A thorough review of existing scientific literature on chiropractic and the effect on immune function was published in a report on May 18, 2020, in the journal Annals of Vertebral Subluxation Research. The purpose of the study was to review existing scientific literature on chiropractic and immune function in order to shed light on the subject and determine the need and direction of future research.
Recently, with the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been much discussion about possible ways to help defend yourself against getting the virus. Obviously, a heightened immune system would go a long way to prevention of infections in individuals and society in general. Chiropractors have traditionally stated that they do not treat infectious diseases. They have, however, stated that chiropractic care, by correcting nerve system interference, does help bolster the body’s immune capabilities. This concept has drawn criticism from both traditional critics of chiropractic and some forces within the profession.
The study begins by noting the connection between nerve system function and immune function. “It is well established that the nervous system controls and coordinates all functions and systems of the human body including immunity and the immune system. Many in chiropractic consider that this relationship confers salutogenic benefits in people undergoing chiropractic care.”
In explaining this further, the authors point out that proper nerve function is essential for proper immune system function. This is how chiropractic can indirectly have a positive impact on immune function. “The original chiropractic theory is centered on the principle that obstruction or interference in the nervous system caused by vertebral subluxation can affect internal physiological function and the propagation of mental impulses and therefore plays a role in pathophysiology and dis-ease.”
The report authors reviewed 125 scientific papers from published sources that had relevance to the subject of immune function and chiropractic. All of the studies and reports that were reviewed showed in some way that chiropractic had a positive effect on nerve system function and thereby immune function.
One of the earliest reports reviewed was from the 1918 pandemic which compared medical care to chiropractic care in Iowa for those suffering with the Spanish flu. The results of that care were reported in this report. “In the state of Iowa, medical doctors treated 93,590 patients, with 6,116 deaths – a loss of one patient out of every 15. In the same state, excluding Davenport, 4,735 patients were treated by chiropractors with a loss of only 6 cases – a loss of one patient out of every 789.” The study also noted, “In Davenport, Iowa, 50 medical doctors treated 4,953 cases, with 274 deaths. In the same city, 150 chiropractors including students and faculty of the Palmer School of Chiropractic, treated 1,635 cases with only one death.”
In the conclusion of the report, the authors note that there is an abundance of evidence showing that chiropractic care has a positive effect on immune function. They call for more research along specific guidelines to end any controversy on this subject. “The results of this research demands that we further explore the neuro-immuno-regulatory effects of chiropractic, adjustment and spinal manipulation and it provides a starting point for doing so. While adjustments reduce pain and inflammation, they also improve immune-regulatory function.”