According to the American Chiropractic Association, low back pain is the leading problem that brings new patients into a chiropractor’s office.1 DCs will often also treat other conditions such as neck pain, migraine headaches, and arthritis.
While it is important for DCs to immediately treat the pain and stiffness that can result from these conditions, there may be other, more generalized symptoms alongside the acute pain issues that also require attention. These problems can include fatigue, lack of energy, insomnia, or stress.
Unfortunately, many of these general problems can go hand in hand with the specific pain issue being treated. If they are not also treated, the patient may experience recurring, or sometimes even worse, pain. In such situations, DCs would do well to consider recommending adaptogenic supplements to their patients.
What are adaptogens?
Adaptogens are types of herbs that help increase the body’s ability to deal with either physical or psychological stress. The term adaptogenic was first introduced in 1947 by Russian scientist N.V. Lazarev. In 1958, two other Russian researchers, I.I. Brekhman and I.V. Dardymov, defined an adaptogen as a plant compound that “must be innocuous and cause minimal disorders in the physiological functions of an organism, it must have a nonspecific action, and it usually has a normalizing action irrespective of the direction of the pathological state.”2
There is an extensive list of herbs that are considered to have adaptogenic properties. Perhaps the best known of these is Asian ginseng. American and Siberian ginseng, although not of the same species, have similar properties, hence their name. Ginseng is thought to improve mood and improve both mental and physical performance.2
Other examples of adaptogenic herbs include, but are not limited to:2
- Suma: To treat stress, fatigue, and inflammation.
- Ashwaganda: To treat insomnia and anxiety.
- Astragalus: To treat stress and boost the immune system. This is often used in combination with other herbs.
- Licorice root: To boost the immune system and stimulate corticosteroid levels.
- Schisandra: To combat stress, fatigue, and insomnia, as well as improve mental and physical coordination and endurance.
- Jiaogulan: A type of gourd that is thought to have even stronger healing properties than ginseng, including boosting fat metabolism, strength, and physical endurance.
What does the research say?
There are several articles that have shown benefits for the use of an adaptogen supplement.2 One such article looked at the effect of a single dose of three different adaptogenic compounds on the adrenal system. The researchers concluded: “The use of these drugs typically generates no side effects, unlike traditional stimulants…Furthermore, single administration of these adaptogens effectively increases mental performance and physical working capacity in humans.”3
It is comparatively easy to treat low back pain or migraines with a spinal adjustment. However, smart DCs will recognize that unless patients are also treated for more generalized, underlying health issues, they may not fully recover. This is why it is so important to go beyond just the basics of chiropractic care and add adaptogen supplements to your treatment recommendations.
1 American Chiropractic Association. “Back Pain Facts & Statistics.” ACAToday.org. http://www.acatoday.org/level2_css.cfm?T1ID=13&T2ID=68. Accessed April 2015.
2 Wallace E. “Adaptogenic Herbs: Nature’s Solution to Stress.” Chiro.org. http://www.chiro.org/nutrition/FULL/Adaptogenic_Herbs.shtml. Accessed April 2015.
3 Panossian A, Wagner H. Stimulating effect of adaptogens: an overview with particular reference to their efficacy following single dose administration. Phytother Res. 2005;19(10):819–38.