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Measuring the effects of chiropractic with biomarkers

Dan Murphy, DC

There is so much information pertaining to the benefits of chiropractic for musculoskeletal problems and pain control that its efficacy is no longer questioned. The chiropractic approach is now routinely incorporated in clinical practice guidelines, the military, the work place (including on-site chiropractic), sports injury management and athletic enhancement, as well as narcotic (opiates/opioids) and other drug alternatives.

There are many different ways to assess improvement of musculoskeletal physiology, including sensation, strength, coordination, measurement outcome questionnaires, etc. These assessments are now universally advocated and are routine in chiropractic clinical practice.

Perhaps lost in the overwhelming acknowledgement of the musculoskeletal benefits of chiropractic are other markers that suggest that chiropractic also influences systemic health and wellness. Many of these biomarkers are also being used in clinical chiropractic and supported by ongoing research publications.

Some of these biomarkers include:

  • Changes in the flow of cerebral spinal fluid as assessed with upright weight-bearing Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)
  • Reductions in systolic and diastolic blood pressure
  • Improvements in pulse rate (differences between systolic and diastolic pressures)
  • Improvements on visual acuity on the Snelling Chart
  • Improvements in the visual blind spot with blind spot mapping
  • Changes in a variety of brain electrical activity measurements
  • Inhibition of sustained sympathetic tone as measured with levels of salivary amylase (also possible with thermography)
  • Benefits to one’s biological age as measured with white blood cell telomere length
  • Improved brain blood flow measured with radioactive glucose and PET scans (positron emission tomography)
  • Meaningful upregulation of the endogenous antioxidant array (superoxide dismutase, catalase, glutathione peroxidase)
  • Meaningful upregulation of the regenerative/repairing “magic you want” cytokine interleukin-10 (IL-10)
  • Improvements in heart rate variability (HRV), which is an assessment of the balance between the parasympathetic nervous system (vagus-driven acetylcholine) and the sympathetic nervous system (post-ganglionic sympathetic nervous system-driven catecholamine norepinephrine)

Chiropractic’s benefits to musculoskeletal health is undeniable. Yet, these non-musculoskeletal biomarkers continue to show that chiropractic has important benefits to the whole person and to their health.

Watching the evolving research on chiropractic spinal adjusting and biomarker measurements is exciting and continues to support the connection to our wellness heritage.



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