The prefrontal cortex plays a key role in pain processing, or the feeling of pain itself in the brain. It is also really important for emotional control and our mental health. So it’s vitally involved in how you feel and how you interact with others. And your spine can impact this!

The prefrontal cortex is said to be the seat of our intelligence

Stress affects your health

By shutting down your normal prefrontal cortex functions, stress has a negative impact on your emotional state and your mental health . Stress shuts down the prefrontal cortex’s natural control over your autonomic nervous system, your endocrine system and even your immune system, which can result in chronically high levels of inflammation in your body.

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Did you know that when a chiropractor adjusts your spine it changes the way a part of your brain called the prefrontal cortex functions 1-6? This is interesting because your prefrontal cortex is a vital part of your brain that makes you who you are. This suggests that the way your spine moves influences who you are!

Your prefrontal cortex is actually responsible for many important brain functions. It is the part of your brain that is responsible for your executive functions 6-11, it plays a key role in how you feel pain 12-15, it is vital for your emotional control and mental health 16-21, and it is critically involved in how you control your body chemistry, how you fight off germs and bugs through your immune system, how you regulate the way your heart beats, how you breathe and how you digest that meal you ate for breakfast. 12, 22-32

Some of you are probably wondering what I meant when I said the prefrontal cortex is responsible for your executive functions. Let me explain a little more. Our so-called executive functions include things like planning and completing tasks and goals, it includes decision making, memory, problem solving, and controlling our behaviour. 7-10 Not surprisingly, since your prefrontal cortex controls these functions, it’s said to be the seat of our intelligence 33, 34.

The prefrontal cortex also plays a key role in pain processing, or the feeling of pain itself in the brain 13. Studies have shown that your prefrontal cortex is activated when you have new pain and it can also put the brakes on other parts of your brain to limit how much pain you feel 13, 35. The prefrontal cortex is also thought to be involved in how pain becomes ongoing and chronic. 14, 15 Considering chiropractic care has been shown to change how the prefrontal cortex works, it may help explain why so many clinical trials have shown that chiropractic care helps people with neck pain 37-39,back pain 38, 40 and certain types of headaches 41. Chiropractic adjustments are likely changing our feelings of pain by changing how the prefrontal cortex is working.

The prefrontal cortex is also really important for emotional control and our mental health 16-21, 42-50. So it’s vitally involved in how you feel and how you interact with others. And your spine can impact this! In addition to this, it is also well known that the prefrontal cortex regulates your autonomic nervous system, which is the part of your nervous system that unconsciously controls many of your bodily functions like your heart rate and your digestion. It regulates your endocrine system which is really important for controlling your body chemistry and your hormones, and the prefrontal cortex is vital for proper immune system function, and we all know how important your immune system is 12, 24-32, 43, 52. So yes, you heard me correctly! The prefrontal cortex controls your emotions, your mental health, it balances your autonomic nervous system, influences your body chemistry, and impacts your immune system.

But did you know that this super-important part of your brain, the prefrontal cortex, is the most vulnerable part of your brain to the negative impacts of stress? We know from research studies that negative emotional stress stops your prefrontal cortex from operating properly. 43, 53 This has an impact on all of your prefrontal cortex functions. It’s why stress makes it so hard to think clearly and rationally. By shutting down your normal prefrontal cortex functions, stress also has a negative impact on your emotional state and your mental health too. And stress shuts down the prefrontal cortex’s natural control over your autonomic nervous system, your endocrine system and even your immune system, which can result in chronically high levels of inflammation in your body24, 25, 43. The scary thing is that we also know that excessive levels of inflammation has been linked to a whole host of problems like diabetes, heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, and all sorts of other problems in the body 57-71.

So you need your prefrontal cortex to function properly! You need it to function at its best, so you can adapt and respond to what is happening around you in an ideal way. And now we know that the way your spine moves influences how this remarkable part of your brain works. This may help explain why so many people who receive chiropractic care report they feel better, they feel less stressed, they sleep better and even why some report they have better relationships with others when they are under chiropractic care 73. So if you are feeling stressed, why not go see your family chiropractor, to give your prefrontal cortex a boost!

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