Journal Neuro Psychology And Brain Research: JNPB-103.

“studies have reported the potential utility of HRV in the
evaluation of conditions and states associated with autonomic
dysregulation. These include”:
-carotid intima media thickness
-prediction of mortality
-multiple sclerosis
-eating behavior
-burnout and depression
-chronic posttraumatic stress disorder
-working memory performance
-inflammation in rheumatoid arthritis
-insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome
-type 1 diabetes
-cardiac autonomic nerve function in obese school-age children
-cancer prognosis

Follow the links above and grow your interest in how the Autonomic Nervous System influences our lives.

What are you doing to help your Autonomic Nervous System function?

4 Join the Conversation

  1. Iftikhar Ahmed says
    Jun 12, 2018 at 9:26 PM

    Please comment on the theory of subluxations not being accepted by a segment of medical community though supported by research. May I know as a student of Osteopathy is the subluxation concept still valid? Thanks for your time Dr.

    • erinmills says
      Jun 13, 2018 at 1:00 PM

      Even though supported by research there will always be opponents to views and theories. I am not an expert at this age old debate, but do work daily with the practical physiological impact of subluxations in patients. It is a physiological experience that may have to be experienced to be fully understood. I do work with many students and always encourage curiosity and questions such as what you have shown. To help you ponder your question consider that in Medicine the aim is to stop death, while in Chiropractic our aim is to encourage health.

  2. Lisa Eskew says
    Nov 02, 2018 at 4:28 AM

    Hi, I'm a 52 year old Virginia women who 2 months ago developed svt. I am having episodes daily, and really feel like it's my autonomic nervous system. Here, where I live I'm not sure where to turn. Can you direct me to a good chiropractor who could possibly help me. Again I'm having high blood pressure, neck and upper back pain, and heart arrhythmia daily. Maybe you have a college, or know a chiropractor that can help me in Danville, Virginia area.

    • erinmills says
      Nov 07, 2018 at 1:17 PM

      Hi Lisa, Sorry I took so long to reply. I have been to Virginia Beach once, but don't personally know any Chiropractors there. I used the "find a doc" link on the webpage and found Dr. Maggie Ashworth, who is Advanced Proficiency Rated in the Activator Method Chiropractic Technique. Her phone number is 434-251-8409 and she is on Campview Road. You would have to be tested by her to determine if your case is a Chiropractic case. But as you read on this post regarding the Autonomic Nervous System and Chiropractic - The spine can directly impact the Autonomic Nervous System, so it would be good place to check! I hope you have good success and change with your condition. Sincerely, Dr. Callum Peever

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