asmr chiropractic adjustment

I watch chiropractor videos to help me sleep: The odd world of ASMR

The world of ASMR is confusing, but as a self-diagnosed member of the tingle community, I aim to shed some light on the whispering relaxation method used by millions.

Some nights before I sleep, I’ll head on over to YouTube and watch random folk adjusted by chiropractors.

There, I said it.

It’s an oddity. It’s a random and seemingly weird routine for those unaware of the beautiful physical effects the sound of a human’s spine being popped can have.

I can’t pinpoint exactly when this started, but it’s been a regular occurrence for almost ten years. But, I recall a friend showing me a man’s swollen back being deflated in seconds following a swift adjustment.

Not following? This isn’t my public admittance of a personal fetish. It’s a well-known health phenomenon called Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response, or ASMR. 

It’s swept the world of social media in recent years, sending tingling and soothing sensations across the scalps, necks, spines—and in some cases—entire bodies of millions, akin to a mild electric current or receiving a massage.

Many have reported pleasure. It’s more like a scene from the 4th of July, with fireworks bursting into life and illuminating the senses in the most relaxing way possible. And it’s all caused by certain triggering sounds and visuals.

Studies reveal potential calming effects for those who suffer from stress and anxiety, while others simply find the whole thing irritating. Let’s just say some ASMR content is pretty niche.

A few months ago, I witnessed a middle-aged man sitting in his shed while rubbing a toy octopus on a microphone. It’s a strange space, and content creators are now attempting to grab a slice.

Anyone new on the scene may need help. ASMR is a significant and potentially profitable business for influencers across social media, first surfacing on YouTube in 2009 and growing at a head-spinning rate ever since—especially in the last four years.

In fact, the space grew between 2018 and 2022. The number of ASMR influencers shot up from 701 in 2018 to 7,129 four years later, with an increasing volume of brands beginning to wake up and feel the tingle.

Sponsored posts by ASMR influencers on Instagram witnessed a global increase of at least 62.43% from 2020 to 2022, with the trend now firmly planted in popular culture, its sensations vibrating across food, lifestyle, fashion, consumer goods, and mainstream media.

As of September 2023, the hashtag #asmr has over 900.6 billion views on TikTok, and more than 15.5 million posts on Instagram. As of 2022, there are around 500,000 dedicated ASMR channels, the same number of ‘ASMRtists’ (clever), and an estimated 25 million ASMR videos on YouTube.

Yes, ASMR is taking over the globe, one tingle at a time.

Get ready for some serious sensory overload as we investigate all corners of the ASMR dynasty.

What is ASMR?

If we’re going from the brief TikTok description, ASMR can be defined as soothing sounds you need to massage your brain. While it’s a lovely and factual description, the truth is slightly more complex.

ASMR offers a unique and soothing sensory experience,” says the Chief Editor of the health and wellness publication Lifestyle to the MAX, Steven Wright.

The lifestyle coach told Muscle and Health that many individuals find that watching ASMR videos or listening to ASMR sounds induce­s feelings of relaxation, re­duces stress leve­ls, and even enhance­s the quality of sleep and it can be­ considered a form of sensory the­rapy that provides a tranquil escape from the­ demands of daily life.”

ASMR relies on ‘trigger’ sounds and imagery. There’s the video content you can access through YouTube and Instagram, but there’s also the audio-only options across Spotify and Apple Music.

On audio only, a shout out to a man called Otis, who read me children’s books to send me to sleep back in the day, delivered in the most wispy tones my ears have been blessed with in almost 30 years. You can check out the appropriately named ‘Sleepy’ podcast here.  

But, the most popular ASMR videos tend to have ‘trigger’ sounds listened to from up close to the microphone. You know, stuff like nails tapping or scratching on different surfaces or soft whispering sounds and noises.

But the sensory fun doesn’t stop there. Role-play ASMR videos are also a hit. In these videos, the person on camera simulates everyday situations while speaking to the viewer in a low, intimate voice. This ASMR style is also called ‘personal attention’ videos.

You could class my chiropractor love-in under this umbrella.

@yogchill Breaking Bottles ASMR (Part 35) #asmr #satisfying #glassbreaking #breakingglass #oddlysatisfying #asmrvideo #asmrsounds ♬ original sound – Bottle Breaking ASMR

In reality, ASMR has become a wildly broad and ever-evolving beast. A quick glance at the #asmr page on TikTok sums this up perfectly.

The first video shows the subject in the great Irish outdoors, making fresh bread and homemade pesto and cooking it in a rustic pot over a fire. The sounds of kneading, slicing, and cloves of garlic nestling within the bowl are the clear stimulants. 

Add to that the squeezing of a fresh lemon into the concoction, and you can see why ‘menwiththepot‘ has a whopping 12.6 million followers. 

Move along one video, and the centerpiece is a range of cleaning chemicals being dissolved into a swimming pool. Keep going, and you’ll find someone cleaning an oven. A filthy oven, may I add.

Now, perhaps the strangest of them all. The camera is positioned at the top of a flight of stairs. At the bottom lies an assortment of colorful balloons awaiting their fate. At the top, a treadmill is set to a superhuman level of speed. 

Then, all hell breaks loose as the treadmill spits out various drink bottles, all smashing open upon impact with the force of a cannon.

Across the planet, 17.3 million like what they see.

Odd? Yes. Divisive? Yes. Intriguing. 100%.

@thep00lguy Pool chemicals!! #thep00lguy #hollayaboy #oddlysatisfying #satisfying #asmr #fyp ♬ original sound – Thepoolguyml

Does science support ASMR?

Is ASMR real? Well, to its fans (me being one), it certainly is. But let’s dig into the science behind it.

Dr. Craig Richard, an ASMR expert and professor of biopharmaceutical sciences at Shenandoah University in Virginia, has dedicated his research to understanding this phenomenon.

Richard’s fascination with ASMR began when he experienced what he describes as a “wonderful brain fuzziness and relaxation” while watching the TV show “Bob Ross—The Joy of Painting” as a child. This experience led him to create ASMR University, an online resource, and write a book called “Brain Tingles.”

According to Richard, ASMR is a profoundly relaxing feeling accompanied by light and pleasurable brain tingles. It often occurs during positive, personal attention from someone kind, caring, and engaging in gentle movements and speech.

He suggests that around 10 to 20% of the global population can experience ASMR, a scarce number when accounting for the volume of people digesting the content. I am unique, after all.

Richard and his colleagues conducted a brain scan study to understand the physiological basis of ASMR, revealing that specific brain areas are activated during ASMR experiences, specifically the involvement of neurotransmitters like dopamine and oxytocin.

Oxytocin, known as the “love hormone,” may play a central role in ASMR. The behaviors that trigger oxytocin release are similar to those that trigger ASMR. In contrast, oxytocin induces feelings of relaxation and comfort, which align with the sensations described by those who experience ASMR.

Apart from relaxation, those who experience ASMR have reported benefits like reduced anxiety and insomnia. Richard also mentions perceived benefits for people dealing with chronic pain and depression.

So, while the definitive scientific understanding of ASMR is still developing, there’s growing evidence to support its effects and potential benefits. 

Whether you’re a fan like me or simply curious, exploring ASMR can be an intriguing journey into the fascinating workings of our brains.

It may be a while until we read about ASMR in science books—let’s put it that way.

What ASMR benefits are currently published?

If someone were to ask me about the health benefits of ASMR-related content, I would point to a more relaxed state, more precise focus, deeper sleep, and an all-around feeling of blissful contentment. Alas, I’m just a mortal, and my opinions are invalid.

For that reason, we need to look at the research conducted by experts on the subject of ASMR, its origins and the potential health benefits, something that many people more intelligent than me have been investigating for a while now.

Interestingly, evidence suggests that ASMR audio and videos can be beneficial, even for people who do not experience the tingling effect.

A study published in May 2022 in the journal Experimental Brain Research found that watching an ASMR video led to relaxation and decreased heart rate for participants, regardless of whether they experienced tingling. Plus, those who did experience ASMR reported reduced feelings of depression.

Another study published in March 2022 in the Journal of Affective Disorders concluded that the ASMR experience is linked to increased relaxation and improved mood. This was particularly noteworthy for participants who experienced tingling and those dealing with depression. 

The authors also noted that ASMR holds promise in alleviating symptoms of insomnia and depression.

Wright has personally delved into the realm of ASMR, felt the effects first hand, and discovered its effe­ctiveness in promoting relaxation and re­ducing stress.

By integrating ASMR practices into my daily routine­, I’ve witnessed improve­ments in my mindfulness and a bette­r ability to navigate the challenge­s of my career. Additionally, it has dee­pened my appreciation for the­ role of sensory expe­riences in self-care­.”

Furthermore, a study published in November 2021 in the journal Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience demonstrated that ASMR stimulation can induce a pleasant state of relaxation, even in individuals who do not experience tingling.

Together, these studies provide compelling evidence that ASMR audio and videos can benefit relaxation mood and potentially address symptoms of depression and insomnia, extending their reach beyond just the tingling sensation.

While it may not be effective for everyone, it offers a soothing and re­adily accessible approach to promoting mental re­laxation and wellness,” says Wright.

Like any we­llness practice, exploring and discovering what works best for you based on your unique needs is crucial.”

So, in conclusion, you don’t need to tingle to have a good time.

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