Neck adjustments could lower blood pressure

Now, some doctors are trying to find out if the right adjustment can not only straighten your spine but also help hypertension.

Many people with high blood pressure would like to find a way to avoid taking medication. A trip to the chiropractor may seem an unlikely alternative. But an intriguing study is showing that a special kind of neck adjustment is helping some patients lower their blood pressure without drugs.

What makes your blood pressure boil: stress, too much salt, lack of exercise, bad genes? No one's really sure about the cause. But here's something new to consider that might raise the eyebrows of some conventional doctors. Could it be an issue with the top of your spine?

"They took x-rays and showed me that my neck was out of alignment," said Denise Niemann, patient.

Niemann went to a specific chiropractor for pain in her neck. After having a special adjustment, the pain was gone and so was something else.

"My blood pressure dropped tremendously," she said.

Other patients were reporting the same positive but surprising side effect. Doctor George Bakris, a hypertension expert at the University of Chicago Medical Center, decided to find out if there really was some kind of connection.

"We designed a double blind study to really look and see if in fact this procedure was affecting high blood pressure," said Bakris.

Twenty five patients got the real adjustment; 25 others got a fake adjustment. The result, published in the Journal of Human Hypertension, found those patients who got the real thing saw their blood pressure drop dramatically, an average of 17 points. That's equivalent to giving patients two different blood pressure medications at once.

So, why would straightening the top of the spine affect blood pressure?

Marshall Dickholtz, Sr. and Jr., say they know why. The father and son chiropractors believe this area of the spine called the C-1 vertebra or atlas operates as the fuse box to the body. If it's twisted and out of whack, arteries and nerves at the base of the brain might get compressed and that could affect blood flow and nerve signals.

"Affects not only your central nervous system but your autonomic system that means it can affect every organ of your body," said Marshall Dickholtz, Sr., DC, NUCCA chiropractor.

The technique is used by a small number of chiropractors certified in national upper cervical chiropractic techniques. Known as NUCCA chiropractors, they use x-rays and very precise measurements to determine if someone is misaligned. if so the atlas is repositioned with gentle maneuvers.

"When the spine is misaligned, it can affect all types of disease or conditions," said Marshall Dickholtz, Jr. DC. "Is there a way to guarantee that everyone who gets adjusted that all the blood pressure is going to come down? Absolutely not."

There are still a lot of unanswered questions, including who will benefit from this and what actually happens physically when this part of the vertebra is realigned Doctor Bakris cautions patients to stick with their proven treatments for now.

"This is not available now for everybody, so everybody is going to rush out, no, it's still investigational," he said.

Dr. Bakris says there still needs to be a lot of research done on this before mainstream doctors will even consider this a possibility. Most chiropractors are not trained in the atlas adjustment. There are only a few who specialize in this technique. How long does the adjustment last? It's hard to say. It could be weeks or months, depending on the person.

Dr. George Bakris
University of Chicago Medical Center
Office Phone
(773) 702-7936
Office Fax
(773) 834-0486
Office Postal Address
George Bakris, MD
University of Chicago Medical Center
5841 S. Maryland Avenue, MC 1027
Chicago, IL 60637


Dr. Marshall Dickholtz, Jr.
2565 Shermer Rd.
Northbrook, Il

Dr. Marshall Dickholtz, Sr.
3420 W. Peterson Ave.
Chicago, Il 60659
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