What is Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?
Can upper cervical adjustments help chronic fatigue syndrome?
One of the most frustrating parts of dealing with chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) or fibromyalgia is knowing what to do… or even where to start!
You’ve likely done all kinds of research on Google looking for chronic fatigue syndrome specialists but haven’t found a solution that has worked for you. My guess is that your research on CFS has only yielded something like this: “We don’t know what causes it, and the best medical treatment is on stress and pain management.”
Now, if you’re the kind of person who doesn’t want to be a victim - i.e., you believe that there IS something you can do about it and that you DON’T just have to live the rest of your life this way - you’ve likely made a sharp pivot into different approaches in your search for answers.
In this space, you’ve discovered no shortage of possible solutions: diet, exercise, meditation, yoga, pilates, herbal supplements, anti-virus treatments, cleanses, gene therapies and various other chronic fatigue syndrome treatments that people have tried.
You may even have tried many of these approaches yourself. Some with great success, others not so much.
So what is going on? What’s the cause of YOUR chronic fatigue syndrome? Most impotently, what treatment will it take to work for you?
In this article, I want to share with you one of the missing pieces of the puzzle and a potential solution that may be able to help you if you are dealing with chronic fatigue syndrome: a different type of healthcare called upper cervical care, which focuses on the alignment of the top bones in your neck, and how they affect your central nervous system …
… but what I am going to do first is give you a context about chronic fatigue syndrome, which may help explain why it has been so difficult to find answers so far.
How to “read" a common headache behind the eyes pain
Chronic fatigue syndrome is a “diagnosis by exclusion.” By that, I mean that you have all the blood tests and brain scans (MRIs) come back as “normal” … yet you still experience fatigue and/or pain all the time. So in the absence of a specific thing that a GP or chronic fatigue specialist can pinpoint, they simply give your symptoms a name.
So chronic fatigue syndrome, in itself, is nothing more than a label!
In the past, doctors used to tell people that their fatigue or pain was “All in their head and that they needed to see a psychologist or psychiatrist.” In my opinion, that is a shameful way to practice: just because we struggle to identify what is causing chronic fatigue syndrome does NOT mean that it’s “all in your head.”
Instead, I believe that chronic fatigue syndrome is a functional disorder where the normal energy-producing and sensory-processing parts of the brain are affected. Think of it like a crossed wire or a computer virus. There isn’t necessarily anything that you can see to cause your symptoms, but there is something affecting the way that the system works.
In addition, I believe strongly that chronic fatigue syndrome is a “combination lock” type of condition. In other words, there is not one single thing that causes it, but a combination of things that can be different in all people.
Consider the analogy of driving from the Brisbane CBD to our North Lakes office (and if you don’t live in Brisbane, you’ll still get the gist of it anyway:
- You can take the Gateway M1 and the Bruce Highway to get here
- You can take Sandgate Road
- You can take the A1 through Stafford and Aspley to get to North Lakes
- You can take the Gateway but then cut through Redcliffe (which ALWAYS takes longer)
- You can go up South Boundary Road through Albany Creek to Petrie
- Or you can drive the REALLY long way through the back of Samford and Dayboro and then back around through Woodford and Caboolture
Multiple routes all with the same destination. I believe THAT is the reason chronic fatigue syndrome is so challenging: because very few people consider ALL the possibilities that you could be dealing within your life.
Each of us who works with people who have chronic fatigue syndrome has our own specialties and ways that we can help. However, it is important to diagnose the factors that you actually have - and the ones that you don’t - do that an appropriate care strategy can be devised that gives you the best possible chance of success.
What is the cause of chronic fatigue syndrome
As I hope you understand now, there is likely not one single cause for chronic fatigue syndrome. We do know a few things about how the condition develops.
Many people have a genetic susceptibility (known as under-methylation, or a mutation of the MTHFR gene) for CFS
- Many people have been exposed to a virus such as the Epstein Barr virus or some other type of virus, bacteria or parasite
- Many people have some type of metal-toxicity that is affecting their overall metabolism and that may be attributed to a number of potential causes including amalgam fillings, living in mining r industrial towns, and even commuting to the city with exhaust fumes
- Many people have some type of iron, B9 or B12 anemia
Here is where is starts getting REALLY FRUSTRATING. Again, if you’ve looked online for opinions from many “chronic fatigue syndrome specialists,” you have probably found research that has said that there is NO ASSOCIATION BETWEEN ANY OF THESE THINGS AND CHRONIC FATIGUE or FIBROMYALGIA.
From a research and statistics point of view, this IS correct. It is because many people who have MTHFR, Epstein Barr, root canals, and amalgam fillings don’t have any signs or symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome. AND THIS IS TRUE.
However, what the research does not - and CANNOT - consider is that every human being is different. Some people are more susceptible than others. And when you starting COMBINING ALL THESE FACTORS, YOU MIGHT BE IN A COMPLETELY DIFFERENT CIRCUMSTANCE!
Remember the “combination lock” I mentioned? A combination lock doesn’t have just one number: it has at least three! So imagine that you may have three or more separate things that are interacting, and as a result affecting your central nervous system in such a way that it is producing the symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome.
So there is no simple test to identify CFS. Instead, it requires a holistic viewpoint - and the ability to see beyond a single branch of medicine or healthcare - in order to consider the full array of possibilities that may be necessary to find an answer that works for you.
What to do about chronic fatigue syndrome
So the first thing to do if you are dealing with chronic fatigue syndrome is to make sure that you are working with a healthcare professional who understands the complex relationship and how all these things can combine to create CFS.
Odds are, THIS IS WILL MEAN THAT YOU WILL BE WORKING WITH MORE THAN ONE SPECIALIST. No one person has it all figured out. We all have our strengths, weaknesses, and roles to play. So in your search for a solution for chronic fatigue syndrome, I simply want to make you aware of what it’s really going to take.
It’s going to take persistence and lots of work. It is also likely that you will do some type of chronic fatigue syndrome treatment but not experience any changes in your symptoms! And you’ll get discouraged, feeling that you wasted time and money fo something that “didn’t work.”
BUT DON’T FORGET THE COMBINATION LOCK! The lock doesn’t open even if you correctly solve the first number! So often people with chronic fatigue syndrome don’t realize that it’s only the last thing that looks like magic, when the reality is usually that is the combination. Indeed, it is hard to stay on course and remain hopeful if you aren’t feeling any different. But that is what I’m taking the time here to explain the situation.
In my Brisbane upper cervical practice, we have many people with chronic fatigue syndrome where getting their upper neck fixed is the last piece in the puzzle: so it looks like magic! For other people, we are the first place they attend, and so there’s more work than they need before they get the breakthrough. So I don’t want to give you any false illusions about what it actually takes.
So, after all that, NOW I feel it’s finally time where I can explain what the role of the upper neck is in chronic fatigue syndrome and how this different approach to healthcare may be able to help you.
Most common reasons adults have chronic fatigue syndrome
The top two bones in the neck - the atlas (C1) vertebra and the axis (C2) vertebra - have a special relationship with your brain different from everything else in your body. Foremost, the two vertebrae protect your brainstem (medulla oblongata) which is the master control center for all of your vital life functions including heart, lungs, digestive system, etc. Your brainstem is also the primary filter for all the information coming up to your brain including pain, balance, and coordination.
In essence, your atlas vertebra is the gateway between your brain and the rest of your body. Indeed, other centres of your brain that you have probably studied that are involved with chronic fatigue syndrome including the prefrontal cortex and the hypothalamus are the master COMMAND centres for almost every function in the human body … but it is your brainstem that is the master CONTROL centre that allows all these things to happen in the first place.
A team of New Zealand researchers has identified that the ability to improve mobility through the cervical spine has a profound ability on the brain’s ability to function better at multiple levels including the prefrontal cortex, the cerebellum, and the centres that are responsible for movement, coordination and pain interpretation.
Ultimately, your C1 and C2 vertebrae provide the strongest neurological input into your brain. Therefore, is for one reason these vertebra are not moving properly, it can have a potentially severe effect on your brain. Moreover, the artery that supplies the brainstem called the basilar artery is formed from a pair of arteries that pass directly through the C1 and C2 vertebra. If blood flow is not sufficient, it may affect the function of the brain.
In fact, a condition that demonstrates remarkably similar symptoms to chronic fatigue syndrome known as myalgic encephalomyelitis has shown considerable improvement with brain swelling after specific correction for the alignment of the top vertebrae in the neck.
(BTW - Despite what Wikipedia says, chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, and myalgic encephalomyelitis are NOT exactly the same conditions … but that is another topic for another time).
This brings us to the point that we have been working towards i.e., a misalignment that affects the movement of the atlas or axis vertebra can affect the function of the brain, the circulation of fluids to-and-from the brain, and as a result contribute toward the physical state that we know as chronic fatigue syndrome.
Most common reasons children have chronic fatigue syndrome
A misalignment, also known as a subluxation, is a condition where a vertebrae has gotten locked within its normal range of movement, and as a result, has the potential to affect the nervous system.
A subluxation is not the same thing as s broken bone or dislocation and depending on where you look, you may find that the word is used differently. To a medical doctor or a surgeon, subluxation means that there is ligament damage and that a joint is potentially unstable. To a chiropractor, on the other hand, a subluxation is simply a joint that has been damaged by a physical injury BUT IS STILL STABLE and therefore safe to correct.
In the context of this article, it is this second definition that I am referring to where a vertebra has misaligned even a couple of millimetres but then gotten locked out of its neutral resting position.
So what causes these kinds of problems. As I just mentioned, it is a physical injury of some kind.
Consider in your own life the many physical injuries that you have experienced INCLUDING ALL THE ONES WHERE YOU THOUGHT YOU WER FINE AFTERWARDS. Just because there aren’t any broken bones or blood does NOT always mean that everything is fine.
Think of it like a drained battery. If you have a battery with a 100% charge, unless the battery is ripped open it doesn’t go all the way from 100% down to 0% in a single moment. But if the battery drains by 1-2% over a long period of time, sure enough, it will eventually get to 0%.
In my experience, this is often the case for people who experience chronic fatigue syndrome. Yes, there is usually some stressful even that is the final catalyst that pushes people over the edge and into the true downward spiral. But considering all the potential factors -eg., virus, genes, neck misalignment, metal, etc - these things were likely preexisting. IT WAS JUST THE EXTRA STRESS THAT PUSHED THINGS OVER THE EDGE.
So now, even though the original stress is gone and you are doing everything in your power to recharge the battery, the reason that things may not be recharging is that the original source of the drain is still there!
So let’s go back and consider the possible array of physical injuries that you have experienced. Per the title of this section, chronic fatigue syndrome in children is exceptionally rare … but the injuries that might appear later in life that could be prevented may well originate in childhood:
- Playing on the swings, at the gym, running around and FALLING
- Sports injuries, tackles, and other knocks bruise and bumps EVEN IF EVERYTHING ELSE SEEMED OKAY AT THE TIME
- Car accidents (even the minor fender benders, which can cause whiplash in the neck)
- Sleeping on your stomach (a definite no-no if you have a problem with your neck)
- Even childbirth itself if forceps, breech, or a difficult birth happens.
All of these injuries represent a potential factor that, by themselves may not cause chronic fatigue syndrome, but maybe one piece of the bigger puzzle that must be considered if you are genuinely looking for a solution.
Upper cervical chiropractic treatment for chronic fatigue syndrome
The unique method of care that we provide once we have this information is known as specific upper cervical chiropractic care. Even if you have been to another chiropractor - or if you have never seen a chiropractor for any reason - I want to emphasis that the nature of the work that we do is different from what you think of as generic spinal manipulation.
Foremost, everything that we do is precision and scientifically based. We don’t twist or crack the neck at all. And we only provide an adjustment IF it is clinically indicated. The procedure itself involves a specific correction for the alignment of your atlas or axis at the exact degrees that we measure from your x-rays.
Not only are we the only North Lakes chiropractor to provide this approach, but we are also the ONLY Brisbane chiropractor providing specific supper cervical healthcare.
As I mentioned earlier in this article, I learned a long time ago that upper cervical chiropractic is NOT a cure-all or magic bullet for chronic fatigue syndrome. It is a precise method to correct the alignment of the neck to facilitate the normal function and healing of the nervous system. By simply doing that, I have been blessed to see remarkable changes for people the full chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia spectrum plus many other so-called “incurable” conditions.
In the same breath, I have also learned about many oft he other actors that can all add up into chronic fatigue syndrome including viruses, metabolic conditions, etc. Often it has been working with people who have done XYZ who have shared their experienced and what has worked for them! So I am always still learning. And what we are able to bring to the table in addition to our own services is the ability to look for other factors that you may also have going on! That way, even if we are not the right person to help you, we can get you to the right chronic fatigue syndrome specialists.
At the end of the day, it’s about helping you to the best of our own ability so that you can get the outcome that you are looking for. Whatever it takes IMO.
In closing, I trust you’ve found the information in this article valuable and inspiring. I believe very much that there is hope for chronic fatigue syndrome. And yes, as frustrating and long as the road can be, if you persist and never give up hope you can enjoy a better quality of life again.
If you or a loved one is experiencing chronic fatigue syndrome, we’d like to invite you to reach out to us to have a chat. You can schedule a complimentary assessment to speak with one of our Brisbane chiropractors about your condition and how an atlas alignment may be able to help you. You can reach us at 07 3188 9329 or you can send us an email, and we will get back to you as soon as possible. Our North Lakes chiropractor office is located along the Bruce highway servicing the North Lakes and Sunshine Coast communities.
Take care of your neck and start living life again.
Bested AC, Marshall LM. Review of Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome: an evidence-based approach to diagnosis and management by clinicians. Rev Environ Health. 2015;30(4):223-49. doi: 10.1515/reveh-2015-0026. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26613325
Cifre I, Sitges C, Fraiman D, et al. Disrupted functional connectivity of the pain network in fibromyalgia. Psychosom Med. 2012 Jan;74(1):55-62. doi: 10.1097/PSY.0b013e3182408f04. Epub 2011 Dec 30. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22210242
Cortes Rivera M, Mastronardi C, Silva-Aldana CT, et al. Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome: A Comprehensive Review. Diagnostics (Basel). 2019 Aug 7;9(3). pii: E91. doi: 10.3390/diagnostics9030091. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/31394725
Daligadu J, Haavik H., Yielder PC, et al. Alterations in cortical and cerebellar motor processing in subclinical neck pain patients following a spinal manipulation. Manipulative Physiol Therap. 36(8); 2013:527-537. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24035521
Haavik-Taylor H and Murphy B. The effects of spinal manipulation on central integration of dual somatosensory input observed after motor training: a crossover study. J Manipulative Physiol Therap. 33(4);2010:261-272. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20534312
Haavik H and Murphy B. The role of spinal manipulation in addressing disordered sensorimotor integration and altered motor control. J Electromyography Kinesiology, 22(5);2012:768-776. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17137836
López-Solà M, Woo CW, Pujol J. Towards a neurophysiological signature for fibromyalgia.
Pain. 2017 Jan;158(1):34-47. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27583567
Losert-Bruggner B, Hülse M, Hülse R. Fibromyalgia in patients with chronic CCD and CMD - a retrospective study of 555 patients. Cranio. 2017 Jun 5:1-9. doi: 10.1080/08869634.2017.1334376. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28580880
Rosa S, Baird JW. The craniocervical junction: observations regarding the relationship between misalignment, obstruction of cerebrospinal fluid flow, cerebellar tonsillar ectopia, and image-guided correction. Smith FW, Dworkin JS (eds): The Craniocervical Syndrome and MRI. Basel, Karger, 2015, pp 48-66 (DOI:10.1159/000365470).
Rosa S, Baird JW, Harshfield D, Chehrenama M. Craniocervical Junction Syndrome: Anatomy of the Craniocervical and Atlantoaxial Junctions and the Effect of Misalignment on Cerebrospinal Fluid Flow, Hydrocephalus Bora Gürer, IntechOpen, DOI: 10.5772/intechopen.72890. A
Sawaddiruk P, Paiboonworachat S, Chattipakorn N, Chattipakorn SC. Alterations of brain activity in fibromyalgia patients. J Clin Neurosci. 2017 Apr;38:13-22. doi: 10.1016/j.jocn.2016.12.014. Epub 2017 Jan 10. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28087191
White PD. A perspective on the causation of chronic fatigue syndrome by considering its nosology.
J Eval Clin Pract. 2019 Aug 1. doi: 10.1111/jep.13240. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/31373106