It is said by Donny Epstein, the developer of Network Spinal Analysis, that there are five gifts available through your spine. As the spine and nervous system becomes free from NeuroSpinal Dysfunction (or vertebral subluxation) and develops new wellness promoting strategies through Network Chiropractic Care, these gifts become more available to us. They are: Function, Emotion, Sense of Self, Behavior, and Consciousness.
This week we focus on Emotion!
What do emotions have to do with your spine? It seems strange, right? We think that emotions happen in our head, but Candace Pert, PhD, medical researcher, discoverer of the opiate receptor, and author of Molecules of Emotion (1999), discovered receptors for neuropeptides – the “molecules of emotion” – throughout the body, predominantly in the spine and gut!
These chemicals govern how we feel, how we react to change, and how we will emotionally respond before the brain has even interpreted the information.
From a chiropractic clinical perspective, it seems that each shape and position of the spinal structure predisposes us to certain emotional states by changing what neuropeptides can bind on the nerve cells. The more distorted your spinal structure and the lower your range of specific spinal motion, the lower your overall emotional range will be.
Why does this matter?
From the perspective of Reorganizational Healing, our emotional range is a physical process that allows us to instinctively adapt to subtle changes in our environment. Our body temperature and blood flow shift instinctively when we walk from a cold room into a hot one. Our sweat increases, our hands moisten and our hairs stand up when something seems threatening. Our blood pressure increases when we stand up so that the brain has more oxygen and nutrients available. Even our immune system, which seems to have a strong link to this emotional chemical system, discerns the subtle changes that indicate the presence of a “friend” or “foe”. Emotions aren’t just what we feel – they allow us to adapt to our changing environment so that we can stay healthy and happy… unless we need a different emotion.
Subtle changes in spinal position allow different emotional chemistry to express. Our ability to structurally shift through all of our ranges of spinal motion is part of this healthy response.
That’s why we think about our posture and what our “body language” says about us… and for good reason!
A person who has “good posture” is viewed as more attractive because they are healthier… and more! People are attracted to someone who “looks confident in themselves” – aka they can adapt to challenges and stress. How do you think that shows up? Good spinal structure!
On the flip side, consider a person with a slouched spine whose head sticks forward, shoulders are pulled up, and has a hump in their upper back. What does this “body language” of the spine say?
I’ll give you a hint – it’s not joy, wonder, confidence, trust, and passion.
No, this is the posture we see in the aggressive driver next to us who seems one step away from exploding in road rage, the exhausted mom who doesn’t seem to have the energy to get through the day, and the man who’s driven by anxiety and chronic illness. According to anecdotal evidence found by Dr. Donny Epstein, it seems that each position of the spine allows different neuropeptides – “molecules of emotion” – to engage with the nervous system.
Certain spinal positions support a “fight-flight” state, where fear and anger drive our nervous system to protect us, while others are linked to peace, ease, healing, and relaxation – a “rest, reproduce, and digest” state. Neither of these are bad, we need them at different times to immediately react to change… unless we’re stuck.
If our spinal structure is distorted in a way that keeps us stuck in the structure of fear and anger, we are predisposed to react from fear and anger EVEN WHEN THINGS ARE GOING WELL.
Since the spine is the motor that drives the brain, it also will keep the brain locked into fearful, aggressive habits of thought and action – aka vigilance! Not good or healthy.
So wouldn’t it be better to be “stuck” in positive emotions? Feel happy, joyful, and loving all of the time?
I hate to burst your bubble, but NO. The search for that perpetual “high” is behind all of our addictive habits.
On a practical or “external” level, being stuck in positive emotions prevents essential actions or following through on pressing tasks, because “it’s all good” and “it would be too stressful” to do them. Being stuck in anything is damaging. There are times we need to defend ourselves and stand up for others, to rise up and face the “dragons” of jobs, families, tasks, and more. We can get addicted to comfort, so we NEED the emotional range of stress in our lives to get us off our butts… so long as we’re not stuck in that place.
On an internal level, the function of our immune system seems to be linked to the appropriate use of emotional chemistry, especially that of fear and anger – to know that something is dangerous, and to effective fight it off, you NEED the function of “negative” emotions. Without that, our body’s soldiers will not properly discern and attack the enemy – aka bacteria, viruses, cancer cells, and toxins.
Think about it: if you have the flu, or pneumonia, or Ebola, do you want your immune system lounging around in “all good” mode, or do you want it in “seek and destroy” mode? If they don’t fight, you’ll get sicker and possibly die.
Of course, adaptability is they key: once the illness has been resolved, do you want your internal soldiers stuck in “seek and destroy” mode, or would you prefer that they stand down for peacetime? If they don’t stop fighting, your body will inflame and attack itself. We need an internal signalling system that allows us to make these rapid changes. That’s the function of emotions.
According to Dr. Rachael Talbot, a Network chiropractor from England:
“From an evolutionary perspective emotions are essential to make change. It’s not logic that makes us run from a lion, it’s a rapid emotional response that says “run or die” that resulted in our survival over millennia. Nowadays in our much safer modern world, emotions are what drive change and are essential in leading a rich and diverse life. Otherwise we would remain with the habits we were taught as a child, because nothing would drive us to grow and develop.”
The wider the range of emotions you have available to you, the better (and faster) your body can adapt to change.
…and yes, this includes the less popular emotions. Flatten some emotions, and the whole emotional range is squashed, which will also distort and lock parts of your spine. This is why I get so thrilled when I see certain movements happen in your spine – a new range of possibilities is waking up!
A healthy spine and nervous system are vital for healthy, optimal emotional chemistry. The health of our spinal structure, and it’s ability to adapt to different kinds of stress, allows a full, healthy, and passionate range of emotions to express… which allows for a full and passionate range of experiences in life!
If you know someone in Worthington, Columbus, Westerville, or Dublin who could benefit from a healthier spine, have them call us for a complimentary chiropractic consultation at (614) 396-6945.