Patients suffering from insomnia may be very miserable and deserve attentive, sensitive chiropractic care.
Chiropractic adjustments, nutritional and lifestyle suggestions can help your patients recover from insomnia and develop healthier sleep.
A recent paper published in the Journal of Sleep Medicine & Disorders suggests that some insomnia cases could be caused by complex chemical interactions in the brain resulting from subluxation. This would explain, potentially, why chiropractic adjustment provides relief for many insomnia patients. The author, Lenard Vernon, DC, suggests in his paper, “The Chiropractic Subluxation and Insomnia: Could there be a connection?” that over time a pattern of chronic insomnia may develop and contribute to further discomfort and sleeplessness.
Successfully treating patients with insomnia may require adjustments to correct the subluxation and interfere with chronic insomnia. Alongside adjustments, other treatments and lifestyle interventions may promote healthy sleep and help your patients heal.
Evaluate the source of insomnia
In order to treat insomnia patients effectively, chiropractors should carefully evaluate the patient and develop a comprehensive treatment plan.
“In my clinical experience, a combination of treatments are the most effective,” says Scott Schreiber, DC of Delaware Back Pain and Sports Rehabilitation Centers. “I find that insomnia is the clinical manifestation of many other sub-clinical issues.”
Schreiber suggests that chiropractors look for other health problems occurring alongside insomnia and contributing to it, such as thyroid problems and mental health concerns. Patients should be asked about sleeping habits, diet, stress levels and daily schedule. Not following the body’s natural circadian rhythm by consistently going to bed and awaking at the same time each day may also have a negative impact on insomnia sufferers, according to Schreiber.
Adjustments for insomnia
“High-velocity low-amplitude manipulation (HVLA) to the areas of joint dysfunction will immediately reduce pain and induce muscle relaxation,” says Schreiber. “This by itself will allow the body to be more comfortable and get to sleep easier.”
As Vernon’s paper explains, subluxation may contribute to endocrine system problems by creating unhealthy nerve impulses. This chemical dysfunction then causes imbalanced brain chemistry, contributing to primary insomnia in patients. By addressing the subluxation, adjustment may help correct the brain’s dopamine and serotonin levels, thereby providing possible relief from insomnia.
Chris Mabry of Ability Chiropractic in Columbus, Ohio claims that adjustments can also address insomnia by improving other aspects of nervous system functioning, such as heart rate variability.
“It is postulated that improvement is due to a more efficiently functioning spine and nervous system…One predictor of sleep efficiency is heart rate variability, which is positively impacted by chiropractic care,” says Mabry.
Other strategies to treat insomnia
Alongside adjustments, you may want to recommend other interventions to your patient. As part of your comprehensive treatment plan, you may need to suggest nutritional supplements and other lifestyle changes.
Schreiber says patients should reduce caffeine and sugar intake and consider adding stress management techniques, such as exercise or yoga. Patients may also use supplements, under careful guidance from the chiropractor, to treat insomnia.
“They are magnesium, Valerian root, passion flower, 5-htp, melatonin and tryptophan. The aforementioned either promote relaxation or increase the body’s production of serotonin, the sleep hormone,” Schreiber says.
Watch for improvement
In time, sleep should begin to improve and other symptoms should start to disappear. Patients should be regularly evaluated for progress. If necessary, change the treatment plan and look for other possible strategies. Insomnia is complex, and treatment may not be immediate.
“This will take time to accomplish. As sleep quality improves, the patient will have less fatigue, be more alert, be less stressed, and will get sick less. Anxiety and depression may also improve,” says Schreiber.
ⁱVernon, Leonard. “The Chiropractic Subluxation and Insomnia: Could there be a Connection?” J Sleep Med Disord. 2015 2(5): 1032.