Immune System Function

Chiropractic Care May Help Your Immune System

With concerns regarding the coronavirus (COVID-19) during this time in early 2020, we are all being told to wash our hands. Other things we should also be doing are engaging in cardiovascular exercise, getting additional sleep, reducing emotional stress, and eating healthy (including taking supplements to boost the immune system). Additionally, getting your nervous system fine-tuned is a vital part of managing immune function. Below, I share details to explain how getting chiropractic adjustments may boost your immune system.

Please do not take this to mean that by getting adjusted, you will not be infected with COVID-19. I am not suggesting that at all. Whatever you can do to boost your immune system will help you to minimize the chances of infection of all kinds. Spinal adjustments are part of that equation and since it is your nervous system that controls the immune system… well, you can draw the conclusion.

The endocrine system, the nervous system, and the immune system are linked together, like a tripod.  (For some great research click herehere,  here, and here)  Many studies reveal chiropractic care as positively impacting immune system function.  Below are a few articles give some insights into how this might happen.

The immune nervous and endocrine systems share tiny messenger molecules that allow for communication between them.  One of these messenger molecules, IL-2, used to be classically thought of as an immune system molecule; however, studies published have clearly shown IL-2’s presence and activity in the nervous system.  One pioneering study, “Enhancement of in vitro interleukin-2 production in normal subjects following a single spinal manipulative treatment” shows an increase in IL-2 levels and an increase in the function of T-cells, the key players in the immune system’s army of cells, following a chiropractic adjustment.  The authors concluded that chiropractic adjustment can influence the biological immune response. 

In a 2020 study from Cellular and Molecular Immunology the authors suggest there was a reduction certain immune cells (intercellular cytokines) which included IL-2 in people that were infected with COVID-19. They concluded saying, “Taken together, these results suggest the functional exhaustion of cytotoxic lymphocytes in COVID-19 patients. Hence, SARS-CoV-2 may break down antiviral immunity at an early stage.” This is not to suggest chiropractic adjustments can cure COVID-19. But to point to the exhaustion of immune cells, including IL-2, where in the study above there was an increase in IL-2 following a chiropractic adjustment.

In another interesting study by Selano et al, “The Effects of Specific Upper Cervical Adjustments On The CD4 Counts of HIV Positive Patients‘”  (Chiropractic Research Journal 1994;  3(1): 32-39), the effects of six months of regular chiropractic care on the immune system function of HIV patients was measured.  At the end of six months of care, the patients who had received regular adjustments had a 48% increase in the number of CD4+ T cells (p=0.06), whereas the patients who were not adjusted had an 8% decrease in CD4+ cells.  (This research paper is not readily available on the web, but copies are available at Path of Life upon request) 

A few studies published in the Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics (JMPT) by Brennan and Triano (Enhanced phagocytic cell respiratory burst induced by spinal manipulation: potential role of substance P. and Enhanced neutrophil respiratory burst as a biological marker for manipulation forces: duration of the effect and association with substance P and tumor necrosis factor.) revealed several types of immune system cells, including phagocytes, neutrophils, and PMNs, showed increased biological activity after a chiropractic adjustment.   These studies all suggest that chiropractic adjustment may enhance immune system function.

The endocrine system is the 3rd leg of the tripod of neuro-endocrine immunology.  The endocrine system’s main players are epinephrine (also known as adrenaline), nor-epinephrine, and cortisol.  These molecules are produced in the adrenal glands, endocrine glands which have direct connections with the nervous system by way of a division called the sympathetic nervous system.  Cortisol, specifically, is a stress hormone that inhibits the immune system (which is why emotional stress really can make you sick!)  So if the sympathetic nervous system is too “turned on” due to stress, it can increase the adrenal glands’ synthesis of cortisol, in turn affecting the immune system.  Neuro-spinal dysfunction (vertebral subluxation) promotes this exact situation as described in the abstract “Reflex effects of subluxation: the autonomic nervous system.

The nervous system and the immune system work together in a dance. To ignore this is to suggest our body is disconnected and doesn’t have the ability to heal under the proper conditions. I hope these examples of studies help the reader to understand how important having one’s nervous system functioning at 100% is and that chiropractic adjustments may play an important role in the function of the immune system.