March 25, 2008 — -- Though doctors are unsure of what causes blood pressure to increase, a new study suggests that a specific type of neck adjustment may reduce hypertension for some of the 65 million Americans battling it.
The University of Chicago study, published in the Journal of Human Hypertension this month, looked at the possibility of a connection between a spinal realignment and a decrease in blood pressure.
"We set up a double-blind study to really look and see if in fact this procedure was affecting high blood pressure," said University of Chicago Medical Center hypertension specialist George Bakris.
The results were intriguing. The patients who received the chiropractic adjustments saw their blood pressure drop an average of 17 points -- a dip that usually takes two blood pressure medications to achieve.
"My blood pressure dropped tremendously," said Denise Nieman, who had neck pain before participating in the study.
The idea behind the realignment is that the C-1 vertebra, located at the top of the spine, operates like a fuse box in the body. When it's twisted, it can pinch arteries and nerves at the neck's base, which not only causes discomfort but also affects blood flow.
"When the spine is misaligned, it can affect all types of things, all types of disease, conditions," said chiropractor Marshall Dickholtz Jr.
So for patients like Nieman, whose X-rays showed her C-1 out of alignment, the special chiropractic adjustment lowered the pain and her blood pressure simultaneously.
While the study presents some interesting ideas, it has its limitations, according to "Good Morning America" medical editor Dr. Tim Johnson.
"[There are] a lot of unanswered questions. But I'm telling you, this catches our attention because of a significant drop in blood pressure. It absolutely deserves more study," Johnson said.
A larger study has been commissioned; in the original study only 50 patients were treated, of which only 25 got the real adjustment, while the others received a fake one. Afterward there was only an eight-week follow-up.