Effect of chiropractic care on heart rate variability and pain in a multisite clinical study

J Manipulative Physiol Ther. 2006 May;29(4):267-74. doi: 10.1016/j.jmpt.2006.03.010.


Objective: The purpose of this study is to investigate the effect of chiropractic care in a multiclinic setting on sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system activities using heart rate variability (HRV) analysis.

Methods: Physicians of chiropractic in private practice were provided with an HRV device to perform analysis before and after chiropractic adjustments on 10 subjects. At each site, 8 subjects were monitored before and after a single chiropractic adjustment, and 2 additional patients were followed for a 4-week period with 2 HRV recordings per week. Patient information forms and a visual analog scale (VAS) questionnaire were completed both before and after each chiropractic adjustment.

Results: Data from 96 physicians were divided into single-visit and 4-week groups. After 1 chiropractic adjustment, pain as analyzed by VAS was reduced significantly from 3.7 +/- 2.2 to 2.1 +/- 2.0 (P < .001). The mean heart rate reduced from 76.7 +/- 12.7 to 74.3 +/- 12.4 (P < .01), the SD of normal-to-normal QRS increased from a range of 55.8 to 44.6 to a range of 60.6 to 47.2 (P < .001), the high-frequency component increased from 359 +/- 968 to 444 +/- 1069 (P < .01), the low-frequency component increased from 403 +/- 753 to 465 +/- 755 (P < .05), and the total power increased from 1063 +/- 1886 to 1265 +/- 2048 (P < .01). After 4 weeks of chiropractic adjustments, pain measured by the VAS was reduced significantly before and after each visit as analyzed by t tests, but the significant changes were not found using analysis of variance analysis. The reduction of pain from each treatment was not maintained over the 4 weeks of study period. The analysis of variance on the HRV 4-week data found that changes in the SD of normal-to-normal QRS, total power, and low-frequency components reached statistically significant levels (P < .05). The heart rate and the high-frequency component did not change significantly (P > .05).

Conclusion: In this study, HRV and VAS changed in patients as a result of chiropractic care.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study

MeSH terms

  • Autonomic Nervous System / physiopathology
  • Back Pain / physiopathology*
  • Back Pain / therapy*
  • Female
  • Heart Rate*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Manipulation, Chiropractic*
  • Middle Aged