New Ways to Lower Blood Pressure
Written by Dr. Lucas Szczepanik B.Sc., D.C.
Everyone has heard it a thousand times……..the silent killer. It is something we have known about for years and yet it continues to be a problem for Americans and Canadians alike. Reducing your salt intake, diet and exercise, and blood pressure lowering medication have been viable options in the past but a new study on chiropractic and blood pressure may present another option. A Chicago-area study published in the Journal of Human Hypertension (can be found at www.nature.com/jhh/index.html) has found NUCCA adjustment of the first cervical vertebrae (the first bone in your spine below your skull also known as the Atlas) to be highly effective in reducing blood pressure.
The 8 week study was conducted at the University of Chicago and involved 50 individuals with misalignments in the Atlas vertebrae and high blood pressure (25 people in the treatment group and 25 in the false/sham treatment group). The authors conclude the improvement in blood pressure following the correction of Atlas misalignment is similar to that seen by giving patients two different blood pressure-lowering drugs simultaneously. The change in blood pressure continued into the 8th week and none of the patients took blood pressure medicine during the study.
NUCCA stands for National Upper Cervical Chiropractic Association. It is important to note that NUCCA is a specific type of chiropractic care that focuses specifically on the first cervical vertebrae or “Atlas”. Equally important to note is the type of study performed, a placebo-controlled study. Two groups of people are told they are receiving the same treatment, yet one group receives a sham treatment and the other group receives the actual treatment. The idea behind this is to remove any possibility of a “placebo” effect which is a feeling of improvement without any real treatment being performed. Both groups are analyzed and if both groups improve equally then the study has very little validity. Whereas if the placebo group does not improve or only slightly and the treatment group shows greater improvement then the study has validity. It is the best type of study we have for proving a hypothesis.
The next question that arises is “how does the Atlas adjustment help improve blood pressure?” The structure that sits inside the Atlas vertebrae is the brainstem. The brainstem is responsible for control of blood pressure, heart rate, and breathing rates, just to name a few. Also in this area of the upper neck are the 12 ‘cranial nerves’ which may or may not be partially responsible for this blood pressure change. There is further study needed in this area and there are plans to conduct a larger scale study similar to the one previously performed.
This is just another piece of evidence that a healthy spine dictates a healthy body.