In the journal The Annals of Vertebral Subluxation Research is the result of a case study published on June 29, 2020, documenting the improvement on heart rate variability of a patient under chiropractic care. The importance of heart rate variability is that is can shed light on the overall function of the autonomic nervous system.
The study begins by noting that “The autonomic nervous system is understood to have two branches, the sympathetic nervous system and the parasympathetic nervous system.” It goes on to further explain that “Both branches of the autonomic nervous system play a critical role in the overall picture of health, as both are critically necessary in their own respect and must work in tandem for optimum health to be achieved.”
The heart is predominantly under the control of the autonomic nervous system. In response to activities, the heart should vary the rate at which it beats. A lower rate of variability means the heart is not reacting properly to change which is an indicator of health issues. A higher heart rate variability, but not too high, is a healthier response.
Chiropractors have maintained that subluxations to the spine affect nerve system function. This could then have a negative effect on heart rate variability. In this study, a 38-year-old man went to the chiropractor primarily for lower back pain that started two weeks earlier.
A chiropractic examination was performed which included palpation, range of motion, spinal thermal scans, surface EMG scan and spinal x-rays. A significant reduction in the man’s spinal range of motion was noted. Additionally, a pulse wave profiler was utilized to determine the man’s heart rate variability to see if there could be subluxations affecting the autonomic nervous system.
The authors explained why this procedure was done by saying, “The effects of chiropractic care on autonomic dysfunction can be analyzed through heart rate variability. This helps determine one’s overall ability to adapt to the environment.”
From the examination, it was determined that subluxations were present. A series of specific chiropractic spinal adjustments were done to address the subluxations. On a subsequent re-examination, the man’s symptoms had improved. The pulse wave profiler was again used to access any changes to the heart rate variability. On this follow-up evaluation, significant increase in the heart rate variability was noted indicating improved function of the autonomic nervous system.
In their conclusion the study authors state, “Heart rate variability is demonstrated to be a valid and reliable indicator of overall health and indicates that a decreased heart rate variability is consistent with poor health and autonomic function.” They go on to say, “Evidence supports that chiropractic care should be utilized for individuals who demonstrate autonomic dysfunction.”