Atlas Displacement and Venous Insufficiency – a Case for MS
A lot of people who knew me when I was in my previous practice knew I worked with many people with chronic neurodegenerative diseases like multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s Disease. It always struck people that I would see a patient with those problems because most people associate chiropractic strictly with back aches and neck pain. Why would someone who has MS see a chiropractor?
The truth is, these conditions are incurable, and while they may not lead to an early death, they have devastating impact on a person’s quality of life. They can take away your ability to exercise, write, type, and play music. They can even take away your sense of sight or ability to just go for a walk. Just like anyone else would, these patients are looking for something, anything that can help make their lives just a little bit better, even if they have to look outside of the standard medical box.
One of the reasons that I went from a traditional chiropractic approach to one that focuses on the top of the neck is because I saw what a dramatic impact that the head and neck had on someone’s overall health. When I was training and learning from other doctors, I saw numerous patients walk into the office with canes and wheelchairs, and walk out after a precise Structural Correction. I knew that this was the work I wanted to learn and master.
Turn the clocks forward to 2014 and I’ve had to pleasure and honor to help dozens of patients with Parkinson’s, MS, and post concussion syndrome. I’ve even had the opportunity to publish 2 studies on the effects that correction of Atlas Displacement had on a patient with Parkinson’s and a patient with MS.
By no means am I saying that this is a cure or treatment specifically for these conditions. Nor am I saying that everyone gets better; I’ve certainly taken care of a handful of people that saw no change at all. But as someone who wants to learn and master effective ways to help people who believe they can’t be helped, it’s imperative that we understand how and why these people came to have these devastating conditions.
The Head, Neck, and… Veins?
In 2008, an Italian surgeon did something that made the world start to think differently about MS and the brain. Dr. Paolo Zamboni began studying a correlation multiple sclerosis and venous blockages in the neck. His studies mainly looked at the large jugular veins. When the veins get blocked, it creates a back up of old venous blood and metabolic waste that can increase the back pressure into the brain. In a small sample of MS patients he treated, many patients with MS showed no symptoms or improved substantially.
The condition that he identified is known as Chronic Cerebrospinal Venous Insufficiency, or CCSVI for short. While there is no shortage of skepticism and controversy surrounding the theory, the one thing that is certain is that he has piqued the world’s attention.
For chiropractors, specifically ones that focus on the Upper Cervical spine, this theory can be a beautiful explanation for how we impact the lives of these patients. But instead of affecting the larger jugular vein, the structure of the neck can be affecting the smaller veins within the skull.
When the structural alignment of the head and neck are lost, it can affect the small veins inside of the head that are responsible for draining used blood from the nervous system. When this old blood gets sluggish and backed up from the chronic misalignment, then old blood and cerebral spinal fluid can begin to create damage to these sensitive nerve cells.
In many ways, many of the chronic degenerative neurological diseases have similar features to people with traumatic brain injuries, which is why both MS and mTBI need lots of further study.
Not All Cases are the Same
I’ve taken care of people where numb hands and feet improve, where people walk better without canes, or cases of terrible fatigue begin to get their energy back. Many times, these people had a some kind of trauma or fall months or even years before symptoms began. Many times, these accidents or traumas happened without the presence of pain. The truth is that Atlas Displacement Complex can happen without any signs of symptoms for years.
However, this doesn’t mean that every case of MS is related to this problem. There are many patients that can get this corrected, and not have any improvement in their MS symptoms. MS is a very complex disease, where even 2 people with MS may experience it very differently.
Regardless of whether someone has MS or doesn’t, if you suspect an Atlas problem, new research projects are showing that correcting the Atlas may play a role in preventing chronic damage to our powerful brains.