by Andrew Persky
The journal Neurology Research International published a fascinating paper in 2015 linking numerous neurological conditions—including seizures, migraines, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, MS and ALS—to the joint connecting the head to the top of the neck, referred to as the craniocervical junction (CCJ).
What is the CCJ, and how can it be the underlying cause of so many different brain problems?
The CCJ is comprised of the base of the skull, the first two bones in the neck (C1 and C2) and all of the anatomy passing through that space. Anything going into or out of the head and brain must pass through the CCJ.
According to The Merck Manual, one of the most widely used medical resources for physicians, an abnormality or misalignment of the CCJ can be the underlying cause of:
- Sensory issues and muscle weakness in any part of the body
- Problems with eye movement, hearing, speech, balance and muscle coordination
- Fainting, vertigo, brain fog, weakness and visual disturbance
- Neck pain, often accompanied by headaches
And that’s just a partial list.
How can a misalignment of the CCJ affect brain health?
Considering the important things that pass through the CCJ—blood, cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), brainstem, spinal cord—it shouldn’t be a surprise that misalignment of this area can have profound health effects.
Blood delivers vital oxygen and nutrients to the brain and brainstem. The vertebral and carotid arteries are the two main blood vessels providing oxygen and nutrients to the brain. Similarly, the internal jugular veins are the main route for blood traveling out of the brain. The path of these blood vessels takes them extremely close to (or, in the case of the vertebral artery, directly through a hole in) the first bone in the neck (C1). Therefore, a misalignment of C1 can restrict blood flowing into or out of the brain and brainstem.
A stroke occurs when a blood vessel carrying oxygen and nutrients to the brain is blocked or ruptured, but a more insidious condition can occur when there is a subtle but longer-term restriction of blood to a region of the brain. The health of that region can be affected, eventually functioning abnormally and causing seemingly unrelated neurological symptoms.
The brain contains and is surrounded by a watery liquid called cerebrospinal fluid. In addition to protecting the brain from sudden impacts, CSF also carries nutrients and chemical messengers to the brain and washes away metabolic waste. A buildup of metabolic waste can lead to “brain fog” or degenerative disease, and a buildup of CSF pressure can cause chronic headaches. Pressure increases in the spinal cord can result in numbness, weakness or paralysis in other parts of the body.
Brainstem and Spinal Cord Tension
The brainstem is the control center for the most fundamental functions of the body, such as respiration, heart rate, eye movements and hearing. Anything affecting the health of the brainstem, such as a restriction of its blood supply, can cause problems in any function controlled by the brainstem.
Nerves exit the brainstem and enter the spinal cord, from which they connect to every organ, muscle and sensor in the entire body. C1 and the spinal cord are directly connected by ligaments. A misalignment of C1 can create tension in the spinal cord and a downward tug on the base of the brain. This downward tug can cause the brain to herniate through the base of the skull, a condition referred to as a Chiari. Acting like a cork in a bottle, the Chiari can restrict CSF flow and increase pressure inside the brain (hydrocephalus) or spinal cord (syringomyelia).
How is a misalignment of the CCJ corrected?
The medical approach to correcting CCJ misalignment involves highly invasive surgery at the base of the skull, typically for fusion of the joint using metal screws and plates. Alternatively, there is an advanced form of chiropractic, called “upper cervical chiropractic”, that focuses specifically on precise, non-invasive realignment and stabilization of the craniocervical junction. Patients receiving upper cervical treatment report experiencing profound improvement or resolution of their neurological symptoms.
Dr. Andrew Persky, DC, is founder of LifeAligned Upper Cervical Chiropractic, 1432 Easton Rd., Ste. 4A, Warrington. He has extensive post-graduate training in precise, gentle upper cervical alignment. For more information, call 215-491-4200, email Info@LifeAlignedHealth.com or visit LifeAlignedHealth.com. June 2019