Schizophrenia is a mental disorder that ranges in severity. It can cause serious lifestyle limitations, and it is often treated with a combination of medications and psychotherapy. However, chiropractic care could be a complementary or alternative treatment for this disorder. Schizophrenia is a mental disorder characterized by “poor emotional responsiveness” and a “breakdown of thought processes”. There can be paranoia, delusions, hallucinations, disorganized speech, and it may have severe “social or occupational dysfunction”. It is typically diagnosed in early adulthood.1 Hallucinations may include sensory items that others cannot perceive (such as seeing things, hearing things, or smelling and feeling things). Delusions include false beliefs, even after they are proven to be illogical. Some of these concern paranoia or persecution. Thought disorders can encompass “disorganized thinking”, where a patient may talk in a strange or illogical way. They may even have “thought blocking” where they stop speaking in the middle of a thought. There might be made-up words, as well, called “neologisms”. Schizophrenia could also include movement disorders and “agitated body movements” that can be repetitive, or even catatonia (unresponsiveness). Finally, patients with schizophrenia might also have “flat affect” (emotionless), and lack the ability to perform daily activities and hygiene, as well as trouble focusing and remembering.2 Most causes are still unknown, but there may be life events involved, as well as genetic triggers, or family history.3
Antipsychotic medications are the most commonly prescribed treatment for schizophrenia. They can be helpful in managing symptoms, but they have some serious side effects, such as jitteriness, dizziness, sedation, tremor, weight gain, and slowed movements. The long-term side effects could lead to a movement disorder called “tardive dyskinesia” (repeated movements out of the patient’s control). Clozapine is another medication prescribed for those who don’t respond to antipsychotics. It can reduce symptoms, but it has more side effects. The therapies involved in treating people with schizophrenia tend to be centered on support programs, social skills, and behavioral and occupational training. Fortunately, therapy does not come with side effects. The patient and their friends and family should all work to help the patient manage their disorder. They might do this by talking, watching for and avoiding triggers, and helping the patient to distinguish the difference between their sensory hallucinations and what is tangible. The risks of not treating schizophrenia can include alcohol and drug abuse, physical illness, and suicide.4
Chiropractic Options for Schizophrenia
There have been historical chiropractic treatments for mental disorders. The Clearview Sanitarium was “Chiropractics most renowned and famous psychiatric hospital (1926-1951)”, where patients with schizophrenia and other mental disorders were treated.5 B.J. Palmer, son of the founder of modern chiropractic, believed in the “oneness of mind and body”, and he “operated the Clearview and Forest Park Sanitariums in Iowa”. Candace Pert, PhD, stated, “My research has shown me that the body can and must be healed through the mind, and the mind can and must be healed through the body.” One chiropractic finding is that “while the patient may have healed emotionally, the body still holds the…tension…of the emotionally stressful event”. Chiropractic aims to “update the body” and bring it into balance with the mind.6 Some researchers today are using non-medical methods of treating mental disorders. In fact, some are using “Vitamin C, the B Complex, zinc and manganese supplements” to help treat schizophrenia.7 There are a host of other alternative, dietary, and supplemental treatments being researched now to manage both the symptoms of schizophrenia and the side effects of tardive dyskinesia and medical prescriptions.8 The chiropractor will look at patients holistically and tries to avoid treatments with side effects. Chiropractic care can be explored as a complementary or alternative treatment option to traditional medical care.
Massage and Yoga as Complementary Treatments
Some studies have suggested that shiatsu, a massage bodywork technique from Japan, could have a possible role in addressing a variety of physical and mental ailments, including schizophrenia. One study has shown positive effects on the patient’s depression and anxiety. Shiatsu translates to “finger pressure” and, unlike other types of massage, patients remain clothed and oil is not used.9 Similarly, yoga give patients an outlet for stress reduction and, maybe, a sense of self-awareness that could help them distinguish hallucinations from reality. Deep breathing and meditation soothe the fight-or-flight response, calming the mind and helping the patient find their state of balance. Yoga will also help the patient maintain a healthy physical state, preventing other physical ailments from further worsening their condition. Yoga may be performed alone or as a social, group activity.10 Both massage and yoga should be considered complementary, but very important, treatment options in addition to chiropractic and talk therapy when it comes to managing the symptoms of schizophrenia. With effort from the patient and help from their friends and family, the schizophrenia can be managed.