A research case study distributed on April 9, 2019, documented chiropractic helping a woman with anxiety, panic attacks, low back pain and neck pain. The study was originally published in the Volume 2, 2019, edition of the Journal of Contemporary Chiropractic.
The study begins by noting how common a problem lower back and neck pain are. “Low back and neck pain are a significant public health problem affecting increasing numbers of people. In 2015, low back and neck pain were the 4th leading cause of disability-adjusted life years after ischemic heart disease, cerebrovascular disease, and lower respiratory infection.”
The study also reports that, according to the Global Burden of Diseases, Injuries, and Risk Factors Study of 2015, mental disorders were among the highest-ranking causes of nonfatal burdens worldwide. Anxiety which they defined as the “fear or nervousness about what might happen” is the 9th leading cause of nonfatal disability.
In this case, a 38-year-old woman suffering with low back discomfort for 2 years, plus neck pain for the past 6 months and a 3-month history of anxiety and panic attacks, presented herself for a chiropractic evaluation. She stated that her back pain was constant for the past two years but got worse when she was under stress. The woman rated her neck pain as 6 out of 10, and it was made worse when sitting at a desk and leaning forward. These problems affected her ability to get a good night’s sleep.
For the prior three months, the woman had also been suffering with anxiety and panic attacks. Her general physician diagnosed her with mild anxiety, but she was not given any medication or referred out for therapy of any kind.
A chiropractic examination was performed which included a postural analysis, range of motion evaluation, spinal palpation, a surface EMG study, and a thermography heat study. In addition, a PHQ-4 instrument was used to access the woman’s anxiety and depression. The PHQ-4 instrument is a commonly used self-reported assessment short-form that accurately measures depression and anxiety. It has been shown to be reliable and accurate. The woman’s initial PHQ-4 score was indicative of mild depression and anxiety.
Based on the presence of subluxations, specific forms of chiropractic care were started. By the 6th visit the woman reported that her neck pain was only present occasionally and had gone from what she rated as a 6 out of 10 down to a 1 or 2 out of 10. She also noted that her back pain had also gone away causing her to comment that she “rarely noticed back and neck pain.”
The PHQ-4 screening instrument showed that her anxiety and depression had reduced to almost not being present at all. In addition, the woman showed improvements in her ability to manage stress, as well as her physical functioning and mental and emotional wellbeing.
The study authors summed up the finding in this case by reporting that chiropractic care “…for the assessment and correction of vertebral subluxation, was associated with resolution of subjectively reported musculoskeletal discomfort, improvement in measured mental health and physical function in a 38-year-old female.” They explained how chiropractic was able to help this patient by stating, “One approach to chiropractic care aims to optimize health and wellbeing through enhancing nervous system function by correction or reduction of vertebral subluxation, typically by manual adjustments.”