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What you need to know if you have a cranial nerve disorder

Posted in Nervous System Disorders on Oct 12, 2020

The #1 most important thing if you have a cranial nerve disorder

If you have been diagnosed with a cranial nerve disorder, the first thing you need to know is not actually the name of your condition or “diagnosis.” The #1 most important thing to know is what is causing your cranial nerve disorder.

There are two general categories of cranial nerve disorders: pathological disorders and functional disorders.

A pathological cranial nerve disorder is where you have a specific brain problem - e.g., infection, bleeding, tumor, or lesion - that is affecting the cranial nerve.

These types of conditions are visible on CT or MRI scans and often require treatment with a cranial nerve specialist, neurologist, or neurosurgeon.

On the other hand, a functional cranial nerve disorder is where you do NOT have any specific brain lesion - i.e., your CT and MRI scans appear normal! - but something is still affecting the function of your cranial nerves.

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If you are in this category - that you are experiencing a cranial nerve disorder AND your scans have all been normal - it can be especially frustrating knowing what to do.

If your cranial nerve specialist or neurologist says that surgery isn’t really an option, you might have been told that there isn’t anything else you can do except take medication to treat the symptoms.

Especially if you are otherwise a health person, this can be particularly distressing. If you exercise, eat well, and generally take care of your health, you hate the idea that there’s nothing you can do except take medication.

So what if there may be another way?

Because when it comes to functional cranial nerve disorders, it is possible that the problem is not actually with the cranial nerve itself, but with an issue upstream in the alignment of your upper neck!

 

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What is the connection between your upper neck and your cranial nerves?

If there is a physical or mechanical block in the upper part of your neck involving either of the top two vertebrae at the base of your skull - called the atlas (C1) and the axis (C2) - there may be interference with the normal health and function of your cranial nerves.

There are three potential ways that your upper neck could affect your cranial nerves.

The first mechanism is known as “increased neural mechanosensitivity.” It is a fancy way to describe how tension on the spinal nerves or cord originating from the neck can cause hypersensitivity, increased pain, or other dysfunction of nerves in the neck, head, body, or jaw.

The C1 and C2 vertebrae are unique because of how they are physically tethered to the spinal cord via ligaments known as myodural bridges. These ligaments aid with protecting the base of your brainstem while simultaneously aiding the normal circulation of fluid around the brain. 

However, these same ligaments may exert physical tension, distorting the brainstem or spinal cord, and thereby produce pain or other neurological problems potentially including cranial nerve disorders.

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Considering that many cranial nerves are directly in the firing line at the level of the C1 and C2 vertebrae - namely the glossopharyngeal nerves (swallowing and speech), vagus nerves (sensory for your skull [e.g., migraines] autonomic functions of your heart, lungs, and digestive system), spinal accessory nerves (shoulder and neck muscles) and hypoglossal nerves (tongue movements and swallowing) - a combination of these cranial nerves may be affected due to misalignment or abnormal movement in the upper neck.

It is a complex and complicated diagnosis known as the “Craniocervical Syndrome.”

Craniocervical Syndrome may also be affected by blood flow to-and-from the brain. The C1 and C2 vertebrae transmit the pair of vertebral arteries, which supply blood to the brainstem.

Although these arteries only contribute 30% of all the blood to the brain, they effectively supply 100% of the blood to the cranial nerves.

These include the cranial nerves that are involved with facial sensation (trigeminal nerves), facial movement (facial nerves), hearing and balance (vestibulocochlear nerves) and also eye movements (oculomotor, trochlear, and abducens nerves).

The vertebral arteries also supply blood to the portions of the brain that are responsible for muscle coordination (cerebellum) and also vision (occipital lobe).

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Furthermore, the pair of vertebral veins follow the exact same course through the C1 and C2 vertebrae to assist with blood drainage from the brain. 

If there is a mechanical obstruction that limits the normal flow of blood to-or-from the brain due to a misalignment in the upper neck, it may be possible that is has an upstream or downstream effect that produces a lack of flow or even congestion that may cause dysfunction of the cranial nerves.

 

Have you checked your upper neck?

If you do not have a pathological cranial nerve condition that requires a nerve specialist or neurosurgeon, it is a good thing! 

However, it can still be frustrating because as unpleasant as the idea of surgery may be, it can be even more distressing not knowing what you can do when no one can tell you what is going on in your body.

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So if you are experiencing a cranial nerve disorder, let me ask you: have you had the alignment checked in your upper neck?

Whether it is a condition like trigeminal neuralgia, Bell’s palsy, Meniere’s Disease or some other condition that affects your cranial nerves, a problem with the alignment of your atlas (C1) or axis (C2) may have a role to play.

If so, here is where a specific type of healthcare known as Blair Upper Cervical Care may be able to assist you.

Blair upper cervical care is a social division of chiropractic developed and researched in the USA that focuses on the alignment of the C1 and C2 vertebrae in your neck, and how these vertebrae can affect your nervous system and health.

By performing a detailed analysis including a physical assessment, neurological tests, and also customised 3D imaging, it is possible to identify the exact direction and degree of any misalignments in your upper neck that are often not considered on normal CT or MRI scans. 

With this information, a Blair upper cervical chiropractic doctor is able to develop a program of care designed just for you for the purpose of restoring normal motion and improving function through the upper part of your neck so that your body is better able to do what it is designed to do: heal itself.

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Unlike general manipulation, there is no neck twisting, cracking, or popping with a Blair upper cervical adjustment. The procedure does not involve any drugs or surgery and uses only the amount got a force that you would use to click a pen.

In this way, Blair upper cervical care is not a treatment for any specific cranial nerve disorder but is instead a natural approach to health and wellbeing that looks to address the underlying cause in your body, and not simply treating the symptoms.

 

Atlas Chiropractor Brisbane

We hope that you have found this article to be both informative and valuable.

If you are experiencing a cranial nerve condition - no matter what the name of your diagnosis may be - and would like more information about how Blair upper cervical chiropractic care may be able to help you, we would be honored to hear from you.

Our practice, Atlas Health, is the premier upper cervical health centre in Australia.

Our mission is helping people with chronic health challenges - especially those cases where all the normal tests have been “normal” including functional cranial nerve disorders such as trigeminal neuralgia and vertigo disorders - so that they can get back o enjoying the quality of life that they desire most.

Our practice is located in North Lakes (north Brisbane) to service the greater Brisbane and Sunshine Coast communities. We are also conveniently located only 30 minutes from Brisbane airport to provide care for people from across Queensland, Australian, and internationally.

Our principal chiropractor, Dr. Jeffrey Hannah, is an Advanced Certified Blair Upper Cervical chiropractor. He is an international lecturer, author, and recognised leader in the field of upper cervical care.

If you would like to schedule a complimentary 15-minute over the phone consultation to speak with Dr. Hannah so that you can discuss your cranial nerve disorder and so that you can decide if care might be right for you, we would be happy to arrange that for you.

To schedule a no-obligation consultation, you can reach our office at 07 3188 9329, or click the Contact Us, and one of our staff with a reply to your email as soon as possible.

We look forward to hearing from you and will do our best to assist you.

Atlas Health Australia - ‘Hope, healing and wellbeing from above-down, inside-out.”

 

References

Alabaster K, Bugg MD, Splavski B, et al. The suboccipital ligament. J Neurosurg. April 14, 2017; DOI: 10.3171/2016.10.JNS162161. 

Bogduk N. The cervical-cranial connection. J Manipulative Physiol Ther. 1992;15(1):67-70.

Burcon MT. Health Outcomes Following Cervical Specific Protocol in 300 Patients with Meniere’s Followed Over Six Years. Journal of Upper Cervical Chiropractic Research ~ June 2, 2016, ~ Pages 13-23. https://www.vertebralsubluxationresearch.com/2016/06/02/health-outcomes-following-cervical-specific-protocol-in-300-patients-with-menieres-followed-over-six-years/

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

Damadian RV, Chu D. The possible role of cranio-cervical trauma and abnormal CSF hydrodynamics in the genesis of multiple sclerosis. Physiol Chem Phys Med NMR. 2011;41:1-17.

Enix DE, Scali F, Pontell ME. The cervical myodural bridge, a review of the literature and clinical implications. J Can Chiropr Assoc. 2014 Jun;58(2):184-92.

Eriksen K. Upper Cervical Subluxation Complex: a review of the chiropractic and medical literature. Lippincott, Williams, and Wilkins. Baltimore (MD). 2004.

Flanagan MF. The Downside of Upright Posture. Two Harbors Press, 2010.

Flanagan MF. The role of the craniocervical junction in craniospinal hydrodynamics and neurodegenerative conditions. Neurology Research International, 2015; Article ID 794829: http://dx.doi.org/10.1155/2015/794829

Kessinger R, Matthews A. Resolution of trigeminal neuralgia in a 14-year-old following upper cervical chiropractic care to reduce vertebral subluxation: A case study. J Upper Cervical Chiropr Res 2012:77-84

Martinez-Merinero P, Nuñez-Nagy S, Achalandabaso-Ochoa A, Fernandez-Matias R, Pecos-Martin D, Gallego-Izquierdo T. Relationship between Forward Head Posture and Tissue Mechanosensitivity: A Cross-Sectional Study. J Clin Med. 2020 Feb 27;9(3):634. doi: 10.3390/jcm9030634. PMID: 32120895; PMCID: PMC7141123.https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32120895/

Pontell ME, Scali F, Marshall E, Enix D. The obliquus capitis inferior myodural bridge. Clin Anat. 2013 May;26(4):450-4. doi: 10.1002/ca.22134. Epub 2012 Jul 26. 

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).

Vernon H.The cranio-cervical syndrome. London, Butterworth-Heinemann, 2001.

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