Anxiety and Chiropractic

Does Chiropractic work for Anxiety? Lots of Chiropractors have a list of conditions on their websites that they claim to heal and often anxiety, stress and depression are on the list. Does it work? The simple answer is it depends what is causing your anxiety.

If you believe that your mind and body are one, then this will make some sense to you. If you believe that anxiety is psychological and has no connection with the physical body then this won’t be of interest.

Chiropractors work primarily with the back, the spine and the neck. The nervous system has its superhighway, the spinal cord, running down the spine and any interruption in its flow could have an effect on mood. The link between anxiety and posture has often been made.


Let’s go back to common symptoms of anxiety: Feeling out of it, or strange, light-headed, slightly dizzy, difficulty swallowing, tight chest and breathing. Could some or even all of these be down to a misaligned spine butting pressure on the nerves and blood vessels in your neck and back? Yes, potentially they could. In which case, a Chiropractor might well be able to help you with anxiety.

If your anxiety is accompanied by, or exacerbated by, tension headaches that effect the back of your neck or reach over your crown onto your face then there may well be a link between you anxiety and spinal cord or skeletal structure, in which case in would well be worth speaking to a Chiropractor.

An interesting point: a lot of anxiety medication, such as Xanax and other benzodiazepines work also to relax muscles. Some people claim that part of their ant-anxiety effect is caused by the fact that they lessen pressure on the spinal cord and allow everything to work more easily.


There are no guarantees that a Chiropractor can have an effect on anxiety but it might well be worth a try.

Does Anxiety Cause Dizziness

Does anxiety cause dizziness is a question that comes up again and again. The traditional answer that most doctors will tell you is “yes”. Conventional and traditional medical thought says that anxiety causes dizziness and indeed there are many people who have been suffering with dizziness for years that have nothing physically wrong with them, they are just anxious.

But is this conventional opinion actually true? Lets look at anxiety and its relationship with dizziness more closely. The vestibular system that control balance from the inner-ear is highly complicated and not as well-understood as other parts of the human anatomy. Dizziness never killed anyone so medical research is thin on the ground here.

When something doesn’t have a clear physical cause, doctors like to tell you its psychological. But what they find it hard to accept is that there may be a physical cause that they don’t understand.

Looking at a symptom and saying “it’s anxiety” and packing them off to Cognitive Behavioural Therapist is much easier than saying “I don’t know”.

Why would anxiety make you dizzy? What would the function of it be? Anxiety is there to protect us, it is the fight or flight response. We hyperventilate to get more oxygen to the lungs, our heart beats faster to keep the blood pumping to our muscles, the adrenalin makes us ready for action. All of these things make it easier for us to fight the beasts that used to prey on us, or run from them. But dizziness doesn’t help us, it hinders us and there is no reason for it to be there. The fight or flight response has evolved over millenia and it is unlikely that dizziness is a part of it.

So does anxiety cause dizziness? Perhaps some of the fight or flight response and the physiological changes it brings can cause you to feel a bit of balance while you are anxious, but the idea that anxiety is a major cause of chronic dizziness is not one I believe.

I suspect that the link between anxiety and dizziness has been so often talked about that many doctors assume it’s true when the evidence simply does not exist.

Vestibular Anxiety

Vestibular disorders can cause anxiety. Some vestibular disorders can be so subtle that you might not realize that you are suffering from some kind of dizziness or vertigo and assume your anxiety has a psychological cause (read Anxiety and Dizziness for more information).

Take the case of someone who feels anxious and “strange” in a supermarket. A psychologist might tell them that they crave control and feel trapped in a supermarket and this causes anxiety. A cognitive behavior therapist might suggest that they tackle the negative thoughts they have around supermarkets. But they might be missing the fact that supermarkets, with their long isles, tiled floor and strip lighting are prone to exaggerating small vestibular weaknesses and making people feel slightly odd or slightly dizzy and detached.

Lots of anti anxiety medication also works as vestibular depressants, which numb the message from your ear to your brain and stops vertigo, dizziness and anxiety.

The best ways to tackle vestibular anxiety are:

  • Vestibular Rehabilitation – a series of physiotherapy exercises that help your  brain correctly interpret the signal from your ears. Takes time and commitment!
  • Vestibular Suppressants – drugs which control dizziness and may also control anxiety.  Only treats the symptoms and does not provide a solution.
  • Ginkgo Biloba – may work by increasing the blood supply to the brain and some people swear by it for dizziness and vertigo.

If you are interested in the physical causes of anxiety, read Killing Anxiety From The Roots. It has a lot of information on this.

Cure Anxiety Panic Attacks Naturally

The best way to cure anxiety and panic attacks naturally is to look for the cause of the problem. The medication doctors prescribe, as well as Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) works by treating the symptom and not the cause. The natural approach should be more solution focused: it’s kinder to your body, works better and makes anxiety history sooner.

So how do you cure anxiety and panic attacks naturally? In an ideal world you would discover the cause of anxiety and treat it accordingly. In reality no two people are the same and figuring out what causes anxiety inside you is not easy. That means you are left with a process of trial and error, and more often than not it will be a combination of things that ultimately cures you of anxiety.

You need to examine yourself in these areas:

Brain Chemistry

It is possible that you are not producing enough serotonin due to a tryptophan deficiency. You could try a 5-HTP supplement. Or maybe you need an amino acid boost to raise your GABA levels. Naturally balancing your brain chemistry is much better than taking anti-depressants  and is much more of a permanent solution.

Nutrition

In this day and age it is easy to become deficient in vitamins and minerals. It is easy to correct these deficiencies but you need to be careful that you don’t overdose. You should pay particular attention to calcium and magnesium as well as Vitamin D. These vitamins and minerals can have a surprising effect on our psychological well-being.

Balance. A surprising amount of anxiety and agoraphobia is caused by balance problems. Very slight vestibular disorders (disorders of the inner-ear) can cause panic attacks in wide open spaces and supermarkets (typical of agoraphobia). While psychologists might still insist that these problems have their roots in childhood memory, science is moving on and finding many non-psychological causes of anxiety. Killing Anxiety From The Roots has a lot of information on this.

Breathing

Chronic Hyperventilation is linked to anxiety as a cause and symptom of anxiety. It is essential to practice good breathing everyday and this will pay dividends in a short time.

Anxiety Disorder Symptoms in Adults

Diagnosing adults with Anxiety Disorder can be difficult. Many people start to suffer from anxiety in their early teens and the symptoms displayed by children and adolescents can be quite different.

Adult Anxiety Disorder and childhood Anxiety Disorder are basically the same thing, but there are various factors that make its presentation in adults different. Firstly, adults are more prone to worry about the social stigma of having a mental health problem or a mood disorder. Secondly, adults are likely to have responsibilities that make avoidance behaviour difficult.

Books-wise, I recommend for USA readers Hope and Help for Your Nerves and for UK/Europe readers Free Yourself from Anxiety: A Self-help Guide to Overcoming Anxiety Disorders.

The typical symptoms of Adult Anxiety Disorder are:

  • Racing heart (palpitations)
  • Chest tightness
  • Feeling disconnected and “strange”
  • Dizziness
  • IBS and upset stomach
  • Nausea
  • Muscle tension
  • Insomnia
  • Irritability

Often doctors assume that any of the above symptoms are caused by other physical diseases or health problems. It is common for an adult suffering from a panic attack to be admitted for ECG heart examination.

The risk of Adult Anxiety Disorder increases with stress from work or family life, financial problems, poor health, poor diet and nutrient deficiency, vestibular disorders (dizziness and vertigo), alcohol and drug abuse, lacking a focus in life, mid-life-crisis and divorce.

There may not be a clear reason for a bout of anxiety, and patients should not be sent for psychotherapy or regression hypnosis such as hypnoanalysis on the misguided basis that there is some unresolved trauma in their past. This is rarely if ever the case.

Dizziness Vertigo Anxiety

A while back I blogged about the links between anxiety and dizziness and how more often than not the two seem to go together: people experiencing dizziness as part of an anxiety attack or a panic attack.

Today I want to look at dizziness and vertigo as potential causes of anxiety and panic disorder – things like agoraphobia. It has often been said that stress and anxiety can bring on what is often referred to as giddiness, dizziness, light-headedness and vertigo. The reason being that blood is diverted to the muscles, the oxygen balance in the blood changes. This is perhaps true however it doesn’t tell the whole story.

The fight or flight response is meant to save us, but why did we evolve to disable our balance mechanism when poise and stability is needed most, when we are in danger? That begs a question along the lines of the chicken and the egg: what comes first dizziness or anxiety/panic?

For sure anxiety or a big shock can bring on balance problems like vertigo, often very short sharp bouts. However I think, and there is a certain amount of scientific evidence to back this up, that there are a lot of people with panic disorder who actually have an underlying balance problem.

If you into a supermarket and feel funny, maybe get derealization or feel dizzy or lightheaded the doctor will no doubt send you to a psychologist that will tell you that your subconscious doesn’t like being out of control and in a supermarket there is no easy way of escape. Maybe this is rubbish. Maybe the lighting and long aisles of a supermarket make it such a strange environment that the signal from ear and eye get somewhat out of sync in people with a slightly defective vestibular system. Maybe that is what causes the panic like symptoms and leads for the desire for an easy escape route.

If you think about it, the agoraphobics’ worst nightmares are all places that tend to be unnatural and odd and somewhat disorientating: supermarkets, shopping malls, motorways and highways: all places that could cause strange feelings in a person with a vestibular balance problems.

Also read Does Anxiety Cause Dizziness?

This is potentially important because in such cases your psychologist or charlatan hypnoanalyst will be telling you your neighbor sexually abused you. In fact there are types of vestibular rehabilitation and other physio techniques, as well as drugs, that might well help.

If your anxiety seems heavily related to dizziness or vertigo, or you experience balance problems elsewhere in life it might well be worth looking into.

Anxiety Dizziness

Dizziness is one of the most common symptoms of anxiety. Referred to by doctors as vertigo, it can feel like a spinning sensation, as if objects are actually spinning round. The dizziness can also feel like the floor is unsteady, rocking up and down like a boat.

One explanation for why anxiety and dizziness often go together is to do with the fight or flight response.  When we are anxious our bodies natural protection mechanism, the flight or flight response, tries to protect us by focusing our energy and attention on the perceived threat. It draws blood towards our core and gives less resources to unnecessary functions.

Somewhere along the line our balance mechanism in our inner ear is disrupted causing what is a harmless although unpleasant symptom.  It should be noted that dizziness can be caused by other things than anxiety, so a trip to the doctor to rule out ear infections, viruses, labyrinthitis and other physical causes is important.

Assuming it is anxiety, the best thing to do is to come to terms with it. It is harmless and passes quickly as soon as you relax. The problem is that because it feels so unpleasant we tend to assume it is more serious than it is, and this causes us to worry more and feed the fear cycle.

Also read Does Anxiety Cause Dizziness?

If dizziness from anxiety is a serious problem for you then the normal anxiety medications like SSRI’s and Benzodiazepines may well help. There is also a drug called prochlorperazine (marketed as Stemetil and Buccastem) which is used to treat dizziness and associated nausea or vomiting.

Really though, drugs should be a last resort. Easier to say than do, but if you can accept anxiety symptoms they will pass, lessen and eventually disappear, and dizziness is no exception. Try taking some calming breaths and telling yourself that the dizziness you are experiencing is just an unpleasant symptom and nothing else.