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Chiropractic and Viruses

:   Post World War 1, a deadly flu virus swept the country. The 1918 flu pandemic.  This flu claimed more lives than the actual war itself.  Anecdotical references from chiropractors at that time, state that chiropractors noted their patients had a lower fatality rate then patients under medical care. Since there were no published references to this claim, it could easily be disputed as BS.  Except, at the same time, the Osteopathic profession exclusively practiced spinal manipulation.  That is what the osteopaths did in those days.  They adjusted the spine to help improve blood flow and circulation (the chiropractors did the same, but their primary purpose was to improve nerve flow).  The osteopathic profession at that time, published a study which could be extrapolated to include the chiropractic experience with treating patients during the flu pandemic.  The study found that the death rate from flu under medical care was 5-6% in the United States.  Patients under osteopathic care were found to have a death rate of 0.25%. The implications of the study were that spinal adjustments had an effect on the immune system, increasing immune system function.  Being 1918, it took a long time for the science to catch up and prove this to be a true effect of the osteopathic and chiropractic spinal adjusting.  Science and technology has now shown that work on the spine can cause increases or bursts in white blood cells (infection fighting cells). A major study showed that the rate at which DNA repairs itself is increased with chiropractic care (DNA repair is an immune response marker). And one important study performed with immune compromised HIV patients showed that CD4 immune system cells were increased with spinal care. Lastly, a study on patients who received regular, long term chiropractic care showed that they had greater disease resistance enzymes than people who were not under chiropractic care.  Now that I have explained chiropractic’s role in helping the body stay healthy, please let me state that by no means is chiropractic a treatment for the flu, viruses or any other illness or disease. Although the chiropractic effects on immune system function should not be ignored, in this equation, chiropractic is like sunshine, vitamins, exercise, adequate sleep and stress reduction. It is a way of helping the body to be healthy. Now, onto the coronavirus.  Why all the drastic measures for a virus that mimics the flu ( from spread, to symptoms, to target demographic of elderly and immune compromised)?  Whether this proves to be right or wrong, the object is to slow the spread of the virus to prevent a major influx of patients to the hospital.  If, all of a sudden in your local town, 150 people developed major symptoms (not the typical symptoms most will have, the stay at home and in a few days you will be better symptoms) that caused them to go to the hospital, the hospital would easily have a bed and medical supply shortage that could effect other patients from getting the care they need (heart attacks, accidents and other emergencies).  Now as I said, there is a lot of debate in the medical and scientific community if this is the correct approach.  Some say, this will cause a temporary slowing down of cases and then a huge spike upward of cases once people can mingle again.  Others say that life should go on and the healthier of us should be able contract the virus to develop immunities which could stop the eventual spread of the virus.  As with any other virus, we should continue to be vigilant with the target audience of elderly and immune compromised.  For me, I am a big proponent of immune system function.  It is why the germ theory of disease can be debated to not be completely accurate.  If your immune system is functioning at 100%, the body should be able, in most cases, to fight off viral and bacterial germs.  This explains why a germ can enter your family’s house and not everyone gets effected.  Why does one child in the house or one parent in the house get the bug, but the others do not?  If the germ spread theory of disease was 100% accurate, then everyone who came in contact with the germ would be sick with the germ exposure.  On the other hand, if your immune system is working at a subpar level, someone could sneeze down the street from you and that germ could get a hold in your body and cause an illness.  The bottom line is that this is currently a public health issue and we must do what we are told by the public health experts.  And right now, that is to stay at home and shelter in place.  And once e do that, then we can see how this situation changes for us.  The good news is that I found some research that may be taken in a positive light.  Chief Medical Officer and epidemiologist Professor Chris Whitty thinks that the mortality rate for COVID-19 may end up being less than 1%.  His prediction is consistent with estimated mortality rates  in countries like South Korea and Germany.  In Germany, despite having the highest median age in Europe, the COVID-19 death rate is 0.2%.  A study released in China by their CDC says that the overall death rate in China (excluding Wuhan where it originated) has dropped to 0.4%.  Let’s keep our fingers crossed and practice good immune system health (plus keep on washing hands and not coughing or sneezing on people).


  1. Riley GW. Osteopathic success in the treatment of influenza and pneumonia. JAm Osteopathic Assn, 1919; 18:565.
  2. Brennan PC, et al. Immunologic correlates of reduced spinal mobility. Proceedings of the 1991 International Conference on Spinal Manipulation(FCER):118.
  3. Brennan PC, et al. Enhance phagocytic cell respiratory burst induced by spinal manipulation. J Manipulative Physiol Ther1991;14:399.
  4. Selano JL, et al. The effects of specific upper cervical adjustments on the CD4 counts of HIV positive patients. Chiropractic Research J1994;3:32.
  5. Todres-Masarsky M, Masarsky CS. The Somatovisceral Interface: Further Evidence. In Masarsky CS, Todres-Masarsky M (editors). Somatovisceral Aspects of Chiropractic: An Evidence-Based Approach, 2001, Churchill Livingstone, New York.


Pregnancy care and chiropractic during viral season.  As written above, if you are pregnant and you want to be as healthy as possible, care be the chiropractor in my Galloway, Smithville Township office can help you have a healthier pregnancy. Pregnancy and chiropractic care go perfectly together.




Dr J. Zimmerman, Chiropractor Dr. Zimmerman is a practicing chiropractor from Galloway, NJ with 30 years of chiropractic practice.

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