Alzheimer’s and dementia are diseases that rob patients of their mental faculties. They are progressive diseases, and they are incurable at this time. Most treatments are medical in nature, and they have been shown to slow, though never totally stop, the progression of the disorders in some patients. Regular chiropractic care can be a helpful adjunct or alternative to medical treatments, and it may not only slow the disorders, but it could be useful in preventing them in the first place.
What are Alzheimer’s and Dementia?
Dementia involves a severe decline in mental ability, including memory loss, that impacts daily life. Alzheimer’s is the most common type of this debilitating disease. It is not a normal part of aging, although age is the largest risk factor. Those without dementia will often still experience a small amount of forgetfulness and a slight decline in mental ability, though these declines are hardly comparable to that of those with the diseases. Dementia worsens over time, and it leads to patients being unable to respond to their environment and other people.1 The disease causes confusion, irritability and mood swings, language problems, and severe memory loss. The disease of Alzheimer’s, for example, is associated with “plaques and tangles in the brain”. Treatments do not cure the disease, and they only manage the symptoms for a period of time, as they do continue to progress even with treatment. It is thought that exercise, a balanced diet, and mental stimulation may help delay the symptoms. The root causes are still unknown in the medical community, although there is continuing research in many areas.2 Other forms of dementia can be caused by genetics, strokes, Huntington’s disease, AIDS, Lyme disease, Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, tumors, alcohol abuse, brain injury, some medications, and other dietary factors. General treatments include addressing any anemia, depression, heart disease, infections, and providing medications for those, as well as antipsychotics, mood stabilizers, stimulants, and drugs such as Aricept, Exelon, Razadyne, and Namenda.3
How Chiropractic May Help
Chiropractors advocate an overall healthy lifestyle and prevention. Some chiropractors feel coconut oil may be beneficial because it raises the “good (HDL) cholesterol”. This could benefit “central nervous system impairments” because glucose, the brain’s energy source, can be assisted by “median chain triglycerides (providing) a source of ketone…an alternative to glucose”.4 Other chiropractors point to a study in Neurology which suggested that red wine, which is “high in flavonoids”, may help “counteract aging damage to blood vessels”. Not only were the rates of dementia and Alzheimer’s lowered, but red wine could also be reducing the risk of stroke and heart disease.5 Gingko is another substance that appears to increase blood flow in the brain, helping it get the oxygen and glucose it needs. Gingko also stimulates enzymes and inhibits clotting.6 Some chiropractors theorize that maintaining spine health can “prevent damage to the neural canal”.7 Others advocate avoiding aluminum, which is thought to be “toxic to the nervous system”. Also, patients should make sure to get adequate sleep, as sleep deprivation can, in theory, “cause a person to have…an early onset of the disease”. Those with difficulty sleeping should make sure that they are following the rules of sleep hygiene.8 Patients should go to bed at a consistent time every night and wake up at the same time every day so that their body can develop a schedule. Alcohol, though often something patients use to fall asleep, is actually a depressant that will wake the patient up later in the night when the body metabolizes it, disrupting a restful, deep sleep. Devices that emit blue light should be avoided about an hour before bed. The bedroom should be dark and the temperature needs to be cool. The bed should only be used for bed-related actions, so the patient should get out of bed and walk around for a little bit if they are unable to fall asleep. Natural supplements, like melatonin, might help the patient sleep if their brain does not naturally produce enough of its own sleep chemicals.9 Exercise can reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s, as it can slow memory loss.10 Finally, regular chiropractic adjustments may also help improve blood flow to the brain.11
Massage for Alzheimer’s
Massage is best when the sessions begin towards the start of the disease. The therapist is able to develop a relationship with the patient based around touch. When all other senses are becoming more difficult, the patient might still find comfort in the touch of massage. The techniques used and the sequence that they are done in should remain constant so that the massage becomes a somewhat recognizable place of calm and routine. The therapy should aid in relaxing the patient and relieving some of their age-related pains. The best thing for patients with dementia is to give them a sense of stability and calm.12
Learn more information on elder care and chiropractic.