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The Holy Grail

Cross section of the spinal cord.

Cross section of the spinal cord.

If there is one thing chiropractors can agree on, it is that the nervous system can be disturbed and cause negative effects on the body. There are varying theories as to the reason for this but most chiropractors conclude it is related to the bones in the vertebral column being out of alignment. The Dentate Ligament – Cord Distortion Hypothesis is just one of those theories. This is, to some chiropractors, the Holy Grail to their rational and purpose in caring for patients.

The Dentate Ligament theory follows the premise that the spinal cord is anchored to various points in the vertebral column and chronic mal-positioning of these structures could lead to torsion of the spinal cord. The torsion on the spinal cord may irritate and cause disturbances in transmission of mental signals or impulses leading to a diverse number of symptoms to appear in the person.

If the spinal cord is directly attached to the upper cervical spine, and if the vertebra were put out of alignment, would that cause interference with the nervous system?

Dr. John D. Grostic explains in his research:

This hypothesis states that misalignments of the upper cervical vertebrae, because of their unique attachment to the spinal cord by means of the dentate ligaments, can directly stress and deform the spinal cord. Subsequently, this stress on the cord, in addition to direct mechanical irritation, may produce venous occlusion with stasis of blood and resulting anoxia in particular areas of the upper cervical cord.

Venous occlusion and stasis of blood in the cranial region is something being heavily researched for it implications on neuro-degenerative diseases such as Multiple Sclerosis and Parkinson’s Disease. This is being looked at by vascular surgeons as a possible accessory to the cause of some of these diseases.

The research identifies three “challenges” that validate the presupposition that a misaligned vertebra in the upper cervical region will cause torsion on the spinal cord rendering interference of mental impulses and demonstrating physical and/or neurological manifestations.

Challenge 1

Is the dentate ligament mechanically linked to the osseous structures of the upper cervical spine?

Challenge 2

Is the dentate ligament strong enough to deform the spinal cord?

Challenge 3

Are the osseous misalignments large enough to cause mechanical irritation to the cord?

The author relates positive findings of all three challenges, confirming the theory that the plausibility of a misalignment in the upper cervical region to cause physical and neurological disturbances in the individual.

I encourage you to read the full article to gain a better understanding of how this phenomena is explained.

Read full article

References

  • Grostic, John D. The Dentate Ligament – Cord Distortion Hypothesis Chiropractic Research Journal published 1988
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Natural Treatment for Hypertension

5 April 2012 1 comment

As I started to read an article on hypertension and upper cervical care from the Journal of Human Hypertension, the very first sentence of the abstract struck me as eye opening and I re-read it to absorb it meaning. “Anatomical abnormalities of the cervical spine … associated with relative ischaemia of the brainstem circulation…” What?! I knew that blood pressure is commonly decreased with upper cervical care but I had no idea ischemia or inadequate blood flow was taking place – at the brainstem no less. If there is and part of your body that you want continuous blood flow to, it’s your brain.

Lets look at the anatomy involved:

So how does a misalignment cause increased blood pressure? I am not 100% sure and the study was not helpful in discovering an exact explanation. The study did hypothesis that there would be a concurrent drop in heart rate with the correction of the misalignment which was not the case. If this had occurred, then that would lead to suspicion of sympathetic involvement and blood vessel control. There may yet be a neurological component but it is clear that a mechanical decrease of blood flow is possible with the tortuous path of the vertebral artery and all the dynamic anatomy surrounding it.

The presentation of this study, albeit small sample size(n=50), follows the traditional methodology of medical research, double blind and use of a placebo group. During the study no hypertensive medication was taken by either group. The intervention included a NUCCA evaluation (described in the article) and NUCCA adjustment of the Atlas vertebra. The outcome was that the treatment group had a decrease in systolic blood pressure by more than 13 points and a 7 point drop in diastolic blood pressure.

Interestingly, the criteria for a new antihypertensive drug to be cleared by the FDA is that it lowers diastolic blood pressure by at least 5mmHg and free of serious side effects. This part sums up the application of this research in a nutshell:

“The improvement in BP following the correction of Atlas misalignment is similar to that seen by giving two different antihypertensive agents simultaneously. Moreover, this reduction in BP persisted at 8 weeks and was not associated with pain or pain relief or any other symptom that could be associated with a rise in BP.”

Some related studies show that 90.6% of people that suffer hypertension have compression of the vertebral artery at the level of Atlas. This is an option for anyone that is hypertensive or even borderline hypertensive to help regulate your blood pressure and health.

Other natural consideration in addition to upper cervical care that have shown to help decrease blood pressure are: exercise, improve quality of diet, fish oil supplement, weight loss, decrease stress and avoid tobacco & alcohol.

Suspended Nerves

14 February 2012 1 comment

The organization of the body is amazing! Each muscle and ligament has an attachment to another structure and therefore is influenced by or can influence the structure. Everything is tied together and is dependent that each part functions correctly.

I think of a suspension bridge like the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. The road is being suspended by hangers which are themselves suspended by cables. The cables run the length of the bridge and from tower to tower. Each tower provides an anchoring point for the cables but also the rigid structure from which the rest of the bridge can “suspend”. Imagine if one of those towers could pivot. The cables would pull taught or let loose depending on the direction of the pivot. That would cause the road to pull up on the side of increased tension and let down on the opposite. Thus the towers influence the function or dysfunction of the bridge.

There was a study done on where the origin and attachment sites are on each of the cervical nerves. I find it interesting that there are four ligaments that “suspend” each nerve as it passes though the IVF. Each of these ligaments have their own different attachment site and different movements will pull or let loose part of the spinal nerve and therefore cause temporary deformation or obstruction of the nerve. This is normal and the body can tolerate this temporary distortion well. The problem arises when there are chronic mal-positions of these nerves due to misaligned vertebra.

As upper cervical doctors, we have a special interest in the Occipital-Atlas-Axis complex. The article talks about the how the C2 spinal nerve is attached to the transverse process of Atlas. We have seen some wicked rotation films of Atlas, some exceeding 7-8 degrees. I can’t help but wonder how the tension of that ligament is affecting that spinal nerve, not to mention the spinal cord as a whole.

I am so grateful that the knowledge is available so we all can benefit from reducing the subluxation and restore the full functioning potential of the miracle that is our body.

Check out the article for your own enjoyment.

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