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Why do I feel tired after a chiropractic adjustment?

If you have been treated by a McTimoney chiropractor you will probably have been told that you may feel quite tired and that you should take it easy over the following 24 hours...but why?

I know when I say this to my new patients they can often seem quite surprised especially as the treatment they have just received has been quite gentle. But many then report on the follow up session that they ended up having a snooze on the sofa or had the best night's sleep that night. So what did I do to them? Well, it's all to do with how their nervous system has adapted and responded to the adjusting technique I use and more importantly how their body has shifted from being in the sympathetic system to the parasympathetic system.

The sympathetic nervous system is often refered to as our "Fight/Flight" mode. These network of nerves increase in activity when you're stressed, in danger or physically active. Whereas your parasympathetic nervous system is a network of nerves that relaxes your body after periods of stress or danger. It also helps run life-sustaining processes, like digestion, during times when you feel safe and relaxed. It is consequently refered to as your "Rest/Digest" mode. Ideally, when we experience a stressful situation our sympathetic nervous system kicks in. This creates a change that includes raising heart rate, breathing rate and blood pressure, dilating pupils, redirection of blood flow to important organs (e.g. brain and muscles), and increased sweating. Our body is now in a heightened state and has the ability to deal with the immediate situation. The parasympathetic nervous system does something called downregulating to resore the body from the 'fight/flight' mode to 'res/digest'. It mainly functions using a nerve called the vagus nerve, which sends impulses from the brain to the body but also back from the body to the brain. If this system is functioning well, it reduces your risk of cardiac heart disease and stroke; increases your digestive metabolism, so it’s better for your gut; and decreases migraines. It will also give you better emotional and overall physical health.

When you receive a chiropractic adjustment to the different levels of your spine, these adjustments may cause an impulse to the different nerves that communicate to all our organs. As you can see from the diagram there are zones of activation for each of the systems. The key areas for parasympathetic activation are the sacrum and the cervical region and, for those who have been adjusted with the McTimoney technique, you should recognise these areas as a significant part of the treatment. Not only is it possible that the adjustments are creating a change in the body, but also the treatment gives you an opportunity to focus on slow and controlled breathing and lie in a relaxed state which are also effective ways to 'switch on' your parasympathetic system.

There has also been much research conducted into the how the body responds to chiropractic adjustments and leaders in the field of this research are identifying patterns of change to support the role of chiropractic in our healthcare provision. Hopefully with greater research we will be able to not only make connections with what we experience but also support those observations with evidence-based research.

(Haavik H, Murphy B. The role of spinal manipulation in addressing disordered sensorimotor integration and altered motor control. J Electromyogr Kinesiol. 2012;22:768–76) and (Kiani AK, Maltese PE, Dautaj A, Paolacci S, Kurti D, Picotti PM, Bertelli M. Neurobiological basis of chiropractic manipulative treatment of the spine in the care of major depression. Acta Biomed. 2020 Nov 9;91(13-S):

So, if you feel like you are in a constant state of 'fight/flight' and are finding it difficult to manage chronic stress, maybe you should consider getting yourself adjusted? You, too could be experiencing better sleep, less headaches and a calmer state... and if you don't belive me here's some messages I received this week "OMG - feel so much better today and slept so well last night. Thank you" "Thanks for the treatment, so relaxing and I had the best night's sleep last night" "Decided to take some time off to give myself as much rest as possible..your treatment definitely helped"

I look forward to seeing you soon

Anna x

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