We hope that all of our clients and supporters are staying safe and healthy in these unprecedented times. We have fielded a few questions about our practice during this time and wanted to take a moment to answer them. Particularly in light of the current crisis mode we are in, we thought we could share some insight about possible connections between chiropractic care and COVID-19.
Illinois recognizes chiropractic care as an essential service during this time of crisis. We appreciate everyone who’s staying at home during this time, and encourage continuing that practice! Among other things, it helps alleviate the burden on the health care system.
We are still offering chiropractic care; in order to maintain social distancing, we are seeing patients both during and outside of normal operating hours. Expanding our patient visit hours has allowed us to ensure that patients aren’t in the office “back to back”, and provides us an opportunity to sanitize to avoid any kind of possible contamination.
So if everyone is supposed to be staying home, who are we seeing?
- Healthcare providers: What happens when those on the front lines have been working long hours, are sore & stressed? It is especially important for those in health care to take care of themselves, so they can take care of patients. As a result, many healthcare practitioners have reached out to us for their own personal health & well-being. Chiropractic care for asymptomatic healthcare providers can ultimately allow them to continue to work through COVID-19 crisis.
- Some of our regular patients are at a phase in their treatment where they are finally experiencing relief from pain and other symptoms that in some cases have plagued them for years. They simply can’t afford to lose the momentum of their treatment plans right now, and we understand and support that.
- Additionally, providing our services helps the hospitals by taking a load off their shoulders as they deal with an increased load of patients in need of respiratory care. Acute low back, neck & shoulder pain may normally cause people to visit the ER, but the hospitals need free beds maintained for those who really need their care from this virus. And, by seeing those patients at our offices, we are minimizing potential exposure to the virus by keeping patients out of potential COVID-19 hot zones where others may be experiencing symptoms.
What are the benefits of Chiropractic Care as it relates to preventing or mitigating the effects of COVID-19?
1. Nervous system optimization
At Keystone Chiropractic, we work to restore your body’s ability to function normally, thereby optimizing your nervous system. We correct neuro-structural shifts of your spine, especially your upper neck, in the area called the atlas & axis. This area impacts your body’s ability to maintain balance by keeping your head on straight. Your head is home to a lot of key components of your life, including your balance centers, pain perception and your automatic nerve system. Let’s face it, you live in your head, and as such, where your head goes, you go. If the segments at the base of your neck, the atlas and the axis are off just a few degrees, your head’s perception of balance to your body is skewed. This causes a global shift of your body, changing how you walk and move your arms, and potentially twisting your spine.
Left alone long enough, this shift can cause discomfort and pain throughout your body, especially as you age.
This area also supports the autonomic or automatic nerve system (ANS); it controls everything that you don’t think about on a daily basis. If you don’t meditate regularly, you’re probably not overly focused on your breathing. Unless you have a heart monitor, you probably don’t pay much attention to your heart rate. We all agree that these are critical functions of the body; they are just two of the functions controlled by your ANS.
There are two parts to your ANS: the sympathetic side (your fight & flight reactions), and the parasympathetic side, (your rest, digest & heal reactions). They are both equally important, and generally act in a teeter totter effect, with one running while the other is subdued. After a good meal, you just want to relax and sometimes even fall asleep; that’s your parasympathetics working. If you’re stressed, that generally means your sympathetic side is working over-time. In our modern society, especially right now, it is easy for the sympathetics to be in over-drive.
The atlas and axis area at the base of your skull is one of the few areas that helps to up-regulate the parasympathetic nerves, by influencing an area of the brain called the nucleus tractus solitarius (NTS). The NTS is the home nucleus for our main parasympathetic nerve, the vagus nerve. If inputs to this area of the brain aren’t functioning properly, the vagus nerve doesn’t work. The vagus nerve controls many important functions including those we were talking about earlier (heart, lungs, liver, pancreas, spleen, etc.). You might not know what the spleen does, but I’m pretty sure you can agree with me, you want yours working properly.
2. Immune function
One of the things that most of our patients notice is that they get sick less. They experience fewer colds & flu-like illnesses, less allergy symptoms. Generally, they have fewer health issues overall. Patients who are teachers especially notice this compared to some of their peers who aren’t under some form of chiropractic care. This means they don’t need to take unnecessary time off from school, or worse, have to teach while they’re sick themselves. We see these anecdotal stories time and again across all chiropractic practices. Sadly, we don’t have clinical studies that show immune function benefits from chiropractic care. But the science that is available strongly suggests a connection between immune function & proper nerve function.
We don’t have enough space here to do a deep primer on the sympathetic nervous system other than to say it does things to your body’s innate immune response, including activating your cytokine response. If you’ve been paying attention to the media, one of the major issues people have is a “cytokine storm” that basically amounts to the body overreacting to the COVID-19 virus. Think using a sledgehammer to swat a fly on marble countertops; that kind of overreacting.
If you’re already stressed out, your sympathetic nervous system is working overtime. That means you’re more prone to a weakened innate immune response, the first line of defense for novel viruses & bacteria. Everything you can do to ensure your health is maintained is necessary at this point in time in our lives. Just one more reason we’re here if you need us.
3. Stress reduction
If you’ve ever been in any level of pain, it’s probably stressed you out. I’m not sure what’s worse — being in pain & stressed, or being stressed without any pain. So many people tell me they’ll call when they need me. That’s usually when they are at the point of being in pain & stressed. What we find more commonly is that those segments in the neck can be out of place long before you feel pain, and that is often what brings on the stress.
If you’re already stressed, you’re going to be in this sympathetic mode to some degree, as there’s really a balance between the sympathetic nervous system & the parasympathetic nerve system (your rest, digest. & heal side of things). Since these two regulate your body and they work mostly as a teeter-totter, when one system is ramped up, the other has a hard time responding. If you haven’t been sleeping well lately, you’re not alone. It’s likely your sympathetic system is in control.
So what can you do to prevent the need to leave your home for a visit to our office?
- Increase your Vitamin D usage. Vitamin D has a long history of immune boosting function and hormone optimization. It’s only made worse that we’re not at a great spot to naturally produce Vitamin D by getting sun exposure
- As it warms up, get outside. Get that natural sun exposure (do not get a sunburn!), as there may be other health benefits involved there.
- Clean up your house! While there are several cultures that do an annual cleaning, it’s a great idea to clean house. Wipe everything down and enjoy a good old fashioned spring cleaning!
- Move!! Exercise fortifies immune function & decrease insulin spikes.
- Insulin is the enemy of innate immune function. Studies show that insulin spikes decrease the ability of your first line of defense, your innate immune function (more on this in a different post).
- Eat less junk, including bread & pasta, which converts to sugar in your body.
- Practice intermittent fasting. Simply put, eat your meals (and snacks if you’d like) within an 8-hour window in your day. Then just drink water, tea or black coffee for the rest of the day.
If you need us, we are here for you!
When I was an engineer traveling around the country, I would get sick at least once if not twice a year. I would be down for a day or two with a fever, cough or cold. I did my best not to miss work, but some days had to be missed. Even when I wasn’t conventionally “sick”, I suffered from chronic sinusitis, wiping & blowing my nose multiple times a day.
The two biggest benefits I’ve noticed over the years I’ve been under chiropractic care:
- I’ve taken virtually no sick time that wasn’t self-inflicted. Sure, if I decided to go on a two-hour kettle-bell lifting workout or an all weekend, ditch digging session with my Dad, I’m going to pay for it for the next several days.
- My immune system doesn’t jump at every new thing. I may still have a slight drip in my nose occasionally, but often that can be accounted to the erratic weather changes more than my own health.
I am so grateful for the chiropractors who have taken care of me in my times of need, and there have been many. They have come in at off times and have gone out of their way to make sure my head was on straight. It’s the least I can do to pass that forward to those of you who are in need of care.
About Keystone Chiropractic
As an engineer, Dr. Schurger looks at the whole body as a system to determine what is best for each patient. Custom spinal imaging is performed for each patient in order to create a custom correction. Dr. Schurger has transformed himself through the ketogenic diet and offers nutritional advice to help patients improve their overall health (weight loss being a side effect). His practice, Keystone Chiropractic is at 450 S. Durkin Drive, Ste. B, Springfield. Call 217-698-7900 to setup a complementary consultation to see if he can help you!