Hope for people living with Myalgic Encephalomyeltitis

Posted in Head Pain Disorders Neck Pain Disorders on May 31, 2021

A recent study has provided more evidence for the link betweenmyalgic encephalomyelitis (ME) and the health of your cervicalspine (i.e., your neck). 

A team of researchers from Japan worked with over 1200 peoplediagnosed with myalgic encephalomyelitis or chronic fatiguesyndrome (CFS), who did not respond to conventional medical careover an 11 year period.

These people received general therapy for the muscles in theirneck, which is commonly found in people suffering the symptoms ofmyalgic encephalomyelitis or chronic fatigue syndrome.

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What they found was most remarkable.

That for people with a so-called “incurable” condition for whichthere is “no known cause” nearly 56% of peopleexperienced some significant degree of benefit ranging from 36-86%overall improvement.

 

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What is the role of neck treatment in MyalgicEncephalomyeltitis

On the negative side, there are still 45% of people who did notreceive benefits. And no one reported being 100% “cured” from necktreatment.

However, you probably already know that there is no such thingas a single magic cure for myalgic encephalomyelitis or chronicfatigue syndrome.

I have written on this subject numerous times that myalgicencephalomyelitis and chronic fatigue syndrome are known as“diagnoses of exclusion,” which means that they are a collective ofsymptoms - i.e., a syndrome - without a singleunderlying cause.

The most likely reason is that there is no single underlyingcause, but likely the accumulation of multiple causes that varyfrom individual to individual based on their unique genetics,medical history, and lifestyle.

Nevertheless, if over 50% of people with myalgicencephalomyelitis or chronic fatigue syndrome are able toexperience a significant degree of improvement by receiving carefor their neck, that is a big number.

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These findings suggest, therefore, that neck health (andtreatment) may play a big role in helping people with myalgicencephalomyelitis or chronic fatigue syndrome.

 

What is the role of the neck in MyalgicEncephalomyeltitis?

The health of your cervical spine may have a significant role inmyalgic encephalomyelitis or chronic fatigue syndrome for manyreasons.

Let’s start first with the structure and function of the uppertwo vertebrae in your neck called the atlas (C1) and the axis (C2).These two vertebrae support the weight of your skull (3-5Kg) andprovide over 50% of your total head and neck movement. 

While these two vertebrae might be extremely flexible, they mayalso be most susceptive to injury. Not necessarily the kinds thatcause broken bones, bleeding, or bruising, but the kinds ofinjuries that shift the neutral alignment and range of motion thatthese vertebrae are able to perform. 

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This type of injury may be only a couple of millimetres, butbecause the muscles and nerves in your upper neck are so sensitive,even 2mm can make a massive difference.

If you have ever gotten a grain of sand in your eye, you knowhow much that hurts! That is what 2mm feels like.

 

The reason this is important in the upper neck and for peoplewith myalgic encephalomyelitis or chronic fatigue syndrome is thatthe joints in your neck contain a huge number of nerve cells thattransmit three types of information for your brain:

 

  1. Pain
  2. Pressure which is important for balance, equilibrium, and bodyposition sense)
  3. Proprioception is important for muscle tone, tightness, andfunction

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When the joints in your upper neck may be injured, even if theyare stable, these types of signals may bombard the primaryprocessing centres of your brainstem with noxious feedback thateffectively overwhelms your system.

The potential consequence may well be the experience ofrelentless pain and fatigue that are the hallmarks of myalgicencephalomyelitis and chronic fatigue syndrome.

 

Blood flow, the neck, and MyalgicEncephalomyeltitis

Moreover, the alignment of the atlas and axis may also have aninfluence on blood flow to, from, and within the brain. 

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A separate research study from last year involving 229 peoplewith myalgic encephalomyelitis and chronic fatigue syndromeconsidered the role of the neck and in blood flow dynamics.

 

  1. 50% of participants showed signs of neckhypermobility.
  2. 83% of participants showed signs ofincreased brain pressure
  3. 56% of participants showed signs ofChiari malformations (bulging of the brainstem into the upper partof the cervical spinal canal)
  4. 80% of participants showed signs ofdisruptions in cerebrospinal fluid flow(aka “obstructions)

 

Again, these are massive numbers!

The alignment, motion, and function of the atlas (C1) and axis(C2) in particular have been implicated as a major potential sourceof disruption to CSF flow, supply, and drainage of blood within thebrain, which may be one contributing factor towards the developmentof myalgic encephalomyelitis or chronic fatigue syndrome.

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Help for people with myalgicencephalomyelitis

I hope that you have found this article not only informative butvaluable in your search for answers regarding myalgicencephalomyelitis and chronic fatigue syndrome. 

We fully appreciate that this is not always an easy syndrome toresolve as there are so many moving pieces, but we hope that wehave been able to provide you with important knowledge that mayassist you to make the best possible choice so that you are able totake the right steps towards getting your life back.

Especially if you haven’t really considered the role that yourneck might be contributing towards myalgic encephalomyelitis andchronic fatigue syndrome, we would ask, “Have you ever consideredseeing an upper cervical specific chiropractor?”

If you have not heard of an upper cervical chiropractor before,that is not surprising as there are so few in Australia and NewZealand.

It is a special division of chiropractic that does not usespinal manipulation and utilises instead advanced tests and aprecise series of corrections without drugs or surgery to restorethe normal alignment and motion of the joints in your upper neck inorder to give your body the best opportunity to do what it isdesigned naturally to do: heal itself.

If you would like more information about upper cervical care,please reach out to us to find out how we may be able to help you.Our practice, Atlas Health, offers a 15-minute over-the-phonecomplementary consultation with our principal upper cervicalchiropractor, Dr. Jeffrey Hannah, who would be happy to answer yourquestions and discuss your unique circumstances so that you candecide if care may be right for you.

Simply call us at 07 3188 9329, or click the Contact Us link atthe top of this page, and we will arrange a time at yourconvenience.

While the path to solving myalgic encephalomyelitis and chronicfatigue syndrome may still be a long one ahead, we believe firmlythat there is hope. We trust that you do too.

Atlas Health Australia - “Hope, healing, and wellbeingfrom above-down, inside-out.”

 

References

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Martucci KT, Weber KA, Mackey SC.Altered Cervical Spinal Cord Resting-State Activityin Fibromyalgia. Arthritis Rheumatol. 2019Mar;71(3):441-450. doi: 10.1002/art.40746. Epub 2019 Feb11. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30281205

Matsui T, Hara K, Iwata M, Hojo S, Shitara N, Endo Y, Fukuoka H,Matsui M, Kawaguchi H. Possible involvement of the autonomicnervous system in cervical muscles of patients with myalgicencephalomyelitis / chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS). BMCMusculoskelet Disord. 2021 May 5;22(1):419. doi:10.1186/s12891-021-04293-7. PMID: 33952227; PMCID:PMC8101228. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33952227/

Nystrom NA, Freeman MD. Central Sensitization Is ModulatedFollowing Trigger Point Anesthetization in Patients with ChronicPain from Whiplash Trauma. A Double-Blind,Placebo-Controlled, Crossover Study. Pain Med. 2018 Jan1;19(1):124-129. doi: 10.1093/pm/pnx014. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28419379

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