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Egads! The In-Laws are here- Break out the wine! Stress, Booze and Chiropractic Care

Egads! The In-Laws are here- Break out the wine! Stress, Booze and Chiropractic Care

One of the best parts of being a chiropractor is that we have the opportunity to build real relationships with our patients.  Seeing patients once, twice, three times a week for a length of time (sometimes once a month for years), we get an inside look at how they live their lives.  Career changes, marriages, divorces, children, and serious medical conditions, give us a peek into their daily/weekly habits.  We all know the patients who like their fast food, who never exercise, drink too much despite our nudges in the right direction, etc. It’s because of this relationship we build with our patients, sometimes because of the frequency we see the patient versus a medical doctor, that we can tell when something is wrong. Chiropractors also use this relationship to influence our patients in positive, healthy ways.  The holidays are upon us, so let’s look at how we can make this holiday season the healthiest ever.

 A person doesn’t just need in-laws to make them want to drink on Thanksgiving or Christmas.  I have seen a relative or two coming towards me, and I certainly had the inclination to chug my cabernet before the obligatory “Hello,” followed by a smile and a hug.  Not to mention the stress of the holidays with busier social calendars, richer foods, cold weather, spending time and money to find the right gifts along with over-indulgence of alcohol can create the perfect storm.

 Since the 1970’s, scientists have been exploring a heart problem directly related to this time of year called “Holiday Heart Syndrome.”  This study is based on the research of ABC news, Wikpedia, NCBI and Medscape. Santa gets fatter, our wallets get thinner and inhabitants of the Western world get cardiac arrhythmias.

As chiropractors what can we do?

 Ho, Ho, Ho…You know who has been naughty…so tell them!

 We are the ones who have built relationships with our patients.  It’s up to us to gently (or not gently, depending) remind our patients the importance of moderation and different ways to relieve stress.  Patients know, like, and trust us, which is partly the reason they come see us so often. Those same patients also come to see us because they like to feel better too. 

Throughout the next eight weeks, the patients you know who like to drink need to be reminded that a glass or two is much different than downing a bottle with their long lost cousin.  That’s still different than downing a bottle one evening and then proceeding to do that for the next four nights. 

I once had a 70-year-old patient stay up all night, three days in a row, drinking bottles of wine. She could not figure out why her head hurt, her arthritis flared up and her sleep pattern was off.  Hmmm….

 How does alcohol contribute to this “Holiday Heart Syndrome?”

 Have you or someone you know almost lost their minds during the holidays with the pressures and stress of parties, gifts and the never-ending hemorrhaging of money?

 Stress levels are already through the roof; add in binge drinking and it’s a recipe for cardiac disaster.  Alcohol induces the release of epinephrine and norepinephrine and boom! The sympathetic nervous system is off to the races again.  This is where we chiropractors can help.

Adjustments! Have you ever had someone lying on your table and immediately after the adjustment the patient breaks out into a cold sweat or gets a hot flash? Those are your magic hands directly helping to calm down the sympathetic side.  Patients should be educated about this.

 The holidays might be the most important time for patients to come in.  We help with their stress levels, which directly act on the nervous system.

I once did a supine manual adjustment on an autistic boy.  He giggled, threw his arms in the air, rolled over, and went to sleep on my adjusting table.  It might not have been convenient for the next patient waiting outside the door, but that is an example of tamping down an over-worked nervous system.

 As chiropractors, we might not run EKG’s to look for cardiac arrhythmias or diagnose them, but we are the ones who know when our patients are stressed.  We can tell when they have not been sleeping well or have been drinking too much. Within our scope of practice, let’s take the time to remind them how to take care of themselves and most importantly continue their chiropractic care throughout the holidays.  Their lives may depend on it.

 For more information about “Holiday Heart Syndrome” check out



Kassandra M Schultz DC