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The organisation of the stress response, and its relevance to chiropractors: a commentary

1 , , 1 , 2

Chiropractic & Osteopathy

BioMed Central

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      The stress response is a natural reaction by the body, against potentially harmful stimuli to enhance the chance for survival. Persistent activation of the stress response can cause changes to homeostatic mechanisms. The study of stress neurophysiology, in the evaluation of the manifestation of disease in the body, suggests that these chronic changes have detrimental effects on sub cortical structures. Furthermore, there is much scientific support for the notion that chronic activation of supraspinal systems will lead to maladaptation of homeostatic mechanisms, causing the impairment of processes within the body, and ultimately leading to visceral disorders. The chiropractic profession for many years has alluded to chronic change of neurophysiological pathways as a potential explanation of visceral disorders, but the profession has typically described these in terms of somatovisceral or viscerosomatic reflex activity. Change in supraspinal neurophysiological efferent activity is increasingly being used to explain "stress" related disease. The chiropractic profession should consider investigating such stress responses by conducting spinal manipulative therapy trials that evaluate supraspinal effects of manipulation. Such research may help elucidate key mechanisms associated with the change of visceral disorders noted by some chiropractors following manipulative therapy.

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      The dominant model of disease today is biomedical, and it leaves no room within tis framework for the social, psychological, and behavioral dimensions of illness. A biopsychosocial model is proposed that provides a blueprint for research, a framework for teaching, and a design for action in the real world of health care.
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        Stress, Adaptation, and Disease: Allostasis and Allostatic Load

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        Adaptation in the face of potentially stressful challenges involves activation of neural, neuroendocrine and neuroendocrine-immune mechanisms. This has been called "allostasis" or "stability through change" by Sterling and Eyer (Fisher S., Reason J. (eds): Handbook of Life Stress, Cognition and Health. J. Wiley Ltd. 1988, p. 631), and allostasis is an essential component of maintaining homeostasis. When these adaptive systems are turned on and turned off again efficiently and not too frequently, the body is able to cope effectively with challenges that it might not otherwise survive. However, there are a number of circumstances in which allostatic systems may either be overstimulated or not perform normally, and this condition has been termed "allostatic load" or the price of adaptation (McEwen and Stellar, Arch. Int. Med. 1993; 153: 2093.). Allostatic load can lead to disease over long periods. Types of allostatic load include (1) frequent activation of allostatic systems; (2) failure to shut off allostatic activity after stress; (3) inadequate response of allostatic systems leading to elevated activity of other, normally counter-regulated allostatic systems after stress. Examples will be given for each type of allostatic load from research pertaining to autonomic, CNS, neuroendocrine, and immune system activity. The relationship of allostatic load to genetic and developmental predispositions to disease is also considered.
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            Author and article information

            [1 ]ONE Research Foundation, Encinitas California, USA
            [2 ]Macquarie Injury Management Group, c/o PO Box 448, Cronulla NSW, 2230, Australia
            Chiropr Osteopat
            Chiropractic & Osteopathy
            BioMed Central (London )
            18 October 2006
            : 14
            : 25
            Copyright © 2006 Hardy and Pollard; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.

            This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.




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