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!