As chiropractors, we frequently analyse posture. We also deal with patients who suffer from low mood or a variety of depressive disorders. But are the two connected? Hall argues that they are. We know that the right side of the brain is the side involved with posture. But Hall points out its also the side of the brain involved with empathy and caring for others. The two are linked, and this gives us an opportunity to provide our practice members with advice that enriches their life and not just their posture.
“If you see a person with their head held, high, are they depressed?” asks Hall. “When your posture is good, it may be because you care about others and you are thinking more about others than yourself. This is not ‘put your head against a wall and do an exercise.’ One of the best things for people to do for their posture is to volunteer and help someone else out. That activates your brain. A lot of people try to do things with their arms and legs that don’t activate the brain.”
“So the right side of your brain is about loving others, conscience, manners, [and] posture. The left side of your brain is more about fine motor skills, detail orientation and so forth. There is a right to left orientation.”
Of course, there’s more to mood than posture. Each biological sex has different core needs that feed into their physical and neurological wellbeing (see that part of the series here and here). But in illustrating how the right and left sides of the brain interact on the happiness/posture issue, he cites Noreen Goldman’s substantial body of work on the role of social support and stability in mood. Our social ties and perceived social support can have a very real impact on our health, wellbeing and even cognitive function over time. If our social situation is stable and supportive, conflict will not create the same stress for us than if our social situation were less robust.
Likewise, there is research proving that volunteering can have big impacts on health. Participants in the study who spent time volunteering were as healthy as non-volunteers five years their junior. (Read more here)
So if the right side of the brain is functioning well due to relationships, empathy, care and loving others, how does this affect neurology? Hall explains:
“The right side of the brain actually sets the tone for my vasomotor perspective of perfusion to the left side. Now if you ask about ‘where is happiness?’, happiness is in the left prefrontal. That will only function well if the right side is focused. An unfocused right side will shift you from happiness to depression. If you don’t have your social support and your friends, then how will you typically feel? You will feel alone, left out, not included – i.e. clinically depressed. If I’ve got this good social network, if I’ve got good diet and I’m active, and I’m involved then I have happiness.”
Within this is an interesting gem for chiropractors. We can provide part of that supportive quasi-social circle, even just as the health-practitioner for our practice members.
“When a chiropractor puts his hand on you, he adds hope to your life. Now he gives you motivation to want to be active to want to reinforce what he has put in place.
“When a chiropractor works on the spine, he is strongly influencing the right side of the brain. Because I speak to you, [and] I care for you. I take care of your spine. The right side of the brain is much more involved with posture. How do you feel after you leave your adjustment? You feel better. Someone cares about you.”
We know, due to our understanding of fight or flight and the sympathetic response, that there is a significant impact that stress can have on defensive posturing and physiology. Hall explains in simple terms, how chiropractic can have a bearing on this.
“Stress reduces perfusion of the prefrontal cortex. The chiropractic adjustment increases perfusion. Chronic pain decreases perfusion in the frontal lobes. Chiropractic reduces pain and increases perfusion.”
So there you go! A handy little gem on the interaction of posture, happiness and the role of chiropractic. Read part 1 and 2 of our Michael Hall interview on the Spinal Research blog, and check out the Bibliography below if you’d like more information.
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 Hall M, McIvor C (2017), “Interview with the Australian Spinal Research Foundation,” Personal correspondence. Video available by request to members only.
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