Understanding Multiple Sclerosis
There are only a few conditions that can so randomly and radically affect the quality of your life like multiple sclerosis. That includes both people diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and people whose lives are touched by people diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. On one day, you can be exceptionally well - almost normal! But on the next day for no apparent reason, nothing is normal.
What makes the condition especially challenging is that the symptoms change. Sometimes it’s your movement: sometimes in just your arms or legs, other times your whole body. Sometimes it’s pain or numbness.
Other times it’s almost impossible to describe. But you’re not one to give up! Even though there is no known cure for multiple sclerosis, you know that by doing the right things that it can make a massive difference in the quality of your life.
You make sure your diet is as natural and organic as possible, eliminating foods that can cause inflammation. You minimize your life stress as much as possible. You stretch and move as much as you can.
And you’re constantly on the search for other things that will help. So what else can you do to help with your multiple sclerosis? Specifically, would you want to know if there was a natural approach that can help improve the quality of your life with multiple sclerosis? If so, allow me to share with you how the alignment of the vertebrae at the top of your neck may be able to help you.
Multiple Sclerosis Diagnosis
The common diagnostic feature of multiple sclerosis is demyelination of the central nervous system - specifically the brain - that can be seen on an MRI. Myelin is a layer of insulation that surrounds a nerve fiber and works the same way as insulation around a wire to preserve the integrity of electrical signals that transmit along its length. If the wire frays (i.e., de-myelinates), it can cause the electrical signals to misfire.
In the human brain and body, the symptoms that a person experiences with multiple sclerosis depends on the exact wire or wires that are demyelinated. For some people, the demyelination occurs to the cluster of nerves that affect their balance. For other people, it’s the nerves that move their legs. For other people, it’s the nerves that control their facial muscles. You get the idea.
The thing about it is that even if you have a condition that results in demyelination, your brain is not stupid and your body is not weak! They will work collectively to repair the damage and to find alternate neurological pathways that will preserve your health as much as possible. It is the reason why the symptoms of multiple sclerosis appear to shift so randomly.
What you may NOT know about the cause of Multiple Sclerosis
You may not know that there are a few subtypes of multiple sclerosis. In other words, the cause of multiple sclerosis is not the same for all people. For this to make sense, we need to consider the types of things that may cause demyelination in the first place.
The foremost hypothesis on multiple sclerosis is that it is an autoimmune condition where your own body is attacking the myelin. … But again, your brain isn’t stupid! So why could it be “tricked” into attacking itself? Consider the possibility that there is something that it detects in the myelin that should not be there: i.e., some type of chemical or toxin!
Certain substances can bypass the blood-brain barrier and cause damage to the central nervous system. Some of these substances include certain infections (e.g., meningococcal), neurotoxins like pesticides, and heavy metals, which could come from multiple sources including industrial exposure or amalgam fillings in some cases also.
With these cases, the reason for the demyelination and brain inflammation may be due exclusively to chemical exposure. If so, the types of therapies that will be most beneficial for helping to improve the symptoms of multiple sclerosis will be things that minimise inflammation and ideal cleanse the body of these harmful substances.
It is the reason why so many people who experience multiple sclerosis report improvements with their health by doing heavy metal detoxes and following specific dietary protocols. However, that is not the full story. It is because there is also mechanical-type multiple sclerosis that can cause demyelination.
The hypothesis is that the normal flow of the immune lymphatic channels in the brain are somehow congested, creating a backflow or turbulence of the cerebrospinal fluid, which is the fluid medium that bathes and allows the brain to function.
This turbulence can act like debris that damages the brain tissue, leading ultimately to neurodegenerative conditions such as multiple sclerosis. The question then is, “what is the reason for the mechanical obstruction?” As described by Dr. Michael Flanagan in his book, The Downside of Upright Posture, the alignment of the upper neck might be responsible.
The Role of the Upper Neck in Multiple Sclerosis
Under normal circumstances, used blood drains from your brain via two pathways: the internal jugular veins, which are located along the front of your neck; and the cerebrospinal veins, which are located at the base of your skull and travel through your neck.
However, if people suffer an injury that affects the alignment of either of the top bones in your neck - the C1 (atlas) or C2 (axis) - it is possible that the resulting misalignment can produce a congestive force that reduces the cerebrospinal pathway. The cerebrospinal pathway is especially important because this is the primary pathway for cleansing blood from the brainstem and the cerebellum, which are responsive to all your vital life functions and fine-motor coordination respectively.
Under just the wrong set of circumstances, this congestion may cause backflow into the cerebrospinal fluid and ultimately into the lymphatics, setting the stage for adverse immune responses including those seen with multiple sclerosis. That is how the alignment of your upper neck of all things can have an impact on multiple sclerosis.
What to do About Multiple Sclerosis
There’s an increasing body of science to support this hypothesis that multiple sclerosis may, in part, be related to mechanical tension in the upper neck that ultimately affects cerebrospinal fluid flow.
First, signs of whiplash in the lower neck appear to increase the risk factor for multiple sclerosis. Second, headaches also appear to be a precursor for many people who also go on to be diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. It is not to say that whiplash, neck injuries or headaches cause multiple sclerosis. The process is way more complicated than that! It is simply to point out that there may be a connection.
Third, a study from Italy observed significant improvements in quality of life among patients experiencing multiple sclerosis after receiving specific care to correct the alignment of the C1 or C2 vertebrae in their necks … so promising that the researchers concluded in their paper that, “We believe that the Upper Cervical correction on C1-C2 could be the main non-invasive treatment of the mechanical type in patients with MS.”
Fourth, it is not just a matter of speculation. Research currently being conducted in the USA is demonstrating how specific realignment of the top vertebra in the neck - the C1 (atlas) - can actually improve cerebrospinal fluid flow and is even reversing some of the demyelination lesions found in patients with multiple sclerosis!
Again, it is not to say that that alignment of the C1 or C2 vertebrae in your neck is a cure for multiple sclerosis. Far from it. Nevertheless, these exciting studies are illustrating that there is a powerful and natural approach that may be able to help people with multiple sclerosis. And fortunately, this form of healthcare is available in Australia. It’s called Upper Cervical Specific care.
Upper Cervical Chiropractic Multiple Sclerosis Diagnosis
Upper cervical care is a unique form of chiropractic developed in the USA. Unlike general chiropractors who may manipulate or “crack” the neck, an upper cervical chiropractor goes to great lengths to identify and correct misalignments of the neck in the most precise manner possible and without using manipulation.
In other words, no cracking or twisting. If you have not heard of upper cervical chiropractic before, it’s not surprising. Even though this form of healthcare is available in Australia, there are still relatively few practitioners who use it. At the time of writing this article, we are still the only upper cervical health center in Brisbane.
So what is the process to identify if you have a problem with your upper neck that may be able to help your multiple sclerosis? The diagnostic process starts with a consultation and tests for the alignment of your upper neck.
In our practice, we begin with a structural examination, which includes looking at your posture and where you hold your tension. Muscle tension is often a useful tool to determine how and why your upper neck has gotten jammed up in the first place. We also perform a series of tests for your nervous system. Specifically, we use an analysis tool called infrared paraspinal computerised thermography that measures heat distribution along your spine as an indirect measure of nerve activity.
We also perform a detailed x-ray analysis of the structure and alignment of the joints in your neck. Unlike standard x-rays or even MRIs, which are limited to a few viewing angles or are done lying down, the images that we take in our practice are custom-tailored for your unique bone structure.
When we see and know exactly what is going on with your neck, then we can put together a plan of action for how we can improve the alignment and mobility through your neck, which ultimately assists to minimise the degree of tension and congestion on your nervous system and in turn may be able to provide relief from your multiple sclerosis symptoms.
Upper Cervical Chiropractic Treatment for Multiple Sclerosis
The procedure that we use in our practice to help people with multiple sclerosis is called a “Blair upper cervical specific adjustment.” The procedure is nothing like general chiropractic manipulation, and there is no twisting or cracking.
Instead, the correction is made where you are lying comfortably on your side. Then using only a small amount of pressure on the outside of your skin - about the same amount of pressure you would use to feel your pulse - a quick and light impulse is made to realign the C1 or C2 vertebrae in your neck. There are two important things to mention here.
First - and as I’ve already mentioned twice elsewhere in this article - Blair upper cervical care is not a direct treatment for multiple sclerosis, The purpose of an upper cervical adjustment is to restore the alignment of the bones in the top of your neck so there is no abnormal pressure on your brainstem and so that your body is able to heal itself naturally.
So if your symptoms improve after an adjustment, it is not because it is a direct treatment: it is actually the byproduct of your body being healthier!
Second, as ideally as we would love for a single treatment to help your multiple sclerosis, it is usually a process. Indeed, many people do experience rapid results! However, before we would make any prognosis or care plan for you, the thing to do first is simply to book an assessment to determine if you actually do have an upper neck misalignment and if it is impacting on your nerves, contributing towards your condition.
As an aside, it is the story of a person diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, which is the reason that I am an Upper Cervical chiropractor in the first place. If you want to read about this particular story, I’d encourage you to read The Doctors Who Give No Medicine.
If you or a loved one is looking for more information on upper cervical care and treatment options for multiple sclerosis in Brisbane, please contact our office at 07 3188 9329 - or send us an email - and one of our doctors will get back to you to find out how we may be able to help you.
Our office is conveniently located in North Lakes, just off the Bruce Highway north of Brisbane. Even if you are from outside the Brisbane area, please feel free to contact us so that we might be able to direct you to your nearest upper cervical chiropractor for help for your multiple sclerosis.
Alphonsus KB, Su Y, D'Arcy C. The effect of exercise, yoga, and physiotherapy on the quality of life of people with multiple sclerosis: Systematic review and meta-analysis. Complement Ther Med. 2019 Apr;43:188-195. doi: 10.1016/j.ctim.2019.02.010. Epub 2019 Feb 10. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30935529
Beggs CB, Magnano C, Belov P, et al. Internal jugular vein cross-sectional area and cerebrospinal fluid pulsatility in the aqueduct of sylvius: a comparative study between healthy subjects and multiple sclerosis patients. PloS One, 2016;11(5), p.e0153960. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27135831
Correale J, Gaitán MI, Ysrraelit MC, Fiol MP. Progressive multiple sclerosis: from pathogenic mechanisms to treatment. Brain. 2017 Mar 1;140(3):527-546. doi: 10.1093/brain/aww258. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27794524
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.
Elster EL. Eighty-one patients with multiple sclerosis and Parkinson's disease undergoing upper cervical chiropractic care to correct vertebral subluxation: a retrospective analysis. J Vertebr Sublux Res. 2004;2:1-9.
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.
Ishida S, Miyati T, Ohno N, et al. MRI-based assessment of acute effect of head-down tilt position on intracranial hemodynamics and hydrodynamics. J Magn Reson Imaging. 2018 Feb;47(2):565-571. doi: 10.1002/jmri.25781. Epub 2017 Jun 3.
Hannah J. The Doctors Who Give No Medicine. International Health Publishing. 2013. https://www.amazon.com/Doctors-Who-Give-No-Medicine/dp/0985795646
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).
Sandro Mandolesi S, Marceca G, Moser J, et al. Preliminary results after upper cervical chiropractic care in patients with chronic cerebro-spinal venous insufficiency and multiple sclerosis. Ann. Ital. Chir., 2015 86: 192-200. pii: S0003469X15023763