WHAT IS CHIROPRACTIC?

Chiropractic is a complementary healthcare discipline that involves diagnosing and treating health concerns related to the musculoskeletal system without the use of drugs or surgery. The study cites the primary objective of chiropractic care as “optimised health and wellbeing through enhancing the nervous system function by reducing nerve interference” caused by misaligned spinal joints or bones.

Our Purpose

Our purpose is to be a global facilitator of health and wellness through access, education and advancement of Traditional & Complementary Medicine (T&CM). The World Health Organization (WHO) advises that lifestyle-related diseases (or non-communicable diseases) are responsible for more than 70% of deaths worldwide each year.
 
Knowledge represents empowerment. By sharing this evidence-based, peer-reviewed research, we aim to support everyday people to take ownership of their wellness, by making informed decisions and choices in conjunction with their health professional.

How This Study Could Help Your Heart

Globally, cardiovascular diseases are responsible for almost 18 million deaths annually, according to statistics published by the WHO, making them the world’s leading cause of mortality. This case series explores a possible relationship between chiropractic care and a measure of cardiovascular health. It is titled:
 
SUSTAINED IMPROVEMENT OF HEART RATE VARIABILITY IN PATIENTS UNDER- GOING A PROGRAM OF CHIROPRACTIC CARE: A RETROSPECTIVE CASE SERIES.
 
You can read the full study here: http://www.cjaonline.com.au/index.php/cja/article/view/178

Why Is This Study Important?

Heart rate variability (the heart’s ability to quickly change its rhythm) is an indicator of cardiac health. Poor variability is associated with increased risk of cardiovascular disease and related mortality, as well as an increased risk of other non- communicable diseases. Conversely, good heart rate variability would be expected to signal better health outcomes and wellness.
 
This case series used SDNN (standard deviation normal-to-normal), a commonly used statistical method, to measure and describe heart rate variability (HRV) in six patients undergoing longer- term chiropractic care.
 
Previous research quoted in this case series suggests that people with poor SDNN values may have a fourfold higher risk of premature mortality than those with “moderate” SDNN scores. Decreased HRV has also been associated with chronic stress, increased risk of cancer, and complications of diabetes.

What Does This Mean For My Wellness?

Case series are generally considered to offer less- robust evidence than randomised controlled trials or systematic reviews. Limitations of this study included lack of randomisation or a control arm for comparison, as well as a small sample size, and the fact that other reasons for the change in HRV could not be excluded.
 
The authors did endeavour to minimise factors that might have had an effect on the results of the study, for example by only including patients who were not using medication that could affect HRV outcomes. Assuming the sustained improvement in HRV was indeed caused by chiropractic treatment, then this case series suggests that chiropractic treatment may offer “outcomes greater than only musculoskeletal improvements”.
 
The authors quoted previous research which aimed to estimate the threshold at which HRV scores might predict healthy longevity, and those that may be associated with negative health outcomes. In two of the six cases reported, the authors noted that the patients’ HRV improved from the range associated with poorer wellness, to the range linked with better health outcomes.
 
Previous studies have suggested that HRV decreases steadily with age. While this study only comprised six patients, the improvements in HRV scores over time observed by the authors imply that chiropractic care might be a possible way to offset this decline, with associated benefits for reducing age-related cardiovascular risk.

How Does This Relate to Chiropractic Care?

Improvements in posture, alignment, range of movement and so on can be verified using mechanical measurement tools. However, any suggested benefits of chiropractic adjustment on the functioning of the nervous system, these possible benefits are more difficult to measure.
 
Besides its association with risk profiles for various non-communicable diseases, measuring HRV can also provide information about how the nervous system is functioning. For this reason, long-term changes in HRV may indicate that the chiropractic treatment is having a lasting effect on “neurophysiological regulation”.
 
In 2019, independent researchers published a case series in the Chiropractic Journal of Australia documenting sustained improvements in HRV of six patients, following long-term chiropractic care. Both mainstream and T&CM modalities have used HRV as a measure of wellness and a predictor of cardiovascular risk, but the possible effects of long-term chiropractic care on HRV had not been previously investigated.

Key Findings About the Possible Link Between Chiropractic Care and HRV

  • The authors reported that the SDNN scores of the six patients in the case series increased by “50% to greater than 300%” compared to the baseline measurements that were taken prior to treatment. That is, all patients’ outcomes “improved to values more consistent with younger or athletic individuals”.
  • One of the patients in the case series was a fitness enthusiast who already showed above- average HRV prior to chiropractic care, consistent with that of “an aerobically trained athlete”. After just over two years of regular chiropractic care, her HRV further increased by approximately 72.5%.
  • The authors noted that the precise mechanism linking chiropractic adjustment with improvements in HRV is yet to be established. However, they referred to recent research which may explain how “sensory information from joints in the spine may affect cardiac regulation”.
Disclaimer: The above does not constitute medical advice, and as with any exercise or wellness program, please consult your medical professional before commencing chiropractic treatment.
 
References
The Chiropractic Journal of Australia (CJA) is a peer-reviewed journal of record dedicated to the advancement of chiropractic science, principles and practice and seeks to fulfil this purpose by critical review and publication of research and scholarly works relating to the scientific bases and clinical applications of chiropractic, and supportive presentations of an educational and/ or professional nature.
 
Quoted from journal description
Chiropractic | SoulAdvisor
Cardiovascular Diseases | World Health Organization
Normal Values of Corrected Heart-Rate Variability in 10-Second Electrocardiograms for All Ages| Frontier in Physiology
Sustained improvement of heart rate variability in patients undergoing a program of chiropractic care: a retrospective case series | Chiropractic Journal of Australia
About the journal | Chiropractic Journal of Australia