Chiropractic treatment has long been shown to be effective for specific symptoms like back pain and neck pain. New research is beginning to investigate the more subtle ways that chiropractic can improve health. A recent study found that spinal manipulation may boost the functioning of the immune system, even in patients with no specific pain issue.

Researchers from the Canadian Memorial Chiropractic College investigated the effect of spinal manipulation on interleukin-2, a signaling protein that controls immune responses. They selected 74 test subjects with no current symptoms or recent history of manipulation. The patients were randomly assigned to three treatment groups to receive either a control venipuncture treatment or two types of spinal manipulation. All treatments were administered on a single day, and blood samples were collected before each treatment, 20 minutes after the treatment and two hours after treatment.

The blood samples were compared to see if there was any increase in the levels of certain antibodies: induced immunoglobin G (IgG) and immunoglobin M (IgM). These two antibodies generally appear in the bloodstream in response to an infection, and they are powerful tools of the immune system.

The researchers found that subjects treated with spinal manipulation with cavitation had significantly increased levels of IgG and IgM within 20 minutes after the session. After two hours, these patients had significantly elevated IgM levels compared to baseline and the control group. These findings suggest that spinal manipulation can have what they call a “priming” effect on the body’s immune response, possibly resulting in faster responses to new infections. Although more study is needed to better explain this response, this research provides fascinating evidence that spinal manipulation may affect the functioning of the body’s immune system and assist in maintaining overall health.

Teodorczyk-Injeyan JA, McGregor M, Ruegg R, Injeyan HS. Interleukin 2-regulated in vitro antibody production following a single spinal manipulative treatment in normal subjects. Chiropractic & Osteopathy 2010, 18:26