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  • Writer's pictureDr. Melissa Adams

Chiropractic Care & Major Depression

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The Autonomic Nervous System (ANS) is the system in your body which helps with things like digestion, heart rate, organ function, and glandular function.

The Autonomic Nervous System is made up of the Parasympathetic Nervous System (PNS) and the Sympathetic Nervous System (PNS). The Parasympathetic Nervous System is commonly described as helping with "rest and digestion," whereas the Sympathetic Nervous System is commonly described as helping with "fight or flight."

The Parasympathetic Nervous System and Sympathetic Nervous System "usually have opposite effects on tissues, so that an increase in one system’s activity concurrently decreases the other system’s activity in a very precise control of tissue function."

The Autonomic Nervous System helps with emotional processing and the Sympathetic Nervous System function increases when someone is under stress (physical or emotional). The Sympathetic Nervous System has been implicated in many conditions, including major depression.

Depressive symptoms such as "high cortisol, anxiety, insomnia, high adrenalin and agitation" are related to an increase in Sympathetic Nervous System function, and therefore a decrease in Parasympathetic function.

Chiropractic care has been shown to assist in regulating the Autonomic Nervous System by helping to activate the Parasympathatic Nervous System, helping to counterbalance the Sympathetic Nervous System."

"Chiropractic manipulative therapy stimulates the release of various neurotrophins, and some of them, like BDNF and NGF, are essential for the treatment of depression. ... works on the nervous system, stimulating it to release various chemicals and hormones that regulate blood pressure and flow, calm the brain and reduce inflammation."

Additionally, vagal nerve stimulation is "considered an effective therapy for major depression," which may be an approach provided by many different healthcare practitioners, including those practicing functional neurology.

Chiropractic care, especially with a functional neurology approach, often helps to decrease people's pain. It is well known that those suffering from depression are more likely to also have chronic pain ... so decreasing pain is another potential way chiropractors may help those who are suffering from depression.


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