Chiropractic may help patients suffering from panic attacks

If you have patients with any type of anxiety disorder, you likely know how devastating it can be for them.

An anxiety attack can be set in motion by the smallest thing or, in some cases, without any seemingly identifiable trigger. In fact, anxiety disorders are the most common mental issue facing Americans, affecting approximately 40 million adults, or 18 percent of the population.1

Unfortunately, given the stigma associated with mental illness, odds are quite good that you most likely have a number of patients in your practice who suffer from some type of anxiety disorder, you may not even know it. The sad fact is that these patients are simply too afraid or ashamed to say anything to you about it.

The good news, however, is that there has been some intriguing research showing that chiropractic can actually help reduce symptoms of panic attacks.


Symptoms of anxiety attacks and standard treatments

Symptoms of anxiety attacks can range from heart palpitations, to shortness of breath, to sweating, to a dry mouth, to uncontrollable shaking.1 In extreme cases, some patients may consider self-harm or suicide.

Standard treatments usually involve a mixture of some sort of behavioral modification (such as meditation or talk therapy) and psychiatric medications, which are usually either benzodiazepines or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs).2 Unfortunately, both medication classes can have unpleasant side effects.

Benzodiazepines can cause:

  • Drowsiness
  • Memory problems
  • Dizziness
  • Stomach upset
  • Slurred speech
  • Headache
  • Blurred vision2

SSRIs can cause:

  • Fatigue
  • Insomnia
  • Nausea
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Agitation
  • Headaches
  • Weight gain
  • Dry mouth
  • Diarrhea
  • Increased sweating2

Chiropractic for symptoms of panic attacks

Given the extensive list of adverse side effects, it would certainly make sense to consider alternative treatments for the symptoms of anxiety disorders. One symptom of panic disorders in particular is elevated blood pressure. A case report published in the December 1993 issue of the ACA Journal of Chiropractic compared the blood pressure readings before and after chiropractic adjustments for a patient who suffered from panic disorder.3

The patient had undergone both psychotherapy and multiple trials of anti-anxiety medications, with no change in symptoms. Her blood pressure before chiropractic adjustment was elevated, at 182/102 mm Hg, with a pulse of 120 beats per minute.3 Following adjustments to the upper- and mid-cervical, upper- and mid-thoracic, and right sacroiliac fixations, her blood pressure dropped to 140/80 mm Hg, with a pulse of 76 beats per minute.

With continued chiropractic care, she was free of panic attacks for two months.3

A much more recent article, published in the October 2016 issue of the Annals of Vertebral Sublaxation Research, presented a similar case of a patient who had been suffering from ongoing panic disorder for three years, with no relief under standard care.4 In particular, she suffered from chest pain for the past eight months. She also had a history of trauma.

She underwent a combination of ongoing network spinal analysis and somato respiratory integration to both correct for sublaxations and help calm her panic attacks.4 She started to see a significant reduction in symptoms starting at six weeks after beginning treatment, and resolution of her panic disorder after 14 weeks.

Dealing with anxiety disorders and their treatment can become a terrible catch-22 for your patients. While medication may relieve the symptoms of anxiety, the side effects can be just as bad, if not worse, than the actual anxiety symptoms themselves.

Fortunately, chiropractic care may provide a way to help your patients manage their anxiety symptoms without the harmful side effects from medication.