The Journal of International Medical Research published the results of a study on January 16, 2020, showing that high altitude mountain climbers can be helped with headaches caused by acute mountain sickness. The study was conducted at Lhasa People’s Hospital near Tibet in China.
The researchers in this study looked at cases of mountain climbers who came to Lhasa People’s Hospital suffering with acute mountain sickness (AMS). According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine’s Medline Plus, “Acute mountain sickness is an illness that can affect mountain climbers, hikers, skiers, or travelers at high altitudes, usually above 8,000 feet (2,400 meters).” This condition is also known as altitude sickness or high-altitude pulmonary edema.
According to Medline Plus, acute mountain sickness is caused by reduced air pressure and lower oxygen levels at high altitudes. The faster a climber ascends, the more likely this problem will occur. Some of the symptoms that occur with this condition include dizziness or light-headedness, fatigue, headache, nausea or vomiting, rapid heart rate, and shortness of breath with exertion.
The study begins by pointing out that the plateau area of China accounts for about one-sixth of the land mass of China and averages about 3000 meters, (about 9800 feet) above sea level. People traveling to this area from lower elevations near sea level can suffer from dizziness, headache, nausea, and vomiting from acute mountain sickness.
This study looked at 100 people who had traveled to Tibet for the first time and were suffering with acute mountain sickness. The group consisted of 58 men and 42 women with an average age of 39.3 years. These 100 people were randomly separated into two groups. One group received only one single chiropractic adjustment, which the researchers called “spinal chiropractic manipulative therapy (SCMT).” The SCMT group did not receive any drugs or oxygen. The second group received standard medical pain treatment of ibuprofen and oxygen but did not receive any chiropractic care.
The results of the study showed that both the group with drugs and oxygen, and the chiropractic adjustment group showed improvement in their symptoms from acute mountain sickness. The chiropractic group also showed improvements in blood pressure. The bottom line is that the group that received chiropractic care recovered just as well as the group that got drugs and oxygen and did so without the risk of any side effects or negative outcomes.
The researchers stated, “The results suggest that SCMT can be used to relieve AMS-induced headache, as well as dizziness symptoms, blood pressure abnormalities, and oxygen saturation of people traveling rapidly to high altitudes.” They went on to note how chiropractic is easier to apply and might be preferred by the patents, “The operation is convenient and is not limited by the need for special equipment. Therefore, SCMT is suitable for popularization and application for the management of AMS for patients who prefer to avoid the use of drugs or oxygen …”