During my eight-year struggle with atrial fibrillation, I never considered seeing a chiropractor to treat my afib. After all, what does your back have to do with your heart? I would never connect the two but apparently there may be a connection.
I’ve received emails in the past from people that have told me chiropractic adjustments have helped them with their heart palpitations and some have even said that chiropractic treatment helped their afib. I always meant to follow up on this topic and explore it but haven’t had a chance to get around to it until now.
I got an email from a chiropractor that has had success treating afib patients with chiropractic adjustments and he wanted to know if he could share his knowledge and experiences with my audience. Twist my arm, Dr. Wells. I’d love to have him write an article on the topic! Without further ado, I will hand it over to Dr. Wells.
Meet Dr. Brent Wells
Thanks Travis. Please allow me to introduce myself. My name is Dr. Brent Wells. I’m a professional chiropractor who founded Better Health Chiropractic and Physical Rehab in Alaska in 1998. For those who are already wondering, no, I have never had a run-in with a moose, but I have had plenty of clients who did. But I digress.
I want to share some of the improvements and changes I have seen in my practice with afib patients.
Chiropractic Treatment for Afib? Who Knew?
I will be perfectly honest and tell you that afib is a subject that doesn’t come up in chiropractic college and I’m betting that very few doctors, cardiologists, and even patients don’t think of chiropractic as one of the tools available to them. Herniated disc, sure! Afib? Really?
Although I can’t point to an exact number of afib patients that I have seen, I do remember a few quite clearly. Although chiropractors do ask for a full medical history, you would be surprised how many people only tell us about the things they believe would be important or that would matter to a chiropractor. This is why I can’t give a definitive answer about how many afib patients I have had or that I have now. I probably have more than I know, they simply haven’t told me.
My First Afib Patient
I had been practicing in my own clinic for about 4 or 5 years when I had a female client, who I will call Jean, whose main complaint was that she felt like she had been hit by a truck. Everyday she felt tired, run down, had occasional back pain, but seemed mainly concerned that she just plain didn’t feel “right.” She never mentioned that she had atrial fibrillation!
I did my exam and found a few subluxations in her lumbar spine, but she also had a rib close to the sinus node of her heart out of place. I did my adjustments and popped the rib back into place. She sat up and put her hand under her left breast. “Wow!” she gave me the biggest smile, “You have no idea what kind of relief I feel from that!” I was pleased (who isn’t when people respond like that?!)
Jean came back the following week for a check up and a massage. That’s when she sprung the news on me. She said she had afib but after the rib was adjusted, she said she could actually feel the difference. She confirmed this with her doctor via an EKG and she was in normal sinus rhythm once more.
Even I didn’t expect results quite like that. I don’t want to sound pompous and suggest that all any afib patient needs is a chiropractic adjustment, but for Jean and a few others who most likely had vagal afib, this movement really did wonders.
Jean found that her afib returned every four weeks or so without an adjustment, so for several years, I saw her every other week, yet, I have another patient who comes to see me only when they have an attack that lasts more than 6-10 hours. I see this person no more than two or three times a year. Why the difference between these two patients? I honestly don’t know.
Like many things in life, what works for one person does not work for another, but if it’s possible that chiropractic adjustments can help your condition, why wouldn’t you want to at least give them a try? If you have any doubts or concerns, speak to your doctor or cardiologist first. If they give you the OK then go for it – and if you happen to live in Alaska, I would love to add you to my list of patients!
How Chiropractic Care Can Help AFib Symptoms
You may be wondering how exactly chiropractic care can help with atrial fibrillation. As I mentioned earlier, while you wouldn’t typically think of using chiropractic care for a heart condition, the holistic approach that chiropractic takes can help address some of the underlying causes of AFib. Here are some of the ways that chiropractic adjustments and treatment can help with atrial fibrillation.
- Chiropractic care balances the sympathetic and the parasympathetic nervous system. These aspects of your autonomic nervous system can speed up or slow down your heart rate when they are out of balance. These nerves are directly connected to your cervical and thoracic spine.
When these parts of your body are out of place, they could be putting stress on these nerves and worsen AFib symptoms. A chiropractic adjustment will correct areas where your spine is out of alignment or has reduced mobility to fix this problem. Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for these parts of the spine to be out of place, since many people today live a very sedentary lifestyle where they are sitting for unnaturally long periods of time.
- Chiropractic care naturally lowers inflammation levels, particularly when done in many sessions over time. Inflammation can exacerbate symptoms of virtually any chronic condition, including AFib. Chiropractic will reduce the stress inflammation is putting on your cardiovascular system to prevent this problem from recurring.
- Chiropractors don’t just look at one part of your body, they address the entire system as a whole. There are so many different factors that could be contributing to your atrial fibrillation symptoms, like your diet, exercise regimen, sleep, and stress levels. Your chiropractor will give you tips to help you maintain a healthier lifestyle, which reduces the changes of your atrial fibrillation getting worse over time.
In addition to treatment from a general cardiologist or EP, you should be seeing a chiropractor regularly if you struggle with AFib. This is particularly important if you don’t know what’s causing the irregular heartbeat. Spinal misalignments have a much stronger effect on the cardiovascular system and other internal processes than we typically realize.
Just a small misalignment in the spine could be triggering an abnormal sympathetic or parasympathetic nervous reaction. Ask your doctor for a recommendation for a chiropractor they trust, or consult the American Chiropractic Association.
During your first chiropractic treatment, your chiropractor should assess your overall health, not just the health of your back, to take into account any other factors that might be affecting your heartbeat. They will then perform adjustments as needed, using pressure and directed force to move your spine back into place. Depending on how much tension you are carrying around in your body, they may also give you further exercises and stretches to do.
Please don’t forget to tell your chiropractor about medications you are taking and that you have afib, along with any other health problems and/or medications you are taking.
How to Choose a Chiropractor to Treat Your Afib
Chances are that you aren’t going to see a chiropractor advertise themselves strictly as an afib or even a cardio-centered chiropractor.
Your doctor or cardiologist might have a chiropractor they can refer you too, or if you have friends with afib, they might have some referrals. Once you get a name of a chiropractor, be sure to speak to the doctor in person first. Explain your afib and any other problem you might have and ask if they feel they can help.
Always be sure to ask about insurance coverage and avoid any chiropractor who tries to pressure you into signing up for long-term, expensive treatments that may or may not help your afib.
Chiropractic treatment for your afib may not only reduce the occurrence of uncomfortable symptoms, but it might even prevent episodes from occurring in the first place. Chiropractic treatment is always worth a shot for atrial fibrillation, either in addition to or as a substitute for traditional treatments if traditional treatments such as drugs and surgeries are ineffective.
About Dr. Brent Wells
Dr. Brent Wells is a top-rated chiropractor in Wasilla, Alaska. He is a graduate of the University of Nevada where he earned his bachelor’s of science degree before moving on to complete his doctorate from Western States Chiropractic College. He founded Better Health Chiropractic & Physical Rehab in Alaska in 1998.
He became passionate about being in the chiropractic field after his own experiences with hurried, unprofessional healthcare providers. The goal for Dr. Wells is to treat his patients with care and compassion while providing them with a better quality of life through his professional treatment.
Travis’ Final Thoughts on Chiropractic Care for Afib
I want to thank Dr. Wells for contributing to this blog. What I especially appreciate about Dr. Wells is that he takes an honest approach to treating afib with chiropractic care. He doesn’t claim that it’s a cure or that it will even work for everyone. He simply says that it might help people with atrial fibrillation.
Seeing a chiropractor and doing a few adjustments is totally harmless and very affordable. I see a chiropractor myself once a month and I love it. I always walk away from the office feeling great. It’s worth every penny of the $50 I spend for every adjustment. Now I’ll be honest, I don’t see a chiropractor for afib. I go to my chiropractor for general well-being and to keep my back pain-free.
Still, though, if I was struggling with afib I would definitely consider using a chiropractor as another “tool” in my “afib toolbox.” It doesn’t hurt to try one. Worst case scenario it will have zero affect on your afib. Best case scenario it does help! I definitely wouldn’t go in expecting a miracle cure or anything. I am a firm believer in chiropractic care but I’m definitely not willing to say that afib can be cured or even completely silenced for a long period of time by it.
If you’re interested in this topic, there is another resource I want to point you to. It’s an article written by Dr. Stephen Sinatra. The article is titled, “The Body Beyond Low Back Pain and Whiplash.”
In the article, Dr. Sinatra writes about his conversation with Dr. Martin Gallagher, who is both a medical doctor and a chiropractor. That’s a combination you rarely see. Dr. Gallagher practices out of his clinic, Medical Wellness Associates, in Pennsylvania. The article mentions that Dr. Gallagher has successfully treated patients with intense heart palpitations with chiropractic adjustments. He has also done chiropractic care for afib patients but the article doesn’t say what his success was in those cases.
Needless to say, the article provides further proof that chiropractic care for afib is something that should be considered. There is a chance it might help relieve you of your afib burden.
Have you seen a chiropractor for your afib? If you have, I’d love to hear about your experiences in the comments below!
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I’ve been thinking of seeing chiropractor since being diagnosed with Afib in June 2020. But I’m on an anticoagulant and I’ve read it’s not safe to get an adjustment if on blood thinners. I used to see a chiropractor when I was younger and it made me feel better. Any info on safety when one is on blood thinners? Thanks
Hi– I never had any problems seeing my chiropractor weekly when I had afib and was on arrythmia drugs and eloquis. I was diagnosed with afib when I was 65 and have since been afib free once I had a couple of ablations. My chiropractor was excellent which is important. Good luck with everything on this new journey.
Great article and IMO, a good rep for Chiropractors. Just like in any profession there are good ones and bad ones. Yes, run fast from those who line up multiple visits after one visit. I had one try that before even adjusting me! They dont have to be experts at cardiology, only at reversing subluxation which certainly can impact afib.
I know for a fact it works for afib because one time after an adjustment, it threw me into afib. Not the ideal result I was looking for, however, change is good for revealing clues to healing sometimes. Just recently I was experiencing hundreds of PACs which had seemingly come out of nowhere. No coincidence an old whiplash injury had cropped up and my entire upper back was stiff causing headaches. Why not ectopic beats I wondered?
One good visit to my honest chiro and the back was better in 3 days. I took a low dose of beta blockers for 2 days after and the PACs left and have not returned. Yes to spine alignment, but do your research and find a reputable one!
Thanks for sharing your experience! Glad to hear you’ve benefited from chiropractic care. I got an email from someone that had a similar experience as you. She had a chiro adjustment and she went into afib. She was too scared, however, to go back and have another adjustment to see if it would take her out of afib. Now she avoids chiropractors like the plague because of that experience. I guess I don’t blame her.
But as you indicated, the fact that an adjustment sent her into afib could be seen as “proof” that spinal adjustments can affect the heart for some people. They may inadvertently put you in afib but they may also take you OUT of afib! Then again, they may do nothing:(
Wonder id you can tell me if there’s a Chiropractor you can recommend near me that treats a-fib? I live in Southern Chester County, PA.
I was very encouraged by your article and a few others to try Chiropractic for my AFib, but reading that it can cause an episode has totally changed my mind!!! I’m frightened of it to begin with, and I surely don’t need an episode caused by a procedure that I may not be able to correct. I only have intermittent episodes and I don’t want to cause a permanent problem. Thank you Travis, for binging this to my attention. I will continue my search for help.
Hi there– I have used chiropractic care for 20+ years and have remained very healthy . I visit at least once a week unless I have any neck or back/rib issues causing distress. I know it works as with my recent move to another state, I didn’t do chiropractic for over 6 weeks while finding doctors ( still looking for my best chiropractor!) and notice a difference in how my overall body feels. I had afib for a few years prior to my ablation and if I was in an episode an adjustment put me back into sinus rhythm. Manual adjustments work best for me and a combo of the better tools and tables plus the manual is exceptional. Another wonderful practice is neural/visceral work and I had a second chiropractor in MN trained in this via the Barral Institute in MO. I literally felt the change with the vagus nerve , the heart rhythm and the body overall. The right chiropractor and massage therapist make all the difference. Good luck with everything.
Thanks for another interesting article, Travis. I’d be open to trying this if I could find a local chiropractor who has had sufficient experience and a good track record dealing with afib patients.
Who’s to say it couldn’t help? After all, the medical profession, despite modern-day meds and techniques, does not really seem to understand exactly what causes some of us to develop afib. I think we should keep an open mind and not forget that many of the medical treatments in common use today would have been scoffed at years ago.
I doubt you’ll find many chiropractors that have experience with afib (as in they do adjustments specifically that will help people with atrial fibrillation). I think the general message Dr. Wells is conveying is that chiro adjustments in general may help reduce the burden of afib symptoms.
I can’t speak for him but I doubt there are specific types of adjustments just for people with afib. My guess is he does the same kinds of adjustments for regular patients as he does for afib patients. To that end, I would just look for highly rated chiropractors in your area and give a few adjustments a try. And like Dr. Wells advised, avoid those clinics that require you to sign up for long-term treatment and several adjustments. You want to find someone that is o.k. with you just having a few adjustments to see if they help.
I’ll see if I can get Dr. Wells to either chime in here or send me an email with some clarification. Stay tuned…
While there are some chiropractors who specialize in certain adjustments, almost every one of them can do adjustments for atrial fibrillation (afib) symptoms. For instance, some do specialize in “active release” adjustments which work to heal scar tissue injuries. All chiropractors are able to do various types of adjustments for afib patients, although there isn’t a specific afib adjustment.
Mainly, chiropractors will work to balance the autonomic nervous system, which is attached to the heart, to help keep it relaxed and healthy. Many of these adjustments will reduce inflammation and keep the nervous system lined up which can prevent future problems and severe side effects of this medical condition.
Some chiropractors might also implement the use of thermography to see how your heart is working and how they can best help you while observing if any problems might be evident. You do need to be careful with chiropractic adjustments sometimes and need to inform your chiropractor about your condition, but most adjustments are safe to use if you have afib.
Interesting and honest article. I am definitely going to look into this a see where it goes.
Hi Travis: I have used Chiropractic care weekly for years. It has helped my vertigo in particular which I recently discovered after going to someone who did not do strong manual neck and spine adjustments for over a year and switching to a new chiropractor who does. I feel the effects immediately in all body parts!! When I used to have Afib and would be having an adjustment, the heart would calm down and I would feel great. In addition, having neural/visceral cranial work along with the chiropractic, also calmed the Afib due to the work associated with the vagus nerve which I have learned is so critical to many of our organs. Nowadays I don’t have Afib although I do have blips of PAC/PVC at times and chiropractic gets everything back in alignment. I stay healthy and usually have chiropractic once a week and not less than every 2 weeks unless I travel. Due to continued maintenance my travel is rarely interrupted with body illnesses or aches/pains. Thanks as always for your forum. Carol
A chiropractor for afib? Oh please.
I had a feeling this article might be controversial. I don’t know what it is about chiropractors but these guys have about as bad of a reputation as used car salesmen of the 1970’s. Geez.
I was skeptical of chiropractic care myself for many years but I’m glad I was curious enough to give it a shot because it has helped me tremendously with my on and off back issues over the past decade or so.
As I stated in the article, if I was battling afib right now I wouldn’t hesitate to add chiropractic care as another “tool” in my “afib toolbox.” It certainly wouldn’t hurt to try. Worst case scenario it doesn’t work. Best case scenario it gives you some relief – even if only temporary relief.
I don’t think there is a single word in this article that says chiropractic care can cure afib or even be a primary treatment option. Dr. Wells (and myself) are simply saying that some people have experienced relief from their afib burden with chiropractic care so why not consider it?
One of the complaints I hear from time-to-time from my readers is that I don’t focus enough on natural treatments for afib, but then when I do I get ridiculed by some. Sometimes you just can’t win.
The goal of my blog is to present any possible natural or traditional treatment that might be helpful to my audience. I expect (demand) that they do their own research and come to their own conclusions. My blog, and the things I write about, should be considered just the starting points in your research and journey!
Thank you Travis. I found this article very informative.
That’s an interesting article. I had paroxysmal A-fib for a few years, from 2015-2018. It started 5 years after my aortic valve replacement and it felt horrible while it lasted – usually 4-9 hours. A few times I went to the ER and was cardioverted. Then it stopped happening and I’m not sure why.
I had decided to get healthier by losing 20 lbs, exercising through walking, aquafit, and yoga and I also practiced meditating because I was so stressed out by the episodes. Along with it I saw a chiropractor to fix a few issues because I was sore from my increased activity. I’ve often thought it all worked to reduce my stress level. I’m just keeping my fingers crossed that the a-fib won’t come back.
Kudos to you for making so many positive changes in your lifestyle! Losing 20 pounds is no easy feat so congrats! There is no question in my mind that all of the things you did (and are doing) are helping to reduce your afib burden. Keep it up!
Do you take blood thinners still? They tell me I can’t stop them thank you. Sharon w
I am totally into chiropractic BUT recently had to switch to a new chiro and he used the “Activator” method and while it was happening I felt concern for my heart as it vibrated violently thru my body. Sure enough after over a year of no episodes I went into AF that night :( Am now looking for another chiro who uses “hands on” which has never given me a problem
Love your article and you are right on the money !!!
Here is a video from Dr John Bergman explaining the philosophy behind why Chiropractic Helps with afib.
Please let me know what you think about the video!
Looking forward to your reply!
Why not…we’ve tried everything else and we are still stumbling around in the dark like dinosaurs. I don’t know how bad your AF is but mine takes the enjoyment out of everyday living and episodes are getting harder to take. 3-5 times a month HR 170+ up to 12 hours and no medication works!
It might be easy to dismiss the use of chiropractic care for patients with afib, but there are proven results of it helping many with this medical condition. It will not only reduce inflammation, which if not treated can cause afib symptoms to worsen, but calm the body which can reduce stress on the heart.
Chiropractic adjustments work to help balance out the autonomic nervous system which the heart and spine are connected to. Adjustments of this system might be a little tough at first, but eventually it will help to strengthen these parts of your body. Many of them will also work with your vagus nerve, which is a long nerve running from your brain to stomach and which can sometimes be the culprit behind afib problems.
There can be side effects, and as with any medical condition, you need to be careful when trying new things. However, most chiropractic adjustments are very safe and beneficial when it comes to treating this health problem.
Thanks, Dr. Wells, for taking the time to respond to these comments. I’m sure my readers appreciate it!
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