I am a chiropractor, so it came as a surprise when a patient requested chiropractic care for Raynaud’s syndrome. He (yes, one of the 10%) has episodes when working outside in the winter here in east central Kansas. He has been a chiropractic patient of mine for a while and knows that I help relieve his occasional back pain, shoulder issues and plantar fasciitis, etc. I did some research on Raynaud’s Syndrome, finding some (actually, very little) published evidence that chiropractic can help.
I have found some suspected ‘triggers’ of Raynaud’s in the medical literature, though I could not find any specific cause that can be pointed to directly. The top suspects for an episode that can be treated with Chiropractic care include restricted blood flow, Thoracic outlet syndrome (compression of nerves and blood vessels that supply the upper extremities) and restrictions of the nervous system, whether in the spine or any other joint of the body. If the nerves are restricted in function, the end-organ (in this case blood vessels) can be under or over stimulated. Both under and over stimulation can have the same effect, of the artery vessel walls (which are muscles) spasming and restricting blood flow in the extremities – and voila, an episode of Raynaud’s.
How Could Chiropractic Care Work?
Chiropractic care for Raynaud’s is not a specific treatment. However, depending on the underlying cause(s) of Raynaud’s episodes, chiropractic manipulations and other therapies can certainly address those underlying issues. Chiropractic care can help manage restricted blood flow, as well as restrictions of any part of the musculoskeletal system that may impede nerve function. Ultrasound and E-stim therapies can help with muscular and myofascial restrictions. Laser therapy can lead to dramatically increased cellular function that also improves nervous system function.
Chiropractic care is based upon the foundational principle that “the body has the innate capability to heal from within, the nervous system is the master system of the body, controlling and coordinating all other systems. It allows adaptation of function in response to changes in the body’s internal and external environments. The nervous system is made up of the brain and spinal cord which is protected by the vertebrae that make up the spine. The spine is designed to allow movement of the body, but if normal motion of the vertebra of the spine is restricted or decreased, it can cause inhibition of the spinal cord as well as the nerves that exit between the vertebra and interfere with the nervous system’s ability to function properly. A chiropractic adjustment restores proper motion of the joints of the body, reduces interference on the nervous system, and engages the body’s innate ability to function and heal.”
Chiropractic care can also help proper function of the sympathetic nervous system (part of the autonomic nervous system), the system that controls our ‘fight or flight’ response to a stimulus.
An overactive sympathetic nervous system may also be a trigger for an episode of Raynaud’s. It is an involuntary nervous system response that affects our breathing and heart rate, while dumping hormones and glucose into our bloodstream to decrease reaction time, dilate our pupils and slow our digestion. A known function of the sympathetic nervous system is the effect it has on skeletal muscle which includes the type of muscle in the walls of arteries. Spinal restrictions are known to be a causative factor of an overactive sympathetic nervous system, causing arterial compression, therefore a possible driver of Raynaud’s symptoms. Chiropractic treatment and care is focused on joint restrictions and restoring proper motion to the joint. It’s what we do.
I had no idea if I could help my patient, but we decided together to give a trial of care a chance. He came to the office for a total of 7 visits over a period of 3 weeks. At the end of that time, the temperatures were still in the low to upper teens and he reported that since the start of treatment, he had only 2 episodes of Raynaud’s, instead of one or two episodes every day. One occurred just after the 1st visit and the second occurred after the 4th and a long 4-day weekend where he was working outside every day. After the trial care was completed, he has reported only 6 episodes in the year since! I have worked with several patients since with mixed results, some I could help, some I could not.
One of my colleagues with over 55 years’ experience has treated more than 50 Raynaud’s patients. He reports over half of these patients found lasting relief, some that require adjustments on a maintenance basis and a few that did not find relief at all. Your chiropractor will perform an examination of your spine and other joints to determine what restrictions exist. Once they are adjusted, the stress levels in your body sympathetic nervous system can start to decrease while nervous system function and blood flow increases. This in turn may reduce the frequency of Raynaud’s episodes.
Why Choose Chiropractic Care for Raynauds?
If Raynaud’s has affected your life, seek relief with conservative chiropractic care. Chiropractors have helped others not only find relief from Raynaud’s symptoms, but also improved overall health, quality of life, wellness, and body function. And we do it without drugs or surgery.
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