Chiropractic Adjustment: Potential Anti-inflammatory?

Inflammation is the body's response to injury, and is usually observed as redness, heat, swelling, pain, and loss of function.  Inflammation can be good or bad, depending on when and where it is happening.  In a normal, healthy response to an injury, inflammation is a necessary response that helps the body to heal.  However, inflammation can turn from a good thing into a bad thing when it goes on too long or when it is overly strong.  When that happens, inflammation can cause a host of wide-ranging problems, including asthma, acne, vasculitis, IBD, autoimmune disease, and arthritis.  "Chronic" inflammation, as it is called, has also been linked to Alzheimer's disease, coronary artery disease, type 2 diabetes, and polycystic ovary syndrome, via C-reactive protein (CRP) (click here for a review).  A slew of anti-inflammatory drugs are aimed at reducing the symptoms of active inflammation.  This seems to be a well-aimed idea, except that long-term use of many of these anti-inflammatory drugs have been shown in many cases to cause other health problems (click here).  A logical alternative target for reducing chronic inflammation might be to eliminate the underlying cause for the inflammation therefore eliminating the need for long-term use of anti-inflammatory medication.  Recent research suggests that chiropractic adjustment may be useful for this purpose.

In the smaller focus, chiropractic adjustment may be useful for solving local chronic inflammation issues.  Vergnolle et al recently demonstrated that swelling and edema (this happens at a subluxated joint; click here for more information) results in the production and release of small molecules called neuropeptides that cause chronic inflammation (click here for the abstract, and here for a review).  Elimination of subluxation restores proper joint biomechanics, resulting in the reduction of edema and inflammation, which in turn eliminates the production and release of the neuropeptides causing chronic inflammation.  Alternatively, if a subluxation is not addressed, its persistence results in further edema, more inflammation, and further production of inflammatory molecules.  This situation results in the chronic inflammation that affects so many lives as "day to day pain."

The true benefit of chiropractic care, however, may reside in the bigger picture of what the adjustment does.  In an elegant study performed at Canadian Memorial Chiropractic College, chiropractic adjustment was shown to reduce the production of two inflammatory cytokines, tumor necrosis factor alpha and interleukin 1beta (click here for abstract).  This study suggests a whole-body benefit to the adjustment that is far more important to overall health than reduction of chronic local inflammation: chiropractic care may actually reduce whole body inflammation. Further studies will be necessary to explore this interesting finding.