Basilar Invagination - Is there a natural treatment option?

Posted in Neck Pain Disorders on Jun 13, 2022

Basilar invagination is a developmental cranial anomaly thataffects the base of the skull, the upper portion of the neck, andmost importantly the brainstem. 

Basilar invaginationis associated with a wide array of symptoms:

  • Persistent headachesand migraines
  • Dizziness andvertigo
  • Fainting spells,brain fog, and lightheadedness
  • Muscle tremors andfull-body weakness
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Certainly an arrayof really nasty things. The good news for many people is that abasilar invagination is NOT something that just happens to you. Itis a condition that you either have or don’t, and it is somethingthat is easily visible on x-ray, CT, or MRI. So, if you have had aseries of tests because you may experience these symptoms but youdo NOT have basilar invagination, you can rule that out as thecause. Now, if you DO havebasilar invagination, this likely leads you to the next series ofquestions:

  1. Whatcan you do about it (because surgery is usually an extremelycomplicated process)?)
  2. Are there any natural alternatives? (The short answer is yes,as we will discuss in this article, but not to “fix” the basilarinvagination, but to give your body enough room essentially so thatyou are able to live and function without it impacting your dailyliving.

Andthis is actually a VERY IMPORTANT POINT for people with basilarinvagination. Often, people suddenly start to experience symptoms(usually following some kind of physical injury), which promptsinvestigation, at which time they discover that they have basilarinvagination. However, thatbasilar invagination would have been there years or decades priorto the onset of their symptoms.

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Thismeans that basilar invagination by itself is not the sole causativefactor, but is likely a risk factor. Therefore, it may also bepossible that IF those other things can be resolved that may havecaused that “dormant volcano” to wake up, it may be possible to getback to normal living. And while it isoften a complex issue involving multiple approaches including whatis known as upper cervical SPECIFIC chiropractic, physiotherapy,osteopathy, and certain types of dentistry (of all things), theremay be a natural solution that may be able to help.

Basilar Invagination- How does it happen?

Basilar Invaginationis both a combination of genetics and also bony development in howthese things occur. In brief, the skullnormally develops from several primary ossification centers. Amongthese centers are formed what is known as the sphenoid bone, whichis essentially the bone behind your eyes that forms the keystone ofyour entire skull. In turn, the bottom of the sphenoid comes intocontact and directs the position and plane of what is known as theoccipital bone. The occipital bone forms the base of your skull andcontains a large oval opening known as the foramen magnum which iswhere your spinal cord exists in your skull. Just beneath youroccipital bone are two vertebrae - the atlas (C1) and the axis(C2).

Theatlas is responsible for supporting the weight and centre ofgravity of your skull and is involved with maintaining uprightposture and balance. The axis (specifically the tip of the axis,which is known as the odontoid process, forms the pivot point whichallows you to rotate your head, and also forms the anchor to theocciput so that this entire assembly does not just fallapart. Now, under normalcircumstances, the pitch or vertical slope of the sphenoid and theoccipital bone form in such a way so that the foramen magnum isrelatively flat along the base of the skull, which means that theatlas, axis, and spinal cord exit BELOW the skull.

Withbasilar invagination, however, one of two things happens: either a)the pitch of the skull bones from exceptionally steep or b) theyform shorter than usual. In either case, what happens is that theoccipital bone forms with a steeper angle as well, which means thatthe foramen magnum is actually at a slight upward pitch as well.The consequence is that the odontoid process (which is like avertical rod) can lean or tilt against the spinal cord, and thusproduce pressures against the delicate neuronal centers that itotherwise should not. What this means isthat people either born with a genetic predilection for OR have anacquired abnormal bony development of basilar invagination may beMORE SUSCEPTIBLE TO NEUROLOGICAL DISRUPTION if that balancing actshould ever be disrupted. In other words, they have a much smallermargin of error. 

Basilar Invaginationis a risk factor, but not always the cause

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Thisis an important point that we must raise that basilar invagination,itself, does not produce headaches, vertigo, brain fog, muscleweakness, or other symptoms. It is a RISK factor. And IF it is evertriggered, it means that the process of putting the genie back intothe bottle might simply be a little morechallenging.

Toillustrate, we have seen many people diagnosed with a range ofneurological conditions including concussion, fibromyalgia,positional orthostatic tachycardia (POTS), and also other peoplewho suspect (based on Google searches) that they have atlanto-axialinstability or Ehles Danos Syndrome (most don’t). And in many oftheir cases, they would have been experiencing their symptoms for afew months. Now, here’s thething: their bone structure would have included the basilarinvagination years and in most cases DECADES before the onset oftheir symptoms. What it turns out that these people all had incommon was a relatively recent physical injury or receptive strainof some variety that was the trigger for theirsymptoms. 

Thus,we reiterate that basilar invagination is a risk factor, but notthe sole cause of many of these neurological conditions. That beingthe case, we believe and find frequently that if it is possible toresolve the cause of the physical injury that triggered theirsymptoms, even though we cannot change their bone structure, we canget things back to a healthy balance where their own body is happyand functional again.

Natural Treatmentwith Basilar Invagination

Thereare several moving pieces that need to be taken into account forpeople with basilar invagination. Frequently, it is not just amatter of going to see one healthcare practitioner who is able tosolve all their problems. It is a team effortwith everyone working together that makes the biggestdifference. Although we do notexclude anyone, there are five particular healthcare professionals(or combinations) that may be able to help people with basilarinvagination:

  1. Aneuromuscular dentist. The orientation of the TMJ has a profoundimpact on the position of the C1 and C2 vertebrae. Therefore, if ajaw injury or jaw remodeling (including braces) is part of aperson’s past medical history, this factor must beconsidered.
  2. A musculoskeletal GP. If or when ligaments may requireinjections (aka prolotherapy) to strengthen, the right medicalprofessional is often key (Note: many people who THINK they haveinstability issues actually don’t, so this option IMO is bestreserved when other solutions may not be working quite as well asdesired).
  3. An osteopath. Specifically, an osteopath who focuses on thecranial bone system to make sure that everything is moving asfunctional as possible may be able to reduce cranial strains of thecerebrospinal system.
  4. A physiotherapist. Rehabilitation of the neck or jaw musclesmay be important as part of the overall recovery process, as alsofunctional brain retraining if/when a concussion may beinvolved.
  5. A SPECIFIC upper cervical chiropractor. You do NOT want someonetwisting or cracking the neck, but instead someone with propertraining to address specific ligament injuries of the upper neckthat need precise corrections in order to heal properly.

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It is this fourth category into which we fit. So, we hope thatbefore even explaining what or how we may be able to help peoplewith basilar invagination, we wanted to make it clear that our roleis usually one piece of a broader team.

Upper CervicalChiropractic with Basilar Invagination

Uppercervical specific is a special division of general chiropracticthat focuses on the unique relationship between the alignment andmotion of the C1 and C2 vertebrae in your neck and the function ofyour spinal cord and brainstem. There are manymethods of upper cervical chiropractic (including the AtlasOrthogonal and NUCCA methods), and the versions that we useprincipally in our practice is known as the Blair Technique. TheBlair Technique is unique in that it recognizes that every humanbeing is different on both the outside and also the inside.Therefore, in order to provide the most accurate case possible, itis necessary to take these individual differences intoaccount. 

Unlike generalspinal manipulation, the Blair Technique does not perform anytwisting, cracking, or stretching of the neck. Instead, we use aseries of physical, neurological, and diagnostic images which showthe exact location, direction, and degree of misalignment in yourneck so that any treatment can be as custom-tailored, precise, andlight as possible in order to produce the desiredoutcomes. 

Frequently, it onlycauses a few millimetres worth of pressure to cause many of thesymptoms associated with basilar invagination. The good news thoughis that with a specific correction if you can take those fewmillimetres worth of pressure off, again, even if you can’t changethe shape of your bones, can you get things back to the point wherethey are functional and healthy for you. Our practice, AtlasHealth Australia, located in North Lakes (north Brisbane) takescare of people from around Brisbane, Queensland, and interstatewith a range of head, neck, and jaw-related syndromes. To discussyour individual needs and to ask any questions you may have todecide if upper cervical care may be right for you, we offer a15-minute complementary phoneconsultation. Toarrange, please click the Contact Us link on this page, or call usdirect at 07 3188 9329.


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