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!
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.