Previous studies have shown that spinal adjustments can affect specific immune responses in both healthy participants and back-pain patients. However there have been no major literature reviews of the overall effect of chiropractic on immunity. In a recent presentation at the 9th Chiropractic, Osteopathy, and Physiotherapy Annual Conference in the UK, Jack Neil of the Anglo-European College of Chiropractic analyzed the existing literature on spinal manipulative therapy (SMT) and immune responses.
After reviewing the research up to January 2012, Neil confirmed that spinal adjustments are associated with a central anti-inflammatory response. Research suggests that SMT may lead to a down regulating of pro-inflammatory cytokines and an increase in antibodies involved in the immune response. At the same time, SMT may increase the production of tiny cells called leukocytes which support the white blood cells in fighting off a threat. SMT may also affect Natural Killer cells, interleukin-2 activity, TNF-a levels, cortisol, and b-endorphin levels.
The mechanisms behind these processes are still unclear however. There is not enough research yet to know whether these inflammatory changes correlate with an improvement in symptoms."Most research to date has focused on asymptomatic patients with short-term improvements. The challenge now is to clinically observe long-term health benefits in symptomatic patients," Neil concluded.
Although more research is needed, current evidence suggests that chiropractic adjustments can produce positive changes in the immune system. These immunological changes may explain why chiropractic can reduce inflammation and pain while supporting overall wellness.
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