Dysautonomia & the Stress Response


Our bodies are made up of various systems that all work in conjunction to make them work properly. The central nervous system is the most important system because it controls all the other systems. The central nervous system is made up of the brain and the spinal cord, while the peripheral nervous system is made up of all the nerves in the body.

The autonomic nervous system is a subset of these systems, and it controls all of the involuntary actions that our body simply does without any action on our part. The autonomic nervous system can be further broken down into two systems, the parasympathetic and the sympathetic nervous systems. The parasympathetic system keeps the body in a phase of “rest and digest,” which includes our normal, every day body functions that help maintain long-term health and allow the body to repair and refresh itself. The sympathetic nervous system is known as the “fight or flight” nervous system, or the stress response. When your body senses a threat of any kind, whether it’s emotional, physical, or mental, it shifts into the fight or flight response. The body shuts off the normal, everyday functions and turns on the stress responses, like elevated blood pressure, increased heart rate, increased sweating, and more.

Both of these systems, the sympathetic and parasympathetic, are very important to our wellbeing, but there has to be a balance between the two. When one is working in overdrive, the other is subdued, and this is a problem.

What Is Dysautonomia?

Dysautonomia is a dysfunction of the autonomic nervous system, particularly in that the parasympathetic response is diminished and the sympathetic response works on overdrive. Dysautonomia is usually not diagnosed as an illness by itself, but it’s usually associated with other diseases, such as multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia, or chronic fatigue syndrome. It occasionally exists without other diseases, but either way, dysautonomia is incredibly difficult to live with and can cause a myriad of serious problems. Essentially, all the functions that are needed for long-term health are suppressed, so the body isn’t able to digest food properly, maintain a regular heart rate or healthy blood pressure, repair itself during sleep, and more.

The main symptoms of dysautonomia include frequent dizziness, fainting, extreme spikes in heart rate, extreme fatigue, brain fog, heart palpitations, abdominal discomfort, migraines, and anxiety and panic attacks. When a person has dysautonomia, their body is essentially in a sympathetic state constantly. The stress response is constantly firing and the body is unable to return to and maintain the rest and digest response.

How Can Chiropractic Help with Dysautonomia?

Chiropractic deals directly with the central nervous system (primarily the spinal cord which is housed in the spine, which is a chiropractor’s specialty), which directly affects the nerves that are part of the peripheral nervous system. Since the autonomic nervous system is part of that, the dysfunction involved in dysautonomia can be directly impacted by a Bentonville chiropractor.

Dr. Tom Niemela of Arbor Vitae Chiropractic corrects misalignments of the spine with gentle, specific chiropractic adjustments. These misalignments lead to nerve interference and dysfunction of all the body’s systems, including the sympathetic and parasympathetic responses and all of the problems that come from dysautonomia. When the misalignments are corrected with a chiropractic adjustment, brain-body communication is restored and all of the systems of the body are able to function properly and optimally.

If you have been diagnosed with dysautonomia or suspect that you have some level of dysfunction within your autonomic nervous system, get in touch with Bentonville chiropractor Dr. Tom Niemela. He and his team at Arbor Vitae Chiropractic would love the opportunity to improve your health and your overall quality of life.



Harcourt, A., Campbell, M., Mullin Elkins, L. “Dysautonomia and Migraine Managed with Chiropractic Functional Neurology Treatments.” Frontiers in Neurology Conference, 2016 Sep. https://www.frontiersin.org/10.3389/conf.fneur.2016.59.00016/event_abstract.

Russell, D.G. “Improved Spinal Range of Motion, Quality of Life, Dysponesis & Dysautonomia in a 75-year-old male Following Activator Methods Chiropractic Technique for the Correction of Vertebral Subluxation: A Case Report.” Annals of Vertebral Subluxation Research, 2016 Sep: 92-96. https://www.activator.com/case-studies/improved-spinal-range-motion-quality-life-dysponesis-dysautonomia-75-year-old-male-following-activator-methods-chiropractic-technique-correction-vertebral-subluxation-case/.