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.
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.