What to do if you have Brain Fog and a Heavy Head

Posted in Head Pain Disorders on Mar 9, 2022

“Brain fog” and a "heavy head” are two very common terms that people use to describe what they feel is happening inside their brain and at the base of their skull. And even though people often feel weird when they describe them, BRAIN FOG AND HEAVY HEAD are actually FAR MORE COMMON than you might think. The challenge for so many people who experience brain fog and a heavy head is finding the cause of the problem so that you can find a SOLUTION that works for you.

So, let’s first presume that you have a brain CT (MRI) is better so that you can rule out exotic or dangerous things like brain tumours, lesions, infections, bleeding, and so forth. Whether you then work with your GP or are referred to see a neurologist or specialist, here is where it all comes together or falls apart for so many people with brain fog and a heavy head sensation.

Brain Fog and a Heavy Head - The usual stuff doesn’t always work

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In the absence of any other symptoms, many specialists don’t know what to do to help brain fog or a heavy head.  For example, there is a descriptor known as “Fibrofog” which is essentially brain fog that happens in people diagnosed with fibromyalgia (full body pain and fatigue). The caveat is that “fibrofog” also occurs in 44% of other people WITHOUT these other types of symptoms.

What this basically means is that fibrofog is actually a very poor descriptive term because there must be UNDERLYING MECHANISMS THAT ARE NOT BEING PROPERLY TREATED IN THE CAUSE OF BRAIN FOG AND A HEAVY HEAD. The same thing goes if you have had lots of blood tests to find out if you have inflammation that is causing your brain fog and heavy head sensation. Unless there are definitive signs of either an autoimmune marker (ANA) or elevated inflammatory markers (ESR or CRP), then usually what it means is that it isn’t a chemical problem that is causing your brain fog and heavy head.

And yet, this is the path that so many people take. They are prescribed certain medications to change histamine or inflammation levels in your body, sometimes including things that target your immune system. Or they are told to change their diet to exclude alcohol, chocolate, caffeine, salt, and the like. While some of these modifications may not be so terrible for your overall health and wellbeing, they frequently do NOT solve the brain fog or heavy head sensation that people experience.

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Then there is also the psychological aspect. And indeed, while it may certainly be possible, it is our experience that when a person feels a persistent sense of brain fog or a heavy head that any associated symptoms including depression and/or anxiety are usually the BYPRODUCTS of feeling unwell, not the cause. So, where does this leave your options?

We would like to propose the case that brain fog and a heavy head sensation may well be the result of a problem with the normal alignment of the vertebrae at the base of your skull, called the atlas (C1) and the axis (C2). If so, then it may be that a unique, independent, and natural solution is known as the Blair Technique may be able to help you.

Brain Fog and a Heavy Head - What does your Upper Neck have to do with it?

Your skull weighs approximately 3-5Kg, and it rests atop your C1 vertebra which only weighs a few grams. A VERY BIG difference (which is why it is called the Atlas after the Greek Mythology figure holding up the skies over the earth). When the atlas is normally positioned beneath your skull the centre of gravity, it is normally able to support this load without an issue. 

However, if your atlas ever shifts from its normal neutral alignment, even off by a couple of millimetres, that is quite more than enough to disrupt the load. As a consequence, your muscles and other joints have to work much harder in order to maintain balance. And as your muscles fatigue, one of the most common things that people end up saying is that they feel like they have a heavy head!

Aha! So, we have a potential explanation for one of the missing pieces with the heavy head. Before going onto the next piece of the brain fog, you may be wondering what causes an atlas misalignment and why it hasn’t been detected on a CT or MRI. The first question is a physical injury. Not necessarily one that causes broken bones, bleeding, or even bruising, but one that can injure the internal ligaments just that little bit. And while that 1-2mm may be a very small thing, when that injury is compounded over a period of TIME (5, 10, or 20 years), it can accumulate to the point that one day out of the blue your body just can’t compensate for the problem anymore. That is one of the reasons why brain fog and a heavy head can be so insidious.

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It is because the cause is not always obvious. The second question now on why it hasn’t been commented on on CTs and MRIs. You may not like the answer. It is because many times no one is looking for it! From a pathologist’s or radiologist’s perspective, joint injuries aren’t considered significant until they are around 5-7mm in size. So these subtleties are simply not given their due consideration. Sad, but true.

Now, as for the brain fog side of the equation, here is where it’s important to describe how fluid circulates around your brain. Cerebrospinal Fluid (CSF) is what provides your brain with oxygen, energy, and nutrients. It is normally recycled out of your brain via two sets of veins: a) the Internal Jugular Vein, which is the primary drainage pathway when you are lying down, and b) the Cerebrospinal Veins, which are the primary drainage pathway when you are sitting or standing up. The reason your body position matters is because veins are floppy structures that collapse under the force of gravity.

So, here’s the thing: the cerebrospinal veins transmit from the base of your brain and into your neck THROUGH your atlas and axis vertebrae. Therefore, it is possible that if either of these bones is misaligned even that little bit they produce pressure which limits the ability of blood to drain out from your brain. As a result, the CSF can congest and affect your brain much like dirty water in a sink that just can’t quite drain.

And this may be one of the reasons why people with brain fog and a heavy head typically feel better when they lie down. It is because, in this position, the blood is able to be shunted via the Internal Jugular veins in the form of their neck and works as a reset mechanism … that is until you stand or sit upright again. Let us emphasise this last phrase because it is very important for people with brain fog and a heavy head sensation.


The Blair Technique in Brain Fog and a Heavy Head

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Upper Cervical Chiropractor Brisbane

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When it comes to helping people with brain fog and a heavy head, a unique and independent method of health are known as the Blair Technique may be one of the key pieces of the puzzle to helping people get their lives back.The Blair Technique belongs to a special division of chiropractic known as upper cervical specific care. Unlike general spinal manipulation that involves twisting or cracking the neck, there is absolutely ZERO stretching, popping, or cracking.

This is an important distinction because there are actually MANY types of chiropractors, and not all methods are alike. The Blair Technique is also similar and in the same category as the Atlas Orthogonal and NUCCA techniques, which are like close cousins. The general procedure begins with a focused health history in order to determine if you may be a candidate for the work. In our practice, Atlas Health, located in North Lakes (North Brisbane), we offer a complementary 15-minute consolation to ask a few questions, explain the process and answer any questions so that you can decide if care is right for you. 

The next step is to perform a targeted physical, neurological and structural assessment which includes customised diagnostic images which help to show the exact location, directions, and degree of any misalignments or injuries in your neck that could be related to your brain fog and heavy head.

With this information, we then put together a personalised care program to help you reach your needs and goals. The process and correction process itself has based on the premise that your body is able to heal itself given the opportunity to do so without interference. So, we aren’t prescribing drugs or anything like that. What we do is perform a gentle and precise correction by tapping on the side of your atlas and axis in the exact direction that we found them to be off their centre position. When we know this information, this is why we don’t need to twist or crack things into place. Even the lightest of forces is enough for the wisdom of your body to do the work … but ONLY if we are exact.

In this way, the Blair Technique is a non-medical, independent, and highly specific approach to restoring health and wellbeing. If you or a loved one has been dealing with the challenges associated with brain fog and a heavy head, we hope that this article has been valuable and informative. If you would like to find out how the Blair Technique may be able to help you, you can contact our north Brisbane office at 07 3188 9329 or click the contact us link on this page, and one of our staff will reply as soon as possible.

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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

Lelic D, Niazi IK, Holt K, et al. Manipulation of Dysfunctional Spinal Joints Affects Sensorimotor Integration in the Prefrontal Cortex: A Brain Source Localization Study. Neural Plast. 2016;2016:3704964. doi:10.1155/2016/3704964. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4800094/

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Ogura T, Tashiro M, Masud M, et al. Cerebral metabolic changes in men after chiropractic spinal manipulation for neck pain. Altern Ther Health Med. 2011 Nov-Dec;17(6):12-7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22314714

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

Smith FW, Dworkin JS (eds): The Craniocervical Syndrome and MRI. Basel, Karger, 2015. DOI:10.1159/000365463.

Wong JJ, Shearer HM, Mior S, et al. Are manual therapies, passive physical modalities, or acupuncture effective for the management of patients with whiplash-associated disorders or neck pain and associated disorders? An update of the Bone and Joint Decade Task Force on Neck Pain and Its Associated Disorders by the OPTIMa collaboration. Spine J. 2016 Dec;16(12):1598-1630. doi: 10.1016/j.spinee.2015.08.024. Epub 2015 Dec 17. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26707074

Wolfe F, Rasker JJ, Ten Klooster P, Häuser W. Subjective Cognitive Dysfunction in Patients With and Without Fibromyalgia: Prevalence, Predictors, Correlates, and Consequences. Cureus. 2021;13(12):e20351. Published 2021 Dec 11. doi:10.7759/cureus.20351

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