Concussions are usually the result of a blow to the head or severe shaking of the body. In either case, the brain becomes injured from slamming against the inside of the skull. In most cases the brain can heal from the injury in several days or weeks.
Athletes who have been diagnosed with Post-Concussion Syndrome– some having had symptoms for years—have been in the media a lot lately. Most of these athletes now show no evidence of brain injury but still have severe symptoms like headaches, dizziness, difficulty concentrating, emotional and behavioral problems, and difficulty sleeping.
Unfortunately, the brain stem, a more vital part of the nervous system than the brain, is often overlooked in cases of head trauma. A force to the head that is great enough to cause the brain to hit against the inside of the skull and injure it can also cause damage to the upper part of the neck on which head rests. An injury to the upper neck can affect the entire head, neck and the rest of the body leading to serious health problems for years to come.
A force great enough to cause a brain injury is also great enough to move the head (which weighs approximately 12 pounds) relative to the first bone in the neck on which it sits (which weighs approximately 3 ounces.) The result of the misalignment of the first bone in the neck can result in direct nerve pressure at the level of the brain stem that extends from the brain through the top two bones and this pressure can interfere with normal nerve transmission from the brain to any part of the body resulting in a wide range of symptoms and health problems.
Another potential result of a misalignment at the top of the neck is increased cranial pressure, as was the case with former Bears quarterback Jim McMahon. There is a sack called the dura mater that surrounds the brain, brain stem and spinal cord. The sack is connected to the inside of the skull and inside the top two bones in the neck. From there down it hangs loosely around the spinal cord and reconnects at the bottom of the spine. The dura mater is filled with cerebrospinal fluid, CSF, a colorless fluid that serves as a cushion or buffer around the brain and spine. The CSF is produced in the brain and then fills up the skull and the spinal cord.
If one of the upper bones in the neck gets misaligned relative to the head it twists the dura mater like you would a bread bag closing off the opening from the brain down to the spinal cord. The brain continues to produce CSF, and since the CSF cannot exit the skull, it builds up pressure inside the skull. Often this will even push the brain to the bottom of the skull, sometimes forcing the lower brain into the opening where the brain stem exits the skull.
This increase in cranial pressure can result in headaches, impaired cognitive abilities, dizziness, and even emotional and behavioral problems. However, if recognized, it can easily be corrected by an Upper Cervical specialist. As Jim McMahon expressed after years of suffering to the point he had planned to commit suicide, after his first Upper Cervical correction: “It felt like a toilet flushed in my head. I felt better immediately.”
Everyone and anyone who has ever experienced a blow to the head, a whiplash injury, or any injury to the head or neck should have their Upper Cervical spine checked by an Upper Cervical specialist.