Hypertension, more commonly known as high blood pressure, occurs when the force against the walls of your arteries exceeds 140/90 mmHg. Hypertension can be caused by a wide variety of things, including stress, poor diet, diabetes, obesity, smoking, adrenal gland disorders, kidney disease, narrow arteries or genetics. If left untreated, hypertension can lead to artery damage and narrowing, aneurysm, coronary artery disease, heart failure, stroke, dementia, kidney failure, kidney scarring and in some cases, death.
Fortunately, hypertension is a reversible condition if you take a proactive approach to your health, seek treatment and make lifestyle changes upon diagnosis. While a chiropractor may be the last medical professional you think about seeking treatment from to lower your blood pressure, they should actually be one of the first. A placebo-controlled study conducted for the Journal of Human Hypertension in 2007 found that chiropractic manipulation and adjustment was extremely effective at lowering blood pressure. In fact, the study found that chiropractic care had the effect of not one, but two blood pressure medications used in combination with one another.
Specifically, there is one chiropractic adjustment that the study found was extremely effective in helping patients reduce blood pressure. The adjustment is conducted on the C-1 vertebra of the spine, also known as the Atlas vertebra. The Atlas vertebra is located at the very top of the spine, and provides support to the head. The vertebra is gently manipulated by your chiropractor, so gently that you do not even feel the adjustment being made. The study found no adverse effects or problems in the patients that underwent the non-invasive procedure.
However, the study did find that hypertension sufferers who underwent an adjustment of the C-1 Atlas vertebra saw a 14 mm Hg drop in their systolic blood pressure (the top number in the blood pressure count) as well as an 8 mm Hg drop in their diastolic blood pressure (the bottom number). No patients took any kind of blood pressure medication during the study.
So how is it that chiropractic manipulation can help lower your blood pressure and reduce your risk of the many complications and conditions that can result from hypertension? Researchers believe that injury or misalignment of the C-1 Atlas vertebra can affect the blood flow in the arteries at the base of your skull, in turn releasing signals that cause the arteries to contract. As the arteries contract, they narrow, making it hard for your blood cells to easily pass through and placing more force on the arteries throughout your body, raising blood pressure.
While chiropractic manipulation alone may not be enough to lower your blood pressure out of the hypertension level, it can be an effective method of treatment when combined with other forms of traditional and alternative medicine. If you are overweight, you may decrease your blood pressure from losing weight. Quitting smoking is also an effective way to lower blood pressure. Making adjustments to your diet by minimizing high cholesterol and fatty foods and instead eating more fresh fruits and vegetables as well as lean proteins can help. Reducing sodium may also be beneficial. Taking blood pressure medications may also be advised by your doctor. After starting treatment, it is important to visit your doctor regularly for follow ups to monitor any blood pressure changes and to reevaluate your course of treatment.