Chiropractic Therapy for Digestive Disorders

A research report published in The American Journal of Gastroenterology suggests that over 42% of the entire U.S. population uses complementary or alternative therapy for the management of different medical conditions and gut disorders. The results of the research conducted by D. Strader also indicated that over 39% of all study participants agreed to the use of CAM (complementary and alternative medicine) in the past month. Another research report indicated that over 80 billion USD are spent annually for the management of gastrointestinal issues like bloating, nausea, diarrhea, constipation and irritable/ inflammatory bowel conditions. However, most medical therapies are not only ineffective but are also associated with complex systemic complications with prolonged use.

The gastrointestinal disorders can be optimally managed by controlling the nerves that supply the gut. The vagus nerve manages the parasympathetic functions of the gut; whereas sympathetic functions are supplied by thoracic & lumbar parts of spinal cord.

Researchers believe that since chiropractic adjustments and manipulations change the firing rate of nerve impulses, it can significantly affect the functioning of the gut. Moreover, since most of the pathological gut conditions are the result of the improper alignment of spinal vertebrae, correction by spinal manipulation may help in the transmission of appropriate signals that may restore optimal gut metabolism and motility.

Joel Alcantara discussed in his research study published in Clinical Chiropractic that neonatal constipation is the second most common cause of pediatric visit to the hospitals and more than 25% gastroenterologist visits are due to significant and troubling pediatric constipation. Alcantara employed chiropractic procedures like the activator technique along with high velocity low amplitude thrusts in 3 pediatric aged children (with a mean age of less than 2 years) who came to medical attention with a chronic history of hypo-motile gut. Before subjecting these children to chiropractic manipulation, all other medical and herbal remedies were tried with no improvement in the constipation.

However, with chiropractic therapy spanning over a small duration of just 3 weeks to 12 weeks, all three babies improved significantly (from once weekly bowel movement to once daily bowel movements). Moreover, parents also reported that the bowel movements were normal (not associated with any rectal bleeding or abdominal pain).
In another study conducted by Hains, 62 patients were enrolled in the study with a chronic history of gastro-esophageal reflux disease (over a 3 month period) and refractory to over the counter supplements. Hains randomly assigned the study population in 3 groups, with one group receiving ischemic compression (a chiropractic technique and 20 sessions of spinal manipulations), group 2 only spinal manipulation and group 3 exclusive ischemic compression.

Results indicated that the group that received both ischemic compression and spinal manipulation reported highest improvement in the symptoms and frequency of attacks (correspond to 66% as oppose to only 40% in group with exclusive spinal manipulation and 65% with exclusive ischemic compression) suggesting a significant role of chiropractic therapy in the management of GERD.

The case study reported by T. Wagner and published in Chiropractic Technique suggests that chiropractic manipulation is also helpful against Irritable Bowel Disease. Wagner reported a young female with a history of severe and chronic (for the last 5 years) IBS with a frequency of 1-2 attacks/week. The young female was refractory to all other medical and interventive techniques; however, when chiropractic adjustment was attempted, the patient responded almost immediately and complete remission was achieved.

It can be safely concluded that most gastrointestinal disorders respond quite favorably to chiropractic adjustments. It is recommended to speak to your healthcare provider for more information.

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