Brain Injury/Post Concussion Syndrome

Traumatic brain injury/concussion has been observed to almost always coincides with neck injury.

The mechanism of injury is the same, an acceleration and deceleration of matter with exertion of abnormal forces on the head and neck.  The same blow to the head or whiplash that causes head injury is also experienced by the neck. Injury to the static stabilizers in the upper cervical area of the neck, or craniocervical junction can happen at very low speeds, with alar ligament failure occurring at only 45 lbs per square inch of force.  When these ligaments are injured in the upper cervical area, or craniocervical junction, the atlas bone is able to move into positions it normally wouldn’t or shouldn’t move in to. This can cause significant inflammatory response and can contribute to many symptoms pictures, such as neck pain, headache, dizziness, vision disturbances, etc.  

Often, patients who have suffered traumatic brain injury, or concussion, will have a period of prolonged pain as brain swelling subsides.  This is called Post Concussion Syndrome.  During this time, patients can experience headaches, dizziness, confusion, memory problems, vision problems, neck pain, numbness, tingling, etc.  This list of symptoms is almost identical to those listed under the heading “headaches and migraines” on our website. The causative factors are the same.  Once brain tissue itself has begun to heal, the craniocervical junction is left with injured soft tissues and atlas misalignment.

The craniocervical area is right at the top of your spine where your neck connects to your skull.  Dysfunction in that area consists of injured ligaments, muscles, even dura mater, etc. These structures, when healthy, keep the atlas bone at the top of the spine able to move freely without sliding into positions and structures that it normally wouldn’t or shouldn’t.  When the stabilizing ligaments in the craniocervical junction are injured, such as they invariably are during a traumatic brain injury, they can become painful themselves since they all have pain receptors. Aside from localized pain in the injured tissues, their injury decreases the tensile strength of the ligaments and thereby allows the atlas bone to move into positions that can be inflammatory.  In some cases, rotational misalignment of the occipito-atlanto-axial joint has been observed to negatively affect blood flow and or cerebrospinal fluid flow to and from the head. These altered flow dynamics directly relate to symptoms of Post Concussion Syndrome.  Recent medical research has pointed toward the necessity of proper protein and waste material drainage from the cranium via the blood, cerebrospinal fluid, and glymphatic systems.  Restriction of flow in any one or all of these systems will slow healing of the brain and can even cause increased pressure within the cranium over time. Tethering of the spinal cord and nerve tissues has also been observed in these cases and correlates with pain symptoms associated.  Symptoms that can be caused by craniocervical dysfunction include, but are not limited to: head, neck and back pain, trapezius pain, migraines, numbness, tingling, diffuse musculoskeletal pain, brain fog, dizziness, fatigue, and nausea.

These cases normally present with more complicating factors than can mechanically be corrected with a basic traditional chiropractic manipulation.  By precisely and carefully working with 8 different factors of misalignment, we can make a gentle correction within the normal range of the joint (no twist or popping) with Atlas Orthogonal procedures to reduce misalignment of the atlas bone secondary to traumatic brain injury.  By doing so, we are able to decrease dysfunction in the craniocervical junction and thereby reduce the inflammatory symptoms that result from that dysfunction, thus speeding up the healing of brain tissue.  In most cases, correcting these misalignments does in fact correct the cause of symptoms.  Put simply, properly addressing craniocervical dysfunction (or upper cervical misalignment, chiropractically speaking,) we can relieve symptoms secondary to traumatic brain injury and Post Concussion Syndrome.   

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