Chronic fatigue syndrome and myalgic encephalomyelitis (commonly known also as fibromyalgia) are two still debilitating syndromes with widely unknown causes or treatments. Part of the reason is that the standard medical model looks at a disease in an “A causes Z” type of way. With chronic fatigue syndrome and myalgic encephalomyelitis, these conditions are more appropriately recognised to be conditions with multifactorial causes and thus treatments.
That is, not only does A cause Z, but it can also cause Y, X, and W. But not only can Z be caused by A, but it can also be caused by B, C, and D. And very seldom is it that it is just one thing that causes it either. It is usually a combination of elements. So when it comes to the cause and treatment of chronic fatigue syndrome and myalgic encephalomyelitis, there are many theories with supporting evidence:
- Chronic viral or bacterial infection infection
- Traumatic brain injury or whiplash
- Stress invoked by PTSD
- Nutritional deficiencies
- Allergic responses (e.g., mold)
One major piece of the puzzle in chronic fatigue syndrome and myalgic encephalomyelitis that is often overlooked is the role of the physical body, namely the area of the upper neck that protects the brainstem called the atlas (C1) and axis (C2) vertebrae. We will discuss the importance of this area in just a moment, but first, there is new research (May 2022) that indirectly supports the role of the upper neck in being a contributing factor to chronic fatigue syndrome and myalgic encephalomyelitis. Thus a novel approach to helping people with chronic fatigue syndrome and myalgic encephalomyelitis may be to look at the alignment and motion of the upper neck region.
New Research on chronic fatigue syndrome and myalgic encephalomyelitis
The term “neurovascular dysregulation” means that the nerves or electrical wires that regulate blood flow to and from the different parts of your body, including your brain, are being disrupted for some reason. We will get to that reason in just a little bit here. First, let’s look at what controls blood flow in the body. All arteries in your body are lined with smooth muscles that are supplied with what is known as sympathetic nerves. Sympathetic nerves are commanded by the area in your brain known as the hypothalamus, which conveys messages to your brainstem, which is the executive control center. Your brainstem (namely what is known as the ventrolateral nucleus of the medulla) then sends these controlling messages down your spinal cord and to the nerves that regular blood flow in every vessel in your body.
Especially as it relates to post-exercise exertion in chronic fatigue syndrome and myalgic encephalomyelitis, one of the leading theories is that the body is now receiving adequate supplies of oxygen and thus manifests oxidative stress that the body simply cannot recover from. In effect, it would be like having $10,000 in your bank savings account, receiving a weekly paycheck of $2000 but then spending $2500 every week. Eventually, your bank account will run dry, and simply doing the normal stuff that you were doing before won’t work anymore.
Now, there is certainly much more to the story, but here’s the interesting part. What the researchers did was prescribe a certain brand of medication (pyridostigmine) which is designed to facilitate blood flow and reduce neurologic fatigue (in other words, it is a stimulant), and what they found was a significant increase in cardiovascular output and tissue blood flow for people doing physical exercise … but WITHOUT the usual fatigue that would occur. Now, these researchers go on to suggest that medical approaches may be able to help people with chronic fatigue syndrome and myalgic encephalomyelitis in this way.
However, we would like to point out that with any simulated medication, it typically takes more and more doses over a period of time to have the same effect, and usually with other effects in the body elsewhere. In addition, it may only be used to treat the effects without addressing the underlying cause. Here then would be where a natural approach that addresses the underlying cause of the neurovascular dysregulation would be useful, and one of the approaches that may assist here has to do with the health of your upper neck at the atlas (C1) and axis (C2) vertebrae.
The Upper Neck in chronic fatigue syndrome and myalgic encephalomyelitis
The top two vertebrae in your neck are the gateway between your brain and body. In fact, the blood vessels that supply blood to and from your brainstem transmit directly through these top two vertebrae, which have been shown to impair cerebrovascular flow if misaligned.
The reason this matters is that if a mechanical misalignment at the top of your neck disrupts blood flow to the master control centre that regulates neurovascular function in the entire body, not only canyon experience local effects (e.g., headaches, dizziness, brain fog), but you can also then experience full-body symptomatology that is consistent with something like chronic fatigue syndrome and myalgic encephalomyelitis.
Moreover, misalignments of the upper neck have also been demonstrated to impair cerebrospinal fluid circulation, which is what provides oxygen, water, and energy for the brain itself and which has also been shown to have a huge impact on people with chronic fatigue syndrome and myalgic encephalomyelitis. So while it may not be the only piece to the puzzle, the health and alignment of your upper neck may be an extremely important piece in that puzzle to solving the dilemma of chronic fatigue syndrome and myalgic encephalomyelitis.
Here then is where a unique approach to healthcare known as upper cervical chiropractic may be able to help you. Upper cervical chiropractic is a division of chiropractic that focuses on the special relationship between the C1 and C2 vertebrae in your neck and the health of your brainstem and central nervous system. There are many forms of upper cervical care, one of which is known as the Blair Technique.
Unlike other forms of general spinal manipulation, the Blair Technique does not use any form of spinal manipulation. In other words, no twisting, stretching or cracking of the neck. The Blair Technique is based on the premise that we are all different on the inside and the outside, and so it is only by taking these unique architectural differences into account that we may have any hope of actually identifying the very small but also the very significant problems that may occur there. (Even if you have had brain scans and MRIs, if these images aren’t taken from just the right angle, you may not actually see what is going on, which is one reason why so many people with chronic fatigue syndrome and myalgic encephalomyelitis may be told that your “tests are all normal” when they actually aren’t!)
With a proper series of diagnostic tests including customised imaging, a Blair upper cervical chiropractic doctor may then be able to prescribe a personalised program of care to help your body to heal the way that it is designed while taking the pressure off of the brainstem and allowing those normal control centres the function the way that they are meant to. So if you have been “diagnosed” with chronic fatigue syndrome and myalgic encephalomyelitis, and even if you have been to a standard chiropractor, the Blair Technique is a different approach that may be able to help make a big difference in restoring your health naturally without the need for drugs or surgery.
Atlas Health Australia is the leader in Blair upper cervical chiropractic in Australia. Our practice is located in North Lakes (north Brisbane), and we work with clients from across the country. Our focus is on helping people with syndromes such as chronic fatigue syndrome and myalgic encephalomyelitis improve their quality of life so that they can get back to enjoying the things that they love the most. We offer a complementary 15-minute phone consultation to answer any question you may have and provide you with additional information so that you can decide if the Blair Technique is right for you. Call us at 07 3188 9329.
We hope this article has been valuable and informative, and we look forward to helping you.
Bidari A, Ghavidel Parsa B, Ghalehbaghi B. Challenges in fibromyalgia diagnosis: from the meaning of symptoms to fibromyalgia labeling. Korean J Pain. 2018 Jul;31(3):147-154. doi: 10.3344/kjp.2018.31.3.147. Epub 2018 Jul 2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30013729
Bragée B, Michos A, Drum B, Fahlgren M, Szulkin R, Bertilson BC. Signs of Intracranial Hypertension, Hypermobility, and Craniocervical Obstructions in Patients With Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Front Neurol. 2020 Aug 28;11:828. doi: 10.3389/fneur.2020.00828. PMID: 32982905; PMCID: PMC7485557. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32982905/
Flanagan MF. The Role of the Craniocervical Junction in Craniospinal Hydrodynamics and Neurodegenerative Conditions. Neurol Res Int. 2015;2015:794829. doi: 10.1155/2015/794829. Epub 2015 Nov 30. PMID: 26770824; PMCID: PMC4681798. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26770824/
Hulens M, Rasschaert R, Vansant G, et al. The link between idiopathic intracranial hypertension, fibromyalgia, and chronic fatigue syndrome: an exploration of shared pathophysiology. J Pain Res. 2018 Dec 10;11:3129-3140. doi: 10.2147/JPR.S186878. eCollection 2018. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30573989
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).
Germain, A.; Ruppert, D.; Levine, S.M.; Hanson, M.R. Prospective Biomarkers from Plasma Metabolomics of Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Implicate Redox Imbalance in Disease Symptomatology. Metabolites 2018, 8, 90. https://doi.org/10.3390/metabo8040090. https://www.mdpi.com/2218-1989/8/4/90#cite
Joseph P, Pari R, Miller S, et al. Neurovascular Dysregulation and Acute Exercise Intolerance in ME/CFS: A Randomized, Placebo-Controlled Trial of Pyridostigmine [published online ahead of print, 2022 May 5]. Chest. 2022;S0012-3692(22)00890-X. doi:10.1016/j.chest.2022.04.146. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/35526605/