As cold and flu season descends upon the U.S., people young and old are ramping up their prevention tactics and looking to fortify their immune system to stave off an attack. The influenza virus, while infectious year-round, peaks in its spread in the late fall and winter months, primarily between December and February according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Tens of thousands of people die each year from the flu or complications of the flu, largely young children, and elderly adults. Those with existing medical conditions may also be more susceptible to flu infection and complications. While vaccines and early detection can help prevent the flu and mitigate more severe symptoms (like extreme body aches, high fever, cough, and a runny or stuffy nose), other strategies can play an important role in protecting your body as well. Practicing good hygiene, avoiding large crowds and sick friends or relatives, not sharing cups and utensils with others, and tracking outbreaks near you can go a long way, but what about chiropractic care?
Loads of health providers offering spinal manipulation and chiropractic services tout flu-prevention effects of regular adjustments, but is there any real data to back that up? Indirectly, chiropractic care generates protective benefits to the body and immune and central nervous systems which may help in the event of a flu infection – benefits include:
Minimizing vertebral subluxations
When a patient’s body responds to stress, muscles may spasm and spinal bones tend to lock up. Small areas of misalignment in the vertebrae start to worsen, and the nerves in and around the spine responsible for communicating with the brain become stifled and distorted. This results in diminished control of your body’s natural defenses, putting you at potentially high risk of infection.
Chiropractors have the unique training to find and correct dangerous vertebral subluxations with routine spinal adjustments. Keeping the nerve flow strong and healthy could be one key to helping you fight off unwanted illness during cold and flu season.
Reinforcing mobility and range of motion
If a chronic neck ache from forward head syndrome or low back pain is keeping a patient from their regular exercise routine, this could inhibit their body’s natural resistance to foreign pathogens like the influenza virus. Exercise not only boosts circulation, strengthens the heart and other muscles, loosens joints, and builds bone density, but it bolsters the immune system to defeat pathogens that try and invade.
Chiropractic treatment including adjustments, cervical traction, and inversion all help to both relieve pain as well as improve range of motion and keep patients physically active. Inversion has also been shown to boost lymphatic flow which is the body’s natural drainage system of biological waste products and toxins. An empowered lymphatic system is a key to stimulating a strong immune response when the body detects viruses and bacteria.
Reducing pain and stress
Pain associated with musculoskeletal misalignments can not only exacerbate feelings of stress but also negatively impact quality and duration of sleep. Some experts recommend children and adults actually try to get an extra hour of sleep during cold and flu season, as nighttime rest serves as a critical window for the body and brain to repair and restore themselves to fighting shape.
In addition to spinal manipulation, ice therapy under a chiropractor’s care can aid standard pain in the neck, back, and hips. Equipment may vary depending on the body area being treated; for example, the best ice packs for your neck will be flexible and able to wrap, roll, and contour to the neck to cover more surface area with cool compression.
The flu is no laughing matter. Even a strong and healthy adult can become infected and end up sick in bed for days at a time. Chiropractors have an almost exclusive ability to fortify the immune system with spinal adjustment, pain relief, and improved range of motion.