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Nailing It: How Chiropractors Assess Your Wellness

By Martha Michael

Your Nails and You

If you’re the kind of person who never misses an appointment with the manicurist, you more than likely care about the look of your nails. And while the color of polish, stylized sculpting and the use of gels or acrylics make a fashion statement, your nails may be sending you a message that’s far more serious.

The look of your nails can communicate the presence of disease or a developing condition affecting your overall health, according to There are numerous signs in your fingernails that your wellness may be in jeopardy.

Nail Separation

Loose, raised fingernails can be a sign of injury or infection. If the fingernail separates from the bed of the nail and becomes an opaque white, yellow or green, it’s referred to as onycholysis, and it can be the result of a skin disease such as psoriasis. Among other factors, you want to consider medications you’re taking, or even a consumer product causing the problem. Nail separation is sometimes the result of thyroid disease.

Yellow Nail Syndrome

When your fingernails cease growing, but grow thicker instead, they turn yellow in color and may mean you have a serious disease. Yellow nail syndrome occurs when you have a respiratory disease or may be related to hand swelling, called lymphedema. If you have yellow nails along with chronic bronchitis, you may also see the cuticle detach from your nail bed.

Terry’s Nails

Characterized by white fingernails with pink bands at the tips, Terry’s nails often occur in seniors, a sign of simple aging, though it could be something more serious. Sometimes the condition is the result of diabetes, kidney failure, congestive heart failure or liver disease.

Beau’s Lines

If you notice indentations across your nails, it may mean there’s interrupted growth under the cuticles, which sometimes results from injury or illness. Called Beau’s lines, the indented areas are sometimes associated with diabetes or peripheral vascular disease. Illnesses bringing a high fever, including measles, mumps and pneumonia, may cause Beau’s lines, as well.

Nail Pitting

Individuals with psoriasis sometimes get scaly patches on their skin or depressions in their nails, which is called nail pitting. They resemble holes made by an ice pick and they can be caused by connective tissue disorders such as Reiter’s syndrome or an autoimmune disease commonly associated with hair loss called alopecia areata.

Nailing Down a Diagnosis

To a trained eye, the discoloration, change in thickness, or separation of your nails communicate that your health is being compromised and the root cause needs discovery.

For instance, if your fingernails appear yellow, your doctor can see if there’s any accompanying lymphedema. If so, he or she can promote better flow in your lymphatic system by recommending compression hose or pool immersion, among other therapies.

Although stimulating discussion and physical pampering may be a dependable payoff when you make your regular salon visits, your manicurist shouldn’t be tasked with an assessment of your health and wellness. But by sharing your concerns and discussing changes in size and color of your fingers, you can bet your doctor can nail it.

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