When most people look at their neck cracked, they're thinking about that beautiful sensation of less pressure in the joints that just got worked on. People think about it from a mechanical perspective. And most chiropractors will think of the adjustment in terms of neurological benefit.
But nobody ever talks about the effects that an adjustment can have on inflammatory markers in the blood. How could this be? Well, I have identified several studies that talk about this effect.
This study was published in JMPT in 2009. Two women, age 27 and 62, presented to a outpatient clinic with cervicogenic headaches after whiplash injuries. The headache was aggravated by neck movements and was accompanied by a very high blood tumor necrosis factor. Both patients had MRIs showing a diagnosis of C4/C5 disc herniations pressing on the anterior cerebral spinal space. Before having their necks adjusted by a chiropractor, they went through a course of conservative care by physical therapy, and therapy didn't seem to provide any relief. The doctors recommended that they have a discectomy performed surgically, even though they did not exhibit any other neurological symptoms.
After 4 to 8 weeks of chiropractic care of both patients became symptom-free, and they had normal range of motion. In addition, both patients had a dramatic reduction in tumor necrosis factor, an inflammatory blood marker.
They suggest that pro inflammatory substances secreted by the nucleus pulposis are thought to be involved in symptomatic disc herniation. Plasma levels of cytokines increase after nerve compression. Inhibition of tumor necrosis factor-alpha prevents nucleus pulposis induced thrombus formation. After restoring spinal segments of motion and a reducing pathologic mechanical irritation and compression, tumor necrosis factor levels were markedly reduced.
Another study published in 2008 investigated production of an anti-inflammatory biomarker after chiropractic adjustments. Interleukin-2 is an immunoregulatory cytokine and signaling molecule. The authors conclude that spinal manipulation may increase the immune factor, affecting the body's biological response.
In 2006 the same authors studied blood levels of inflammatory chemicals in healthy adults who are receiving chiropractic care. The immune system relies on a balance between communication of the immune system and nervous system's. The actions of this immune system depends on cytokines and neurotransmitters. Spinal visceral reflex effects may alter the functional activities of cells in the immune and inflammatory systems. Within two hours of getting adjusted, the blood levels and love inflammatory chemicals were reduced significantly. This is a time dependent attenuation of inflammatory cytokines.