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Chiropractic and Major Depressive Disorder

Chiropractor, Dr. Michael McKibbinThese quotes are from the National Library of Medicine’s Neurobiological basis of chiropractic manipulative treatment of the spine in the care of major depression

“Major depressive disorder (MDD) is the fourth main cause of disability worldwide, according to the World Health Organization”

“The main symptoms of MDD include anxiety, continuous depressed mood, anhedonia, poor concentration, feelings of guilt, loss of appetite, insomnia and frequent suicidal thoughts.”

“We performed this review in order to highlight the possible links between chiropractic intervention, its potential molecular effects and its possible outcomes on patients with depression.”

“All this evidence supports a strong relation between the autonomic nervous system and depression. Hence autonomic regulation at peripheral level through manipulative adjustments and spinal massage may have a positive effect on patients suffering from MDD.”

“Chiropractic manipulative therapy stimulates the release of various neurotrophins, and some of them, like BDNF and NGF, are essential for the treatment of depression. Non-noxious mechanical stimulation of the skin leads to release of NGF in rats, thereby promoting neuron survival and function. Thoracic spinal manipulative therapy stimulates different responses related to the sympathetic nervous system, the hypothalamic-pituitary axis and the endocrine system. The theory of an association between spinal manual therapy and spinal cord neuroplasticity is being explored and several studies have shown such a connection. Chiropractic therapy 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.”

“Interestingly, depression seems to be correlated with pain probably because of their common neurological pathways. In fact, 50-65% of patients with chronic pain are also diagnosed with depression. For instance, autonomic dysfunction is linked to tension-type headache (TTH) and depression. Spinal adjustments for TTH stimulate a parasympathetic response and improve TTH and associated mental disorders like depression (18,32). One study recruited TTH patients and tested the benefits of manual adjustment on depression and anxiety. The results confirmed that vertebral manipulative techniques were very effective in improving TTH and depression (33). An interesting case report of a 44-year-old teacher showed long-lasting relief from TTH and MDD after chiropractic manipulative therapy. These effects are a first clue linking chiropractic therapy for pain with treatment for MDD.”


“Chiropractic and spinal manipulative therapies along with vagal nerve stimulation may therefore be regarded as treatment options for depression. (”

“In this review we show evidence that MDD may be a symptom of autonomic imbalance and that chiropractic manipulation, spinal manipulative therapy and vagal nerve stimulation, which elicit sympathetic and parasympathetic responses, may improve autonomic imbalance and the symptoms of MDD.”

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