December 1, 2010 by  

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The spinal nerves that govern digestive function can either speed up or slow down the organs of digestion. The sympathetic nerves that emerge from the spine roughly between the shoulder blades, down to the low back, slow down digestive functions, while the parasympathetic nerves, which emerge from the very top and very bottom of the spine, restore digestive function to normal, or speed it up. Another branch of the nervous system exists in the abdomen itself, and this contains almost as many nerve cells as are found in the spine itself.

Mechanical stress resulting from spinal restrictions, or from trigger points in the muscles of the back or abdomen, can influence these “slowing down” or “speeding up” processes. Since IBS may involve a speeding up of the activities of the bowel (diarrhea) and sometimes a slowing down (constipation), either branch of the nervous system might be involved.

  • Chiropractic and Osteopathy

There have been no reliable clinical trials of chiropractic and osteopathic treatments for IBS. Clinical experience however suggests they can be useful. A case report illustrates the possible benefit of spinal treatment. The patient was a 25-year-old woman with a history of five years of diarrhea, abdominal pain and cramping. On examination her spine was found to have a number of areas of marked restriction, in the neck, middle and lower back. She reported sustained improvement after chiropractic treatment that mobilized the restrictions in the spine. If you have IBS, a chiropractor or osteopath should be able to tell you whether spinal restrictions are contributing to your condition, and should also be able to treat them if they are.

  • Deactivation of Trigger Points

Trigger points are sensitive areas in muscles that usually cause pain or discomfort, not only where they are situated but also in areas some distance away. Those in the spinal or the abdominal muscles can cause symptoms in the intestinal tract itself. Research conducted nearly 50 years ago and confirmed by recent evidence shows that trigger points in the lower abdomen can cause or encourage diarrhea, one of the common symptoms of IBS. Trigger points can be deactivated by acupuncture as well as by manual pressure and stretching techniques as used by osteopaths, massage therapists (particularly those with neuromuscular therapy training) and some physiotherapists and chiropractors.

  • Breathing Retraining

IBS and Fibromyalgia co-exist in many patients. Studies have shown that patients with IBS may also have significantly more tender points in muscles than normal. Some experts suspect that the link between IBS and Fibromyalgia might be a breathing-rate disorder, such as hyperventilation. A common side-effect of rapid upper-chest breathing is elimination of too much carbon dioxide from the body. This can cause your bloodstream to become too alkaline (a condition known as respiratory alkalosis), making the smooth muscle layer around the digestive tract contract. Sluggish or interrupted digestion may result, which can lead to constipation. Breathing-pattern disorders, such as a tendency to breathe using only the upper chest, can usually be improved or corrected with breathing rehabilitation, which involves learning slow, diaphragmatic (yoga-type) breathing methods. Osteopathic correction of restrictions that may have developed in overused and stressed muscles and joints can also help.

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