As a diabetic, you know that you must consider your diet and nutrition in order to help maintain safe blood sugar levels. But did you know that other areas, such as your spine, can also play a role in blood sugar regulation. While you see your primary care doctor for your diabetes management, adding a chiropractor and chiropractic manipulation can also provide surprising benefits to blood sugar management as well as your overall health.
What is a Chiropractor and Chiropractic Manipulation?
A chiropractor is a physician that focuses on the prevention, diagnosis and conservative treatment of spine and joint disorders. Accidents, falls, stress or simple aging can cause misalignment and stress on the joints. Chiropractors apply controlled force to these joints in order to help return them to proper alignment. This manipulation impacts the joint, soft tissue, the nervous system and organ performance. In addition to joint manipulation, chiropractors also provide soft tissue therapy, and lifestyle recommendations, such as nutritional advice and fitness coaching.
What is Diabetes?
When you eat food, the body transforms that food into glucose that your body uses for energy. The pancreas makes the hormone insulin that helps glucose enter the cells in the body correctly. When someone has diabetes, their pancreas does not make enough insulin or the insulin it produces does not work as it should. When insulin doesn’t work, glucose builds up in the body and can lead to serious medical complications. These can include heart disease, blindness, kidney failure and even amputations. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death in the U.S.
Type 1 Diabetes
Type 1 diabetes, formally known as insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus or juvenile-onset diabetes, is diagnosed most often in children and teens. It is considered an autoimmune disease where the immune system attacks and destroys the insulin-producing cells immune in the pancreas, resulting in little to no insulin production. There is no cure for Type 1 diabetes and patients are dependent on injectable or pumped insulin in order to survive.
Type 2 Diabetes
The second kind of diabetes, Type 2 diabetes, often occurs later in life, especially in those overweight. It is considered a metabolic disorder where the body produces insulin, but the body is unable to use it correctly. In many cases, people can manage Type 2 diabetes with changes in diet and exercise, as well as weight loss. In more serious cases, insulin therapy is necessary.
How is Your Spine Connected to Diabetes?
So, if diabetes is connected to the pancreas and insulin production and use, where does your spine fit into the picture and how might a chiropractor help with diabetes management? Look at how your spine can contribute to the function of your pancreas and, in contrast, how diabetes can affect your spine.
Decreased Pancreatic Function Due to Spinal Misalignment
When you think of diabetes, a connection to the spine is not something most people think of. In fact, a connection may seem farfetched at first. But when you take a closer look, it is easy to see. For instance, both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes are due to problems with the pancreas and the production or proper functioning of the insulin it produces.
The pancreas functions when the nerves in the body signal it to begin insulin production. These nerves reside in your upper and middle back. When subluxations or misalignments occur in your back, these nerves are often blocked, damaged or don’t send the appropriate signals. Because of this, the pancreas does not receive the correct signals, resulting in decreased function of the pancreas.
Diabetes Increases the Risk of Spinal Problems
As a person with diabetes, you focus on blood sugar management in order to prevent medical complications, such as heart disease. However, having diabetes, according to a 2016 study, also puts you at an increased risk of lumbar spinal stenosis and lumbar disk herniation in the back, especially for women.
In addition to an increased risk in spinal complications that can lead to chronic back pain in diabetic patients, spinal misalignments can also increase the risk of diabetic polyneuropathy. Repairing the misalignment can also help reduce symptoms such as numbness and pain in the extremities from polyneuropathy.
How Can Chiropractic Care Help Manage Diabetes and Improve Quality of Life?
Seeing a chiropractor can offer a variety of different benefits to diabetic patients.
Regular chiropractic manipulation can help to improve nerve signals to the pancreas and increase insulin production and function. For example, a 2011 case report published in the Journal of Pediatric, Maternal & Family Health Chiropractic looked at a 4-year-old female with Type 1 diabetes. After 24 chiropractic visits providing adjustments for vertebral subluxations, there was a significant decrease in hemoglobin A1C levels, thus reducing the amount of insulin injections.
Another case study published in the Journal of Diabetes and Metabolism in 2018 looked at a 26-year-old male with Type 1 diabetes and a history of chronic mid-back pain. After 36 chiropractic visits to address thoracic hypokyphosis of the thoracic spine, the man reported reduced back pain and an increased quality of life. Test results showed a dramatic drop in blood glucose after each visit as well as lower blood glucose averages. This man was able to reduce his insulin injections by over half while undergoing chiropractic care.
In addition to spinal manipulation that can help reduce pain, reduce diabetic polyneuropathy, and help reduce blood sugar levels, chiropractors can also help you manage lifestyle changes, such as diet and exercise.
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