The teen depression rate is alarming. The teen suicide rate is terrifying. In fact, according to suicide.org a teen takes his or her own life every 100 minutes. Suicide is the third-leading cause of death for young people ages 15 to 24. Approximately 20% of teens experience depression before they reach adulthood, and between 10% to 15% suffer from depression symptoms at any one time.
Depression is a complex topic. The potential causes vary widely and include abuse, genetics, social pressures, and the list goes on. The external factors can certainly play a big role, and in fact, that’s really where most people’s attention goes. But let’s look at the internal system, specifically the brain and brain stem, because it’s often overlooked.
Multiple areas of the brain have been shown to decrease in size and/or activity in depressed individuals and other areas are more active. To discuss them all would require a blog longer and more complex than most of us would want to read.
First, let’s look at the difference in a teen brain vs an adult. One of the biggest differences is the development of the prefrontal cortex. The prefrontal cortex is responsible for rational thought. This area isn’t fully developed until around age 25. This area of the brain allows us to consider consequences, think before we act, and better control inappropriate behaviors. Studies suggest that teens make decisions that are more driven by the amygdala. This is important because the amygdala is the heart of our emotional system. So when a teen over-reacts or gets highly emotional at situations in a way that seems irrational, this difference is what is at play.
The amygdala (I know this is getting "sciency" but stick with me, and it will soon make sense) is important for the processing of emotions, especially negative emotions. This includes fear, anger, panic, and anxiety. The more the amygdala is stimulated, the greater these emotions will be felt. Much of the stimulus of the amygdala comes from our senses. All the information the body collects from our eyes, ears, and skin. This is part of our fight or flight response. If we are in a calm and safe environment, the amygdala and these emotions should, in theory, be calm and relaxed.
All of this sensory information is gathered, then sent to the brainstem. The brainstem is at the base of our brain, and extends down into the upper cervical part of our neck between the top two vertabra. The brainstem takes this information and sends it to the Thalamus, (which is basically a relay center that sends information to multiple parts of the brain) which then sends the sensory information to the Amygdala.
Now, let’s tie this all together. If the sensory information from the body reaches the amygdala properly, then we will have the appropriate emotions and feelings for the environment and situation we are currently experiencing. If, however, this information is distorted, it can overstimulate the amygdala, and now we have negative emotions that do not fit with our situation. If one of the top two bones in the neck is misaligned, it can place mechanical pressure on the brainstem. This pressure irritates the nerves , and has the ability to distort the information they carry. Our brain is then getting inaccurate information, and problems begin.
Not every case of teen depression or suicide can be explained by this being the problem, and as I said at the beginning, it is a multi-factor issue. Correcting the upper neck is not always the answer, but it certainly could be. Having this area evaluated is an important piece of the puzzle for teens that are struggling.
I had a concerned mom bring in her 14-year-old daughter. Let’s call her Anne. Anne had struggled from depression since she was 11. What was once a happy and socially-engaging girl had become a reclusive and angry young teen. She was on multiple medications, and had begun to cut herself on her worst days. She was no longer in school, because she had such severe anxiety she could barely leave the house. Anne was angry at the world, and had attempted to kill herself twice over the last six months. Many hours of therapy, and attempt after attempt with different medications had made almost no difference at all. I found a rather large misalignment of the top bone in her neck. Over the next two months we monitored her neck, and adjusted it when necessary. The transformation was readily apparent. She stopped cutting almost immediately. Anne started helping out around the house more, and began having fun with her family again. She told me she no longer felt like she didn’t want to live, and she had begun to think about her future in a positive light.
This was 7 years ago, and I am happy to say she returned to school, graduated, attended college, and is now in a career and doing great. Her depression and anxiety are a thing of the past, and she is thriving as all parents want for their children. Removing the pressure from her neck changed her entire life.
Not every case is this dramatic but she is far from the only one to have incredible results from an upper cervical correction. It is worth the time to have this area evaluated to see if it may be a contributing factor in a teens’ daily struggle. Isn’t it worth it to have us do a free evaluation to see if this may be the issue? Call us at Upper Cervical Health Centers of Fort Myers for your free consultation today, 239-243-8810!
Trigeminal Neuralgia is among the top suicide diseases in the world. I put that out to quickly identify the level of pain and debilitation this condition can deliver to those that suffer with it. That means the suicide rate among those diagnosed with it is among the highest of any condition. The pain becomes so severe the person just can’t stand it any longer.
Trigeminal Neuralgia (TN) involves severe pain in the face and head. The trigeminal nerve has 3 branches. One goes to the area of the eye, one to the cheek and upper lip, and the third to the lower jaw and lip area. When the nerve is damaged/malfunctions it can shoot searing pain or numbness into any of these areas and often a combination of them. Imagine the worst tooth pain shooting through your face multiple times a day without warning. Often, the first place suffers go, is to the dentist. It can mimic tooth pain so closely that I have even had patients come in after having a tooth pulled, in hopes it would relieve the pain. Since it is not a dental issue, this doesn’t solve the problem.
The medical options for TN normally involve a progression from strong neurological drugs, to injections, possibly Botox, and if all else fails, surgery where the nerve is burned to try to stop the pain. The success rate is not very high. Often they allow some measure of control over the pain, but not lasting relief.
The trigeminal nerve branches off and ends in the face and head, but it actually starts in the upper neck. Many cases of TN develop after a head/neck trauma. Compression on the nerve begins to damage it, and the pain follows. This compression can be caused by several mechanisms. A tumor pressing on the nerve is a potential cause, but this is very rare. A blood vessel can shift a bit and put pressure on it. One of the most common reasons I see is a misalignment of the top bone in the neck. This is why so many cases occur following traumas. Keep in mind, this may not be immediately following the incident. The compression on the nerve has to be there long enough to cause enough damage for the pain or numbness to kick in.
In an auto accident, slip or fall, or any other head and neck injury, it is usually an unresolved whiplash injury that leads to trouble. The top bone misaligns and compresses the tissue inside of it. This is where the trigeminal nerve originates. This pressure remains for as long as the bone is misaligned. Normally, when the bone gets stuck out of position, the body is unable to “unstick’ it. Over time the nerve is damaged, and symptoms begin. If this is the case, medications, injections, and even surgery usually do not fix the problem. You have to address the neck injury to relieve the pressure on the nerve.
I had one TN patient come in unable to properly brush their teeth for 2 years, and after correcting the upper neck, the pain disappeared. My success rate isn’t 100% in these cases, but it is in the high 80% range. I have seen so many patients have their life restored by a simple upper neck correction. If you or someone you know is suffering, it is worth the time to have a neck evaluation to see if this is the answer. It is non-invasive, only takes a few minutes, and could very well be the answer.
Most everyone is familiar with the term scoliosis as curvature of the spine. If you look at the spine from the side you want to see curves. They are the spine’s natural position, and allow the spine to work like a shock absorber to handle the weight of the body. But when we look at it from the back, we don’t want to see curves. The spine should be straight and stacked on top of itself. If a curve is present when looking from that direction, we call it a scoliosis.
There are two types of scoliosis. Structural and functional. A structural scoliosis is rare, it occurs in 1 in 10,000 cases. In these cases, one of the vertebrae does not develop properly in utero. Instead of being flat across the top and bottom of the bone it develops in more of a wedge shape. This causes the spine to tilt.
In functional scoliosis, all of the vertebrae develop normally, but the spine still curves. This is also called idiopathic scoliosis. Idiopathic really meaning we don’t know why…..There can be rare cases of tumor, severe inflammation, or a neurological condition like cerebral palsy, that cause it, but generally it is more muscular in nature.
Treatment options vary, depending on severity. Non-invasive treatment is often physical therapy, based on strengthening and stretching, to balance muscle strength, length, and tone. A common treatment if it is a more advanced curve, is a scoliosis brace. The brace is designed to hold the spine progressively straighter, to train the body to hold a straight line. If the scoliosis is in the upper back, this really isn't an option. If the curve is advanced enough, over 40 degrees, surgery becomes a topic. In extreme cases, the curve can be so severe that it begins to impair breathing. The surgery involves implanting titanium rods, called Harrington rods, along the sides of the spine, and screwing them into the vertebrae. Flexibility is limited, and generally there are some complications and residual issues.
I see these cases often, and have had great success with the large majority of them. Recently, a young lady came in with a curve that was just a few degrees below the level that surgery starts being discussed. In a few short months, we have decreased the main curve by over 10 degrees, and the smaller curves are almost completely resolved. This was all done with five upper cervical adjustments of the top bone in the neck, and a few minor hip adjustments.
It makes sense, once you look at it. The top bone in the neck is the base for your head. Which means it determines if your brain is level. If the top bone is properly aligned, it will be straight, and therefore your head is straight. If it misaligns, it will slide out to one side and up. This movement creates head tilt, and the brain doesn't like that. It wants your head to be level, so it kicks in a reflex to level itself out. This will cause the rest of the spine to contort itself, and move however is necessary. This can create scoliosis, as it did in this young lady. Once the top bone is corrected, and the brain is level, the alteration to the spine is no longer necessary. As the muscles relax, the body begins to straighten out.
Upper cervical has a great track record of improving scoliosis, and keeping patients out of having to have invasive surgeries, or annoying braces. Being adjusted also improves pain levels and the patient’s quality of life.
We offer a complimentary scoliosis screening and upper cervical exam to determine if a scoliosis is being caused by a cervical misalignment. Call us today to set up your free exam.
I often find common themes among patients and conditions. A body that is malfunctioning may have varied primary complaints, (the one that brought them to the office) but the secondary issues are often similar. One of the most common is menstrual issues, which include irregularity, severe cramping (well above average), Endometriosis, hormonal migraines, or other associated issues.
Very often young ladies are brought in, and are already on birth control pills because their cycles are such a problem. I see a fair amount of women who have had miscarriages or infertility issues as well. Regardless of what we call it, the fact remains it is a body not working properly. A menstrual cycle is natural, and if the body is working correctly, it should be a mild inconvenience, a few days a month. I often see it being a major life alteration for a week or even more.
Our bodies are always in a constant balancing act—maintaining proper blood pressure, hormone levels, neurotransmitters, and a million enzymes etc. This balancing act is the job of the autonomic nervous system. Autonomic simply means the things in our body that are done automatically, and we don’t even think about them. You have to think about moving your arm, but not about secreting thyroid hormones. This system has two halves, the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. The sympathetic is known as fight or flight, and the parasympathetic is known as the rest or digest. What they amount to are our gas and brake pedals. If we need more of things, the gas kicks in, if we need less, the brakes are put on. These systems also determine how much blood is delivered to different areas, and the precise hormone balance we need to be at our best. If that balance is disturbed, we run into trouble. In the case of menstrual issues, a whole cascade of events can occur.
In the course of a woman’s monthly cycle there are a number of hormones at play. The cycle starts when the hypothalamus (in the brain) sends a signal to the pituitary gland to release follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH). Then estrogen levels rise, triggering the pituitary gland to release luteinizing hormone (LH). Later on, if you aren’t pregnant, estrogen and progesterone decrease, which causes your period to start, and the uterine lining to shed. There are more hormones and more details, but I think the picture should be clear. It is a delicate balance of hormones and timing, involving multiple areas of the brain, and a number of different hormones. If this balance is off just a little, things will begin to go wrong. The timing and area of trouble will largely determine what types of symptoms you deal with.
The hypothalamus regulates the autonomic nervous system (our gas and brake pedals). The hypothalamus is dependent on the brainstem for input, so it knows what decisions to make. The brainstem is the tail end of the brain, and rests partly in our skull, and then drops down into the top two bones in the neck. If the brainstem malfunctions, the hypothalamus gets bad information. As I like to say to patients “garbage in, garbage out.”
One of the most common causes of brainstem malfunction is a misalignment of one of those top bones in the upper cervical neck. Maybe it was a car accident, a slip, a fall, even a birth trauma that misaligned them, but once they get stuck out of place, the body struggles to unstick them. Once misaligned, two major things can occur. The nerves of the brainstem get irritated, and the brainstem can be robbed of proper blood flow. Either of these (and usually it is both) can cause it to not function properly.
I know this was a little technical at times, so let me draw a line so to speak. The upper neck gets misaligned, the brainstem is compromised, it begins to send bad information, and the bad information travels to the hypothalamus. The hypothalamus now sends out bad information, and our autonomic nervous system gets out of balance. Poor balance of hormones disrupts the critical timing and levels necessary to have a proper menstrual cycle.
I can’t even count the number of female patients that began care struggling with their periods, and pretty quickly saw tremendous improvement. We get the pressure off the brainstem, allowing their body to function properly, and a functioning body is a healthy body, which means their menstruation cycle stops being as big an issue.
Is your menstruation cycle interrupting your life? We offer a free evaluation to determine if your upper cervical spine is in the proper shape and working correctly. Call us at Upper Cervical Health Centers of Fort Myers for your free consultation today, 239-243-8810!
My new patient paperwork has a few questions about feeling rested and quality of sleep. More often than not, patients state that they are fatigued most of the time, struggle to sleep or some combination of the two. Some say they sleep all night, (often 8-10 hours) and still feel exhausted when they wake up. Sleeping for that long should have them waking up feeling great….right?
Turns out just having your eyes closed and not being alert doesn’t equal great sleep. Regardless of how long you are in that state. As I have written about a number of times, our body essentially has a gas pedal and a brake pedal. The sympathetic nervous system is the gas and the parasympathetic is the brake. These two make up our autonomic nervous system (autonomic as in automatic). That’s all the countless things our bodies do that we don’t think about. It includes heart-beat, digestion, and in this case hormone production, release, and restoration.
When you are up during the day, your gas pedal should be dominant so you can get things done, be alert, make decisions etc. When you go to bed, the brake needs to be applied. If you constantly held the gas pedal down on your car for a month without letting up, what sort of shape would your engine be in? I’m not a car guy (at all), but I’m pretty sure it would be a mess.
The same goes for your body. Without the brakes being applied allowing you to rest, you are in big trouble. Fatigue, irritability, difficulty getting through the day, higher blood pressure, and a host of other things can occur.
Let’s go back to our car analogy for a minute. Do you put gas, oil, wiper fluid etc. in your car while driving? I hope not. You do this when you stop. Your body also doesn’t replenish when you are moving. It waits until you are sleeping to replenish hormones, repair cells, and all the functions it performs to make you feel rested, and take on the day.
The most common reason I see that the gas pedal is always down, is a misalignment in the upper neck. The tissues compress the brainstem and spinal cord, which serves to stimulate them. Since they partially make up, and largely control, the autonomic nervous system, it now begins to malfunction. The constant stimulation causes your body to always be in fight or flight mode, and then comes the chronic fatigue that you can’t seem to overcome no matter how much you rest.
One of the most common comments I hear from patients following a first adjustment, is how that night they had the best sleep they could remember. They woke up the next day feeling refreshed and alive.
Waking up feeling exhausted? We offer a free evaluation to determine if your upper cervical spine is in the proper shape and working correctly. Call us at Upper Cervical Health Centers of Fort Myers for your free consultation today, 239-243-8810!
Dr. Lee Angle
Dr. Lee Angle is originally from southern West Virginia. After having his life changed through Upper Cervical Care he chose to pursue it as a career. He has been practicing Upper Cervical Chiropractic for over nine years. Dr. Angle previously worked as a certified personal trainer. This background allows him to educate his patients on proper movement and exercises to speed their recovery and enhance their Upper Cervical Care.