Imagine walking down the street and a lion jumps out in front of you. Without any conscious control your blood pressure and heart rate will skyrocket thanks to your sympathetic nervous system. You will immediately feel your heart beating faster and blood pumping more forcefully to your legs and arms so you can run away from the lion. This is a very adaptive physiological response to an acute physical stressor.
Once the stressor is over, the lion crosses the street and you are out of harm's way, your stress response turns off, your parasympathetic nervous system begins to slow down your heart via the vagus nerve and your body calms down.
Your body has done all the right things with the lion. But what if you turn on this stress response and make your heart and blood vessels work like this every time you get cut off in traffic, every time your co-worker irritates you or every time you think about that presentation looming next week. Whether the stressor lives in your external world or in the world of your imagination, your heart and blood vessels alter their function in the same way. For example, close your eyes and think about something that has stressed you out. Could have been yesterday, last week, a year ago, or even something in the future. Do you feel your heart rate and pressure increasing?
The truth is, we live in a world with chronic stress and pressure. Modern day living is filled with ongoing challenges and responsibilities - meeting deadlines at work, paying your mortgage, building a business, all while maintaining social relationships, raising a family and even working through personal challenges such as childhood trauma, loss of a loved one or recent divorce. Constant pressure in life leads to constant pressure being built up in the body. In the words of Robert Sapolsky “If stress causes your blood pressure to go up, then chronic stress causes your blood pressure to go up chronically.” Voila, you’ve got hypertension, chronically high blood pressure which is the first step towards cardiovascular disease, the number one killer in the United States and the developed world.
For people with high blood pressure, the best thing you can do to help yourself is making changes to your lifestyle. Eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, moving your body more regularly, and reducing salt and alcohol intake work as well or better than taking blood pressure medication.
In one study reported in the Journal of Human Hypertension researchers did a randomized control trial with 50 patients who had early stage high blood pressure. Half of the patients received specific chiropractic care for 8 weeks, while the other half received sham or pretend chiropractic care. After 8 weeks, the patients who received the real chiropractic care showed a significant drop in blood pressure. The average decrease in blood pressure was an extraordinary 17 mmHg in systolic blood pressure and 10 mmHg in diastolic blood pressure. This improvement is similar to when two medications are given together.
It is clear that chronic stress and pressure will gradually lead to damage in the cardiovascular system over time. Our adjusting sessions are designed to calm the activity of your sympathetic nervous system and activate the expression of your parasympathetic nervous system. When you’re living on the gas pedal, the adjustment helps you start tapping the brake pedal. This leads to a better balance of your autonomic nervous system and greater regulation of your blood pressure. In addition, the adjustment facilitates an increase in your resiliency, making you more adaptable to the stressors in your life. As your nerve system begins to better regulate, you are able to operate with greater flexibility and a more diverse range of speeds. We aren’t against living in the fast lane, we are against getting stuck in the fast lane without a set of brakes.