Suffering from anxiety and depression can feel debilitating. No longer finding joy in things once loved and having a constant feeling of impending doom can really take a toll on the body and mind. Sadly, over 40 million adults (31%) in the U.S. experience an anxiety disorder at one point or another in life, while over 16 million people of all ages (6.7%) in the U.S. have a major depressive episode each year. The good news is that seeing a chiropractor can often help alleviate symptoms.
Each case of anxiety and depression has its own unique set of symptoms. Approximately 50% of people who suffer from depression also have anxiety. The most common symptoms of depression and anxiety that are present in a majority of cases include:
- Feelings of persistent sadness
- Difficulty concentrating
- Feelings of emptiness and hopelessness
- Loss of interest in hobbies and passions
- Lack of motivation
- Loss of appetite
- Increased appetite
- Hypersomnia (oversleeping)
- Suicidal thoughts
- Worry or fear in the absence of a specific threat
- Feeling worried more often than not
- The object of worry is uncontrollable and shifts from one topic to the next
- At least 3 of the following:
- Restless or “on edge” feelings
- Difficulty concentrating
- Feeling as if one's mind went blank
- Sleep disturbances
- Fatigue (more than typical)
- Muscle aches
Causes and Help for Anxiety and Depression
Spinal health influences almost every region of your body, and there is supporting evidence that regular spinal adjustments help keep the central nervous system in optimal condition, just as regular oil changes keep your car running. The spinal cord is like a superhighway for the central nervous system, connecting the brain to the rest of the body. When one or more of the vertebrae have shifted out of place, it can irritate the nerves and interfere with the nerve impulses traveling to and from the brain, causing a whole host of signs and symptoms. An interruption in nervous system function can manifest through both physical and mental pain.
The main goal of chiropractic treatment is to focus on removing structural shifts in the spine that may be limiting nervous system function—and many chiropractors suspect that adjustments of the upper cervical spine (neck) give some patients relief who are suffering with anxiety and depression. A small research study in 2013 supports chiropractic treatment of the upper cervical spine in patients with mild to moderate anxiety and/or depression. The patients in the study who received chiropractic care reported a lessening of symptoms of anxiety and depression as well as a decrease in muscle tension and pain and an increase in energy and mental clarity. Another study reported that of 2,818 patients undergoing chiropractic care, 78% reported an improvement in their mental/emotional health. They also reported positive changes in stress with increased life enjoyment for months following chiropractic care.
Spinal adjustment can have a positive impact on mood by triggering hormones throughout your body that are involved in positive nervous system functioning. Studies show that after getting a chiropractic adjustment, your body triggers an increase in the following hormones:
- neurotensin, which neutralizes stress-induced pain
- oxytocin, which boosts neuro-communication and feelings of social bonding
- cortisol, which blocks pain deriving from inflammation
Why Seek Chiropractic Care If You Suffer From Depression and Anxiety?
Successful treatment of depression and anxiety is something medication alone is typically unable to achieve. Half of the people who take SSRI antidepressants (commonly prescribed to treat anxiety and depression) are not relieved of their symptoms, and those who do find some relief this way must continually rely on the medications, which come with their own set of undesirable side effects.
Chiropractors help put the body in a state of optimal functionality by removing nervous system interference, and this type of interference may contribute to anxiety and depression. Also, relief from chronic pain gives many individuals a whole new—and positive—outlook. Chiropractors take a mind-body approach to wellness; they look at all aspects of health and may integrate various therapies for the improvement of overall health, including adjustments, therapies, exercise, diet and supplements. Along with your other healthcare providers, chiropractors can be an important part of your healthcare team to help you manage your anxiety and depression.