Chiropractic care is all about restoring balance within your autonomic nervous system and creating energy reserves for your body to better adapt to a stressful environment. There are two parts to your autonomic nervous system: the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system. These two systems are antagonistic to each other meaning that they counteract each other. When these two systems are working in harmony, the body functions as intended. However, what happens to most individuals in this world, is a shift to a nervous system that is sympathetic dominant. The sympathetic nervous system is also known as the "fight or flight" response. This part of the nervous system is put to use when we are in an excited or agitated state. For example, if we were on a walk in the woods an encountered a bear that wasn't too happy to see us. Our sympathetic nervous system would kick in, sending a cascade of neurotransmitters into different organs of the body, dialating our pupils, increasing our heart rate, and shunting our blood to our muscles to either fight or run from our threat. The sympathetic nervous system is perfect for this response, but if left "on" for too long, this response can be harmful to the body.
Your Heart Doesn't Lie
Clinicians can use a measurement called heart rate variability (HRV) to assess how your heart rate is being propagated. Both the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system have the ability to effect your heart. The sympathetic nerves feed a neurotransmitter (epiniphrin) into to the heart, while the parasympathetic nerves feed a different neurotransmitter (acetocholine) into the same part of the heart through the vagus nerve. These two different neurotransmitters effect the heart differently and can be measured in terms of frequency with the HRV measurement. The sympathetic system or "flight or fight" response shows a lower frequency than the parasympathetic or "rest and digest" response, which shows a higher frequency. Using this knowledge, one take an objective measurement as to how much stress the body is actually under, rather than relying on a basic questionnaire.
The Ultimate Goal
Chiropractors use factors such as pain, and quality of life factors to gauge whether or not their adjustments are effective. On the surface, chiropractors treat pain, but ultimately chiropractors are focused on the body's innate ability to heal itself and adapt to the stressors put upon it. When we get "stuck" in a sympathetic dominate state for too long our bodies lose that ability and open the door for pain and disease to take hold. In a multisite clinical study completed in 2005. Chiropractic care showed a significant improvement in HRV after 4 weeks of chiropractic care. This same study also showed a significant improvement in each patients HRV after their very first chiropractic adjustment!
5 Ways to Raise Your HRV
1. Chiropractic care
2. Moderate aerobic exercise
3. Limiting high fat/high sugar foods
4. Take a good omega 3 supplement
5. Get more sleep