Since we are spending time looking at ideas which may help us deal with the effects of mental health challenges, I thought we could explore chiropractic care. Like many alternative medicines, chiropractic care supports a holistic mind-body approach to wellness. Most chiropractors use more than one treatment and are willing to work with their clients to create treatment plans which are as simple or as complex as the patient needs or wants. How can a full chiropractic plan help reduce mental health issues?
- Spinal adjustments can relieve nerve pressure and help with proper release of many hormones and other body chemicals. Some of those chemicals include endorphins, Oxytocin, Neurotensin, and many more. Many of the hormones affected are connected to the body’s ability to maintain a happy and healthy set of emotions.
- Spinal adjustments have been linked to significantly lowering the number and duration of migraine headaches and body aches, reducing the symptoms of the adolescent and perimenopausal changes, and creating a positive change to the overall perceived health of patients.
- Chiropractic care has been linked to realigning the balance of body functions by restoring the nervous system’s ability to properly communicate with all other systems within the body. This is especially important for immune system care, since the immune system is spread throughout every inch of the body and is connected to disease and well-being.
- Studies show that people who have regular adjustments in long-term chiropractic care increase the body’s ability to repair cells and increase4 immunity.
- Adjusting the spine can help with reducing tension and increasing flexibility. This allows a person to be able to move more, exercise with less pain, and relieve some forms of chronic pain which may be associated with anxiety and depression.
- Regular chiropractic care has been linked to better sleep patterns which allow the person to get to sleep more quickly, stay asleep longer during the night, and sleep an appropriate amount of time for optimal functioning.
While it is easy to look for answers in research studies, I found that I learned much more from listening to the stories of people who have increased their quality of life through chiropractic care. While it may be anecdotal evidence, the stories are quite inspiring. Widespread evidence that chiropractic care is effective for people who suffer from both physical and mental health issues is everywhere, if we simply listen.
I decided to find out for myself. I found Drs. Nathan and Caitlin Zeigler at Alliance Chiropractic in Carmel, Indiana. Carmel is a suburb of Indianapolis (northeast side) and is somewhat close to where I live. Most of you know that I am a veteran of the US Navy and experienced a fall which resulted in serious injuries from which I have suffered chronic pain for a decade. Dr. Zeigler does an adjustment for me at each visit and has performed a series of other therapies. In addition, they have given me some therapeutic exercises to do at home, several times per day, and are willing to talk with me about diet and lifestyle needs.
Update: About a year ago, I allowed Dr. Zeigler to do accupuncture, one of their alternative therapies. Since I am allergic to many metals, I was afraid of having needles puncturing my skin. I had to get pretty brave (it took years to allow this), and I let him prick me all over my legs, back, neck, and arms. not lony did I have all of these tiny, but long needles sticking out of my skin, but he also cipped them and added electricity to them, which was a “shocking experience.” To be honest, it hurt a little to start with, but not much… less than a misquito bite. After he removed the needles is when the results started occurring. For the next week, I was pain-free. It felt like a miracle, since I had chronic pain for 9 years up to that point. I was amazed, and I think you may be as well.
While I still suffer to some extent, my pain levels have significantly decreased, and I am much less stressed out. I can feel a significant difference in my ability to function in life which increased my motivation and moves me toward success. I feel great, and I highly recommend chiropractic care to anyone who doesn’t have a medical condition which prohibits it. It is just one more way to combat mental health (and physical health), and it might be something for you to consider.
This weekend when I was teaching at a Youth Mental Health First Aid seminar, I met a woman who is the co-founder of a Mindfulness program which I thought sounded fantastic. There are so many wonderful training programs about mental health and wellness, as well as techniques which can be learned to help cope with mental health challenges, and this sounded like something very promising.
So what is mindfulness, anyway? It is pretty simple, actually. Mindfulness is the quality of being aware, really aware, of right now. In the case of mental wellness, it means being aware of your state of mind, emotions, body, circumstances, surrounding environment, and effects of behaviors. It might be easy to think of mindfulness as a form of meditation, a type of meditation that brings you to full realization of yourself without being overtly affected by outside forces.
There are some benefits to practicing mindfulness:
1.) Anyone can do it, because the practice of mindfulness does not require anyone to change who they are, just how they think about things. Since no one has to change to become mindful, the results may be longer lasting than other strategies.
2.) Science has been showing us that taking some time to be quiet or to slow down, on occasion, is beneficial to personal health. Part of being mindful comes from taking extra time to think and discover the self and realize what connections have an effect on us.
3.) Being present in our own lives makes people more aware of themselves, their abilities, their effects on others, and their potential. Taking all of those things into consideration gives people insight on what they can do, change, and support to strengthen the good and move away from the not-so-good.
4.) Mindfulness helps us move from a “past-evolved” thinking process to a present-minded thinking process with a future-planning ability. Most people who suffer with anxiety and depression spend most of their thinking processes dwelling on the past, what happened, who was involved, how they got hurt, and more, which prohibits healing. Being able to focus on the present (mindfulness) and plan for a better future build resilience traits and promote healing and good mental health.
5.) Mindfulness results in kinder, more resilient and innovative people. It allows us to tap into the potential that we knew we had and the potential that we didn’t realize until we took time to contemplate who and what we are in the context in which we have been in and could be in the future.
I think that the act of being present more in our lives can change the world, starting with the mental and emotional health of ourselves. When we understand ourselves and our circumstances better, we understand when we need help and when we can help others much more easily. We also become kinder and treat other people better, something that can change the world for the better.
In 2001, I was given a book by Robert Fried, Breathe Well, Be Well: A Program to Relieve Stress, Anxiety, Asthma, Hypertension, Migraine, and Other Disorders for Better Health (1999). My VA doctor, at the time, highly suggested that I learn the breathing techniques to reduce symptoms of PTSD, asthma, and sleeplessness. He also knew that I was a critical thinker who valued evidence, and the book contained lots of evidence-based information, as well as a technique for deep therapeutic breathing. To make a long story short, I started using the technique, and I still use it, today. Of course, learning how to breathe differently took some practice, and until I had it down, I was a skeptic.
The information provided in the book was interesting and compelling… and went far beyond the deep breathing technique… so it kept my interest. The book covered the physical aspect of breathing, itself, psychosomatic thinking & personal attitude, muscle relaxation, fear and other forms of anxiety, food’s connection to breathing, pain and other physical problems, and additional methods of reducing stress. For a small book, it packed a punch with very important information, some of which I was surprised could be connected to breathing. I still suggest it to people who suffer with high recommendation.
Now, Dr. Fried’s system is more than breathing. It contains mindfulness thinking, making a contract with yourself to change your attitude, some light exercises, and diaphragm breathing. As a system, it is highly effective, but I have found that the breathing technique, alone, can also be very helpful, because it is easy and with practice can become one of those things that muscle memory will eventually make automatic. The best way to explain what it looks like is what is suggested in the book: Put one hand on your chest and one on your belly. If you are using this breathing technique, your hand on your chest should not move as you breathe, and the hand on your belly should be moving out when you breathe in and in when you breathe out. Your breathing should be connected closely with your diaphragm muscle, which is why the belly is moving, but not the chest.
When I started using this technique, I was unable to go to sleep at night due to anxiety, so I used the technique when I went to bed at night. I would lay on my back with my neck and head lightly supported by a pillow. My right hand was on my chest, and my left on my belly. I would watch my hands to make sure I was doing it right and would slowly breathe in, then slowly breathe out. After about 5 days, I found that I would fall asleep much faster and sleep longer. After a couple of months, I didn’t have to think about it, any more: I just automatically would breathe in that fashion when I put my head on the pillow. At one time, It would take 30-90 minutes to fall asleep, and now, it takes only a couple of minutes if I use the breathing technique. It has been a couple of decades, now, and it still works.
This is not the only deep breathing technique out there, but it is the first one that worked for me, so I stick to it for myself. I teach 8 different breathing techniques in my whole health & wellness coaching practice, but from what I understand, there are at least 25 different techniques and could be many more. Have you tried any of them? Maybe it is time to try one. Think about it.
We do have to be realistic. Breathing exercises do not work for everyone. Sometimes, people need something different or need to add an additional step to their breathing exercises before it helps. For me, however, it worked like a charm, still works, and I still suggest it to clients and students, regularly. It can’t hurt to try! I have not looked to see if Robert Fried’s book has been updated since the original, but I still recommend that people read it. It is a wonderful reference for me, and it may be a great one for you, as well. Happy Breathing to You!!