Mental Health – How Can Chiropractic Treatment Help You?


Mental health problems can take many forms –

Fatigue or inability to sleep

Muscle tension and stiffness

Headaches or migraines

Aches and pains throughout the body

Inability to relax

Raised blood pressure

Digestion problems

Causes of mental health problems

You may be genetically predisposed to mental health problems – meaning it runs in your family

The environment you live in – living with a lot of noise, with poor air quality, in a densely populated area or having problems growing up with abuse of some kind

Childhood trauma  – what happened to you as a child can have long lasting effects

 Stressful events – any event that caused you stress such as a car accident, being abused, being bullied, losing someone you love

Brain chemistry – any imbalance of the naturally occurring chemicals in your brain and body can predispose you to mental illness

Drugs – such as antidepressants, corticosteroids (anti inflammatory meds) and opiates have been associated with depression and or mania.

Alcohol is never helpful to stress and in the long term will make it worse!


Alcohol – can cause signs and symptoms of depression, anxiety, psychosis and anti social behaviour.


Unhealthy habits – not sleeping enough, not eating well, drinking too much etc. Our bodies need looking after just like our cars – if we put fizzy drinks into our cars instead of petrol, we couldn’t drive very far. Because our bodies still function, despite what we eat or drink, we think that we are not doing harm to ourselves – but we are!

How stress affects brain and body

Some mental stress is good for us – it is part of life. It is when it goes on for too long that it is not so good.

Mental stress that goes on for too long can trigger many diseases but also worsen symptoms of existing mental issues such as depression, anxiety and personality disorders along with physical issues such as digestive functioning, heart conditions and muscle tension.

Mental stress can reduce the movements of the digestive tract as well as affecting the lining of the gut where acid secretion and passage of substances that we need in the body can be affected.

Irritable bowel can be made worse by increasing inflammation as it causes substance P to be secreted which can irritate colitis.

Stress is multifactorial

The heart increases how often it beats (sometimes by as much as 38 beats per minute more than usual) and that causes your blood pressure to rise – handy for ‘fight or flight’ in an emergency but not so good if it remains high. If it remains high for too long, it increases your risk of having a heart attack or stroke.

Stress hormones can also damage the lining of the arteries so that platelets stick to these areas and the arterial wall thickens. This reduces the diameter of the arteries and increases the blood pressure.

Stress also releases fatty acids and glucose into the bloodstream that can be converted into natural fat and cholesterol deposits, again on the walls of the arteries so that blood flow is compromised.




Stress reduces the ability of the body to repair itself too – so any damage to the lining of the arteries will be slower to heal as will any physical injuries that you have.

How inflammation in an artery can reduce blood flow


Many health problems we have are multifactorial but stress can be an important factor that we DO have some control over and with help we can try to reduce if not eliminate!



If we are already overweight or drinking more than we should or experience headaches and then we add stress to these already existing problems, you can imagine how much worse we could feel.

How to improve mental health yourself

Try to do yoga – in a class or on your own

It sounds so easy – do yoga, relax more, breathe deeply, don’t allow yourself to get worked up – all those good things we read about every day but things that are so difficult to put into practice.

However, by being treated with chiropractic and massage we can do something physical that are proven to help reduce the stress levels. Talking to the chiropractor and sharing the stress  causing situations will also help.

Just as stress can cause many problems, many things can help reduce that stress.

We do need to understand that things like drinking alcohol or smoking may feel as though      they are reducing our stress levels but they really do not do so long term – and we can do these things without realising the ‘silent’ long term harm they are actually doing to us.

Recently research has shown that just one alcoholic drink per day can cause reduction in brain matter. The more we drink the more brain matter we lose. This reduction in brain matter is not localised to just one area of the brain too. The less brain cells, the less the body can function as it should and that includes controlling stress.

Alcohol causes higher amounts of cortisol to be released, altering the brain’s chemistry. See below for the effect of too much cortisol on the body.

How we can help as chiropractors to improve your mental health

Mental health issues are usually multifactorial, so this fact must be taken into account when you are seeking treatment. You may experience more physical problems or you may feel more mentally upset or you may experience a mixture of the two depending on the situation you are in.

No one treatment will provide a ‘magic cure’ so it is better to seek help by examining all of the issues that may be affecting you as an individual and addressing as many as you can and seeing how you feel as a result,

Research into chiropractic treatment has shown that a chiropractic adjustment can trigger a change in hormones that are involved in nervous system functioning – either increasing or decreasing levels in the body.

These hormones are –

Neurotensin – This hormone acts to neutralise stress induced pain. It is present throughout the nervous system and induces analgesia and increases locomotor activity as well as controlling bowel activity. It also helps cell proliferation – essential in healing.

Oxytocin – Boosts neuro – communication and feelings of social interaction – particularly important in bonding after childbirth and contraction of the uterus at the start of childbirth.

Oxytocin can induce anti stress like effects such as reduction of blood pressure and cortisol levels and promotes growth and healing as well as increasing pain thresholds.

In research in the Journal of Manual and Manipulative Therapy, in 2019, it was found that those women who had received manipulation of the neck, showed significant increase in oxytocin and also neurotensin in the blood.

Cortisol  – Is nature’s built in ‘alarm system’. It controls mood, motivation and fear. Cortisol is made by the adrenal glands that sit on top of your kidneys. It regulates your blood pressure, keeps inflammation under control, increases your blood pressure and controls your sleep/wake cycle as well as managing how your body uses carbohydrates, proteins and fats.

Cortisol is produced much more when you are stressed

Most importantly for your mental health, cortisol helps you to handle stress. Stress causes the adrenal glands to release more cortisol and if you have too much cortisol being produced for too long, it can result in anxiety and depression, headaches and heart disease, digestive problems, weight gain and trouble sleeping. It is therefore important that cortisol is produced in the correct amounts for your body.

Researchers in Japan in 2011 published findings in Alternative Therapies Journal Nov/Dec 17(6): 12-17. The wanted to find out if chiropractic treatment could affect stress levels. They did not just ask how patients felt but also they measured activity in the brain using PET scans and saliva samples to track hormone levels.


They focussed on the areas of the brain responsible for pain and stress and it was shown that following chiropractic treatment there were decreased cortisol levels in all patients.

The nervous system

First of all, the nervous system is responsible for controlling emotional and psychological health.

Chiropractic care mainly deals with maximizing the health of the nervous system but the basis of the chiropractic approach to health care is to balance the relationship between the spine and musculoskeletal system and function, particularly as coordinated by the nervous system.

A problem in one area can disturb the other parts of these systems thus it is important to remove disorders so that stresses on the body’s nervous system are reduced and the general health of the body can be restored naturally. (WHO press 2005 Guidelines on basic training and safety in Chiropractic; Haldeman S – Principles and practice of chiropractic 3rd ed. US 2004).

Recent studies have investigated the improvements in the autonomic nervous system with chiropractic care that occur by removing nerve interference, which allows for regulation of the sympathetic nerves which control the fight or flight mechanism of the brain. By allowing for better control of those mechanisms, people therefore find it easier to manage the stress of mental health illnesses.

Depression is one of the most common mental health illnesses and can be caused from a chemical imbalance in the brain and may lead to other serious health concerns if not treated properly.

Anxiety is another very common mental health illness, often characterized by fatigue or inability to sleep, muscle tension/stiffness, migraines or headaches, aches and pains and the overall inability to relax.

Both of these mental health issues have been known to cause imbalances in the body that contribute to these symptoms, and chiropractic treatment can help.

By manipulating the spine, a few things can occur:

  1. Improved blood Flow – This is important for the relaxation of the stiff and tense muscles. When the spine is manipulated, it allows blood to flow more freely through the body and relax the muscles. This can be very therapeutic for those with mental health issues.
  2. Decreased pressure on nerves – If the joints linking spinal vertebrae are not functioning, irritation can occur of the surrounding nerves. Since the nervous system circulates throughout our bodies, a blocked nerve in the lower back can actually affect all sorts of places in the body. Once a chiropractor has identified a problem area, symptoms can often be alleviated after one adjustment.
  3. Release of positive hormones – Studies show that after getting a chiropractic adjustment, your body triggers an increase in hormones such as neurotensin and oxytocin. These help to neutralizes stress-induced pain, boosts neuro-communication and boosts feelings of social bonding and blocks pain deriving from inflammation
  1. Reduces muscle activity – Studies suggest that after spinal manipulation, muscle activity was reduced by 25%. By reducing muscle activity, people often notice an improved ability to be able to relax.

In addition to spinal manipulation, chiropractors can provide a variety of other treatments that reduce the symptoms of anxiety, depression and other mental health issues.

Don’t believe adverts that promise you quick fixes!



Chiropractic care uses a mind and body approach to target specific problem areas. They do this by looking at all health areas, including adjustments, therapies, exercise, diet and supplements. There is no short cut or ‘magic cure’ however much we see adverts that say there might be – we need to work together to overcome our issues.

Physical treatment is only one way to help issues of mental health problems – you need a multi pronged attack!

Take into account the value of the following – chiropractic can help you but by helping yourself too, you stand a much better chance of long term relief from mental health issues.


  1. Spend time in the country – or just walking in the park or on the beach or just wandering aimlessly looking at nature and all those things around us that we are usually far too busy to notice.
  2. Lie in a warm bath, listen to relaxing music, just take time to watch the sunset.
  3. Look at what you are doing and why you are so stressed. Think about the ‘deadline’ you are certain is so important. Will a few hours doing something else to help you feel better really have an adverse effect or will you feel so much better that you will achieve much more and more efficiently when you DO work than when you are running from job to job literally pulling your hair out – you know you are not thinking clearly when you are acting like that.
  4. Make sure you have cut off times – do not allow work to continue to bother you all the time you are at home. Better to focus on what you are doing AT work but then not lose sight of how important it is to focus on your down time and relaxation when you are NOT at work. It is not self indulgent to allow yourself to relax – view it rather as being essential. For those reasons highlighted above, you do not function well when stressed so why try to do so? Now you understand the physical effects on your body, maybe you will take stress more seriously and try to avoid it more often!
  5. Reduce time spent on social media. You know that it is better to empty your mind rather than stimulate it even more by staying on line all the time.


The take away message from this post is that you CAN improve your mental health status by seeing a chiropractor but the body is a complex interaction of nerves, hormones, joints and body systems.

Therefore, you need to be aware of potential problems in any of these areas and to try to eliminate them because any issue in one area can prevent the rest of you from fully recovering.

By understanding more about some of these interactions and working together with us to reduce the problems, you will have a more  powerful  approach to resolving your mental health issues.

A hands on approach is always worth trying


Matthew Savage is extremely interested in mental health and three friends are raising money for a mental health website by playing 72 holes of golf in one day! If you would like to help him with his fundraising please visit the website at : –