How can I help you? “Well Doc, I can’t raise my arm above my head, I can barely sleep because of the pain in my shoulder and no one knows what is wrong with me.”
I have this conversation almost weekly with new patients. They went the normal route you would expect when faced with a shoulder issue. Referral to an orthopedist, that often leads to an MRI, the MRI is negative for tears or joint issues. Often at that point they are referred to physical therapy for rehab and exercises for the shoulder and arm. If that fails the next move is injections to see if they can find relief from the pain.
All of that is potentially appropriate BUT, what if the problem isn’t actually in the shoulder itself. This is the case in my office frequently. The patient can’t move their arm but nothing is wrong with the shoulder/arm.
The answer usually lies in the patient’s neck. Work through this with me…...you want to move your arm what happens first? Your brain has to tell the arm and shoulder muscles you want to move it. How is this accomplished? Messages through your nerves. How do the nerves and nerve messages reach those muscles? They travel through the spinal cord, out of your skull, down the inside of your neck to the nerves, which then exit the spine and go to the place they need to go.
If that path is clear, then we are all set and don’t have an issue. If, on the other hand, somewhere along that path we get interference, then we have a problem. If the nerve being affected is a motor nerve, suddenly the muscles do not work correctly. If the nerve being affected is a pain nerve, then we get PAIN. If both are affected, we end up with an arm and shoulder that doesn’t work properly and hurts. Sometimes both are severe.
When a patient comes in with this, we evaluate if the neck is misaligned and causing this upper cervical nerve interference. If so, we figure out exactly where and how, then make a very specific correction to relieve the nerve pressure. This is all done without twisting or popping the neck. Once corrected, I can’t count how many times following a neck adjustment a patient has stared at me with disbelief that suddenly they can raise their arm normally and without pain. Sometimes they haven’t been able to do it in years, and on several occasions decades!
If you are suffering with this, and have established your shoulder itself isn’t damaged or injured, then the next logical step is to have your neck evaluated to see if your upper cervical is the source of your condition. Call us today at Upper Cervical Health Centers of Fort Myers for a free consultation 239-243-8810.
“My MRI was normal…” “My CT scan was normal…” I hear this daily from patients seeking answers to why they are feeling pain. All the testing was negative, but they are still experiencing, often severe, symptoms. It can be frustrating, and even scary. When advanced imaging doesn’t appear to provide the answers as to why you don’t feel well, where do you turn?
First, let’s look at the intent of doing this type of diagnostic imaging. Doctors are looking for the obviously visible things, such as torn ligaments, herniated discs, tumors, or visible nerve impingement. Radiologists are highly trained, and have a great eye for the things they are taught to look for. It’s the same with neurologists, they are highly trained to look for some very specific things when looking at diagnostic imaging. But that doesn’t mean either of these types of specialists are always going to pick up on why you don’t feel well. And that is often a source of major frustration for people, which has them seeking answers elsewhere.
Sometimes your symptoms are caused by something so subtle, that it’s missed by the specialists. Something that is often missed by the radiologists and neurologists is the subtle misalignment of the upper cervical part of the neck. Why is it missed by the neurologist, or any number of other specialists? Simply because they weren’t trained to look for it.
An upper cervical misalignment (sometimes referred to as the craniocervical junction) can be very small in measurement, but is often very large in effect. I have seen a misalignment of a millimeter or two devastate a patient’s health. This area houses your lower brainstem, which dictates the behavior of the rest of your spine, so even the smallest misalignment can cause big problems.
As an upper cervical chiropractor, I have been highly trained to look for upper cervical malposition when I look at x-rays, MRI’s, and CT scans. This misalignment can reduce blood flow to the brain, disrupt cerebrospinal fluid flow, cause nerve compression, cause the rest of the spine to twist, and a number of other significant issues. It is simply a different skill set to identify these misalignments.
If you are still searching for answers after being told there is nothing wrong with you, it may be time to have a different set of eyes evaluate your imaging. We offer a complimentary imaging review to evaluate if an upper cervical misalignment could be contributing to your issues. Don’t wait until your symptoms get worse, call us today for a complimentary review.
Growing up, everyone around me would get so excited for Fall and Winter. College football, back to school, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. I secretly thought, “Oh great, Fall and Winter, time for sinus infections, sick days, and a cold I won’t be able to shake for months.”
Despite the fact that I was an athlete, ate well, and on the surface looked healthy, I had to face the reality that my immune system was terrible. I evaluated my diet, and it was solid. Very little sugar, lots of fruits and vegetables, and all the things that should strengthen my immune system. I exercised almost daily. I was doing all the things I was supposed to but…..still sick all the time.
I entered into upper cervical chiropractic care hoping to rid myself of my headaches, sciatica, and ankle pain. Turns out my immune system also got supercharged once I started getting adjusted.
It has been 12 years, and I have had a grand total of ZERO sinus infections. I have only been sick/had a cold two or three times, and have only missed a total of three days of work in 10 years.
How does getting your neck adjusted improve the immune system? It is actually pretty simple.
The nervous system and the immune system are incredibly intertwined. The better the nervous system is functioning, the stronger the immune system functions. There is a system in the brain called the HPA (hypothalamic-pituitary-axis) and one of its functions is determining how much cortisol (the stress hormone) to produce. An increase in stress will signal the HPA to give the command to release more cortisol and it turns out cortisol level balance has a big effect on the immune system. So more cortisol in your system, means a lowered immune response.
If you get really stressed out, your chance of getting sick goes up. Most of us have noticed that overworking, family stress, etc. can run us down, and make us more susceptible to colds/flu and other bugs and viruses. This increase in stress activates the HPA, so more cortisol is released.
If your cortisol levels go too high or too low, it can lead to regular infections, chronic inflammation, and a depression of the immune system in general.
A misalignment of one of the top bones in the neck causes stress, and can also activate the HPA which then releases cortisol, and the whole process begins. This is why it is so important to have proper spinal alignment in order to have a strong immune system.
Research indicates that chiropractic patients have incredibly strong immune systems. Dr. Ronald Pero, chief of cancer prevention research at New York’s Preventive Medicine Institute and professor in Environmental Health at New York University measured 107 individuals who had received long-term Chiropractic care. The chiropractic patients were shown to have a 200% greater immune competence than people who had not received chiropractic care, and a 400% greater immune competence than people with cancer or serious diseases.
Summarizing the research, Pero concluded, “Chiropractic may optimize whatever genetic abilities you have so that you can fully resist serious disease…I have never seen a group other than this show a 200% increase over normal patients.”
It is great to eat proper food, exercise, avoid sugars, and do the best you can for your body, but you also have to ensure your body can do the best for you. Have your spinal alignment checked to make sure your immune system has the best chance to fight off the coming season. Call Upper Cervical Chiropractic Centers of Fort Myers today for your free consultation.
We know concussions are bad. As more and more research comes out, we are really starting to understand just how bad, and gain greater insight into the long term effects of this type of brain injury. A few years ago, we understood bruising the brain was bad, but we didn’t really understand exactly what happens, and how the effects might linger.
To understand what happens, we need to look at a key point of brain anatomy. You may have heard of the blood-brain barrier, this barrier is vital to keeping our brain safe. The barrier is a permeable membrane, that surrounds the brain. Its job is to allow in nutrients and fluid that the brain needs and keep out harmful substances that can damage the tissues.
In a significant concussion, (or Traumatic Brain Injury) the blood-brain barrier can be torn and allow harmful chemicals and minerals to enter the brain. This causes the body’s immune response to kick in. While an immune response is usually good, in the brain it can lead to cell death and damage. If there is a loss of consciousness, this process becomes even more harmful due to a lack of oxygen for a short period of time.
Activating the immune response leads to deposits of a certain type of plaque. Think about heart disease, and what we know about plaque. It accumulates in the arteries and begins to block them. In the brain this plaque can block nerve transmission and cause certain areas to malfunction. These plaques are a hallmark sign in Alzheimer’s disease, and help explain why the risk of Alzheimer’s Disease is increased following head trauma. Much has been said surrounding CTE (Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy) in NFL players. This is due to multiple head injuries. The greatest risk seems to occur when a previous concussion is not fully healed, and a new injury occurs. This short circuits the healing process, and leads the brain’s immune response to overact, and create even more plaque in an effort to heal.
One of the most common outcomes of traumatic brain injury (concussion) is depression. This is due to reduced levels of serotonin (the happy hormone) and a disruption in brain communication in vital areas. Those who have suffered a TBI are also at double the risk of developing addiction issues due to the loss of serotonin.
Often the most debilitating part of this injury is the loss of cognitive ability, which includes attention span, memory, and decision making capabilities. For some it’s a short term issue, but for some it can be long term. The amount of nerve injury, inflammation, and malfunction can lead to a foggy brain that doesn’t function at the speed or accuracy it did prior to the injury.
Roughly 80% of those that suffer a concussion or TBI return to reasonably normal function in two to six weeks. The other 20% continue to suffer symptoms. After three months, this is termed Post Concussion Syndrome or PCS.
This is often a by product of the associated whiplash injury that occurs in most head traumas. Headaches, dizziness, and foggy thinking are often seen in PCS. The upper neck injury, and subsequent misalignment reduces blood flow to the brain and causes interference to nerve transmission. If it is not addressed, symptoms can linger for months or even years.
This is an area where upper cervical chiropractic has shined in terms of helping people recover. By restoring the upper neck to the proper position (without turning or twisting the neck) the whiplash injury heals, and the brain is able to receive what it needs and symptoms generally subside.
If you’ve had a concussion at any time in your life and have been experiencing any of the symptoms mentioned above, a short, non-invasive upper cervical examination can determine whether or not this correction can be the answer. Call today for your free consultation at Upper Cervical Health Centers of Fort Myers!
Think of the color red. Now, look around and I bet you see more red than you noticed before. It is always that way, isn’t it? If you decide on a new car you want to buy, suddenly they seem to be everywhere, when previously they were rare. It isn’t magic, it is just our brains focusing on what we consider important at the time.
There are a number of neurological structures that can be damaged in a traumatic brain injury (car accident, hard fall, sports injury etc). A very important one is something called the Reticular Activating System. We will call it the RAS for short. The RAS is the reason you see red when you think of it, and your new BMW seems to show up everywhere. Its job is to filter out things that are unimportant, while at the same time, relaying the information the brain needs about the things we deem important. This incredibly important system goes unnoticed until it malfunctions. We live in an overstimulated, sensory attacking world, the RAS is how we filter it. The RAS takes in all the sensory information we receive through our ears, eyes, skin etc., and decides what is important and what is not.
Imagine if that system is malfunctioning. Your brain would be overwhelmed with a million different stimulants. That makes it very hard to focus, sleep is often disrupted, and fatigue can be present. Things like ADHD can begin to develop because you are overstimulated. Tight muscles and pain can also occur, because the body is in a constant fight or flight response. Even some psychiatric disorders like schizophrenia and depression have been linked to the RAS. When the brain gets overloaded, it is very difficult for it to function properly.
The RAS is located in the brainstem, and takes input from sensory nerves all over the body. One reason it may continue to misfire following a head injury is an upper neck misalignment. The brain stem extends down into the second bone in the neck. If this area is also injured, (which is extremely common in a trauma that causes a brain injury) it can place pressure on the brainstem and spinal cord, and distort the information the RAS receives. Bad input equals bad output.
The two big questions are; what does this all mean if you have suffered an injury and continue to struggle; and what can be done about it?
First of all, if you have had a brain injury, and continue to have issues even years later, this system malfunction could be the culprit. It causes things like poor concentration, anxiety, difficulties dealing with social situations, unexplained pain, or any number of issues you did not deal with prior to the injury.
The good news is there is great potential for improvement if an upper cervical misalignment is the source. If one (or both) of those bones were misaligned, it is very hard for the body to correct them on its own. Over time as they put pressure on the nerves, and the damage becomes greater and greater. This is why a majority will notice symptoms worsening over time.
Once corrected the nerves are able to heal and begin to correctly transmit information to the RAS, and in turn the RAS can send the proper information to the brain. At that point, the body is able to achieve a proper balance again, and the sensory overload no longer exists. This allows the brain to start functioning normally, and we tend to see symptoms like mental clarity and quality of sleep improve quickly, with other functional improvement following.
Having your upper cervical spine evaluated after a head injury is an important and necessary step in the recovery process whether the injury was recent or years ago.
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.