Chiropractic for Blood Pressure?

909106_-_beep_beep_blood_pressure-[originally published in KCN, June 2007]

Have you ever played the game Word Association?  You know, the game where someone says a word, and then the next person responds with a word that has some sort of association with it.  For example, if I said “dog,” you might say “cat.” If I said “chiropractic,” you might say “back pain” or “spine.”  What you probably wouldn’t say is “blood pressure”  — unless of course your name happens to be George Bakris, M.D.

You see, Dr. Bakris is the director of the University of Chicago Hypertension Center, and he recently published a study in the Journal of Human Hypertension in which he found that chiropractic adjustments had a positive effect in reducing high blood pressure — significantly so.  As a matter of fact, in a report by WebMD, Bakris stated that the chiropractic adjustment “had the effect of not one, but two blood pressure medications given in combination.”  He added that it seemed to be “adverse-event free” and that they “saw no side effects and no problems.”

Bakris originally got the idea for the study when a colleague of his tipped him off that he was noticing a strange trend in his family medial practice.  The doctor had been sending some of his patients to a local chiropractor (most likely for some sort of neck or back pain) — some of which also happened to have high blood pressure.  What amazed the medical doctor, was not that his patients’ spinal pain had resolved, but that after seeing the chiropractor, his hypertensive patients saw their blood pressure normalize.  Some were even able to stop taking their blood pressure medications altogether.

To see if there was any merit to his colleague’s observations, Bakris organized a pilot study consisting of 50 individuals with stage 1 hypertension.  The study was conducted over an 8-week observation period using a double blind, placebo-controlled design. Twenty-five of the patients received a very specific one-time adjustment to the Atlas vertebra (the topmost bone of the spine), and the other 25 received a “sham” procedure. No antihypertensive medications were administered during the trail period.

In the report by WebMD, Bakris stated, “When the statistician brought me the data, I actually didn’t believe it. It was way too good to be true.  The statistician said, ‘I don’t even believe it.’ But we checked for everything, and there it was.”

What they found was that even after 8 weeks those who got the “real” adjustment saw an average drop of 14 mm Hg in the systolic pressure (the top number of a blood pressure reading) and an average drop of 8 mm Hg in the diastolic pressure (the bottom number of a blood pressure reading).

All of the adjustments were administered by 84 year-old chiropractor Marshall Dickholtz Sr., DC of Chicago.  Dr. Dickholtz specializes in a chiropractic technique known as NUCCA and has been doing so for 50 years.

There are still many questions to be answered.  Dr. Bakris admits that not everyone with high blood pressure is going to be a candidate for this type of treatment.  He stated that some sort of previous head or neck trauma is most likely a factor in all of this.  Dickholtz added that the misaligned Atlas “triggers release of signals that make the arteries contract.”

This is interesting stuff and has the potential to help a lot people.  Maybe one day we will see chiropractic adjustments right next to the recommendation for reduced sodium intake.  While it is too early to advocate, or even suggest, flushing your hypertension medication down the toilet, having your spine checked for vertebral misalignments just makes good sense.  Because when everything is aligned properly, the nervous system that controls all the functions of your body — including blood pressure — is just able to function better.

Bakris concedes that they are still in the early stages of research on this and is currently organizing a much bigger clinical trial.

Sources used for this article:
Bakris et. al.  Atlas vertebra realignment and achievement of arterial pressure goal in hypertensive patients:  a pilot study.  Journal of Human Hypertension.  (2007) 21, p. 347-352.  March 2, 2007.
DeNoon.  Chiropractic Cuts Blood Pressure. 03/07/07.
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