As the coronavirus spread throughout the globe, some of the most important questions people began asking included:

  • What can I do to boost my immune system?
  • What am I doing that suppresses my immune system?

These questions and many others like them became a center point of our daily conversations which ultimately led to what many have referred to as an infodemic or too much information being shared.

The Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is the first pandemic in history in which technology and social media were used on a massive scale to keep people safe, informed, productive and connected.

As an  Austin based chiropractor, functional medicine doctor and avid researcher in physiology including neurology, immunology, nutrition and optimizing states of human health, it was certainly frustrating to see the amount of misinformation being shared.

It's also equally frustrating when you know that there's a lot of strong, helpful information that was not being shared.

In this article, I'd like to discuss how chiropractic care is meant to help you function at your best, including the function of your immune system.

Immune System Basics

We have all figured out by now that there are certain factors that can help to slow the spread of viruses that cause COVID-19. This includes the well established concepts of public hygiene including washing hands with soap, sneezing or coughing into your elbow, or staying home if you know that you've got a bug causing problems in your body.

However, what we should also recognize is that your immune system is not simply out to fight viruses and bacteria, but to help your body learn and adapt to its environment.

Rather than thinking of the immune system as a war machine, we should think of it as a network of advanced diplomats, interested in creating “environmental peace” between our body and the external environment.

Research has clearly shown that your brain and central nervous system guide the way it responds to potential threats to your health. [1] Together, the brain and central nervous system detect and appropriately respond to anything that becomes a threat to you.

In short, the nervous system (brain and spinal cord) regulates innate immune responses through the release of neurotransmitters, neuropeptides and neurohormones. As long as your nervous system is firing on all cylinders, your immune system has the capacity to handle many infections it comes across.

The immune system is actually a sensory system itself, constantly providing information to the brain about what is occurring in your body (or its external environment), and the brain responds with an appropriate response. [2] [3] [4] [5] [6]

What does this all mean?

It means that we know your brain and immune system communicate and work together to launch an effective and appropriate immune response.

We also know that when your spine is not moving properly, it changes the way your brain can sense what is going on in an around your body, influencing how it actually controls the body. [7] [8] [9]

This suggests that a well-adjusted, optimally functioning spine could have an impact on your immune function!

How cool is that?

Chiropractic Adjustments Influence Immune Function

There are two specific studies that have summarized the research surrounding chiropractic care, spinal manipulation aka chiropractic adjustments and how they affect the immune system. [10] [11]

Please note – these are reviews, which means they are research studies of several research studies on the topic in question.

One of these review papers found 13 different studies that looked at spinal manipulation and the immune system. Most of the studies focused on cortisol, a stress hormone that plays a significant role in immune function and health.

The second paper found 8 studies that looked at spinal manipulation and a number of other immune modulating chemicals including cortisol.

In both review studies, the scientists found that spinal manipulation triggers the activation of the neuro-immuno-endocrine system. What the heck is that?

In other words, when you get chiropractic adjustments, it alters the way your nervous system works, which then has an impact on the way your immune system works.

BUT… and that's a big ole butt.. there is a big understanding that comes with these findings.

Although we know that chiropractic adjustments influence the immune system, we don't know if these chemical changes ultimately impact overall immunity.

We simply need more research on the subject.

Chiropractic Adjustments Influence Physiological Adaptation

We now have strong evidence suggesting that chiropractic adjustments influence the immune system, but we don't know if this has a real impact on the way the immune system fights off invading organisms.

As of right now, there are 2 “bottom-line conclusions” between chiropractic care and the immune system:

  1. Chiropractic adjustments have been shown in the medical literature to affect the levels of chemicals in your body that are important for a healthy immune response.
  2. We don't know yet if these chemical changes have an important impact on your overall immunity or not.

So while there's a strong link to suggest chiropractic adjustments can help with immunity by changing chemicals that are known to do so, we simply don't have specific research studies that have investigated whether or not these changes can prevent you from getting sick, shortening the duration of sickness, or reducing symptoms associated with illness.

What this means that when you get adjusted by a chiropractor, it certainly influences your brain and immune system in positive ways, that would all help you to adapt to your environment better.