March is Multiple Sclerosis Awareness Month

There has been a lot of conversations around Multiple Sclerosis lately, especially since the famous actress, Selma Blair, bravely revealed that she has been battling this for a few years.

In honor of Multiple Sclerosis Awareness Month, we wanted to discuss what Multiple Sclerosis is and how chiropractic can help.

Multiple Sclerosis is a neurological condition in which the protective insulation of neurons is replaced with scar tissue. This alters the conduction of nerve impulses and produces a wide range of symptoms such as vision loss, pain, fatigue, impaired coordination and even tremors. Diagnosis requires advanced imaging of the brain to reveal sclerotic plaques in important neural pathways in MS patients. Recent literature considered MS is the auto-immune disease category.

Many patients suffering from this condition seek chiropractic care. Often it is the chiropractor able to make the initial diagnosis and the appropriate referral, but many of these patients seek chiropractic to help manage their condition or it’s symptoms.

In a recent study that evaluated 44 MS patients receiving care in an upper cervical chiropractic clinic, 91% had shown improvement in their symptoms and function. While chiropractors would not claim to treat any disease, symptom, or condition we do know that this population of patients improve under chiropractic care. From just feeling better to actual improvement or resolution in visual disturbances, tremors, or other more debilitating symptoms, patients with multiple sclerosis do well with chiropractic.

Let’s explore a possible mechanism that could explain their improvement. The most obvious explanation would come down to the propagation of impulses along the affected nerve fibers. With the protective insulation being attacked and replaced by scar tissue in MS, the nerve loses its ability to affectively send the signals of neurologic communication.

Chiropractic is the detection, analysis and correction of interference to those very same neurologic impulses. Of course we wouldn’t directly address the plaques scarring the nerve, rather, chiropractors analyze the spine for sites of neurologic interference. Postural distortions and spinal misalignments alter the transmission of nerve impulses, making it impossible for the body to function and adapt to stress as it was designed to do, because it’s feedback cycles have been interrupted. In this state, called subluxated, the brain received inaccurate information about its environment, making it nearly impossible to respond appropriately. If this disfunction persist, we can grow into some pretty serious conditions. By removing interference to proper neurologic function at the spine, many MS patients are able to function better even though plaques may still be present. Think of it like the scarring and bony misalignment each being a kink in a hose, impairing the steady flow of water. Removing one of the kinks can still increase flow of water, even with the other still present. Simplistic but it fits.

Research in recent years had shed some light on another mechanism through which chiropractic affects the human body, and it involved the normal flow of cerebrospinal fluid, or CSF. CSF is a fluid that is produced within the brain, and surrounds the central nervous system, and keeps the brain and spinal cord suspended in the spinal column and protected outside forces. CSF has a steady flow, pumped my movement of our spine and our respiration. It delivers nutrients to our cells of the CNS and removes waste. The body keeps the pressure of this vital substance tightly regulated between the cranium and spinal column, as it circulates from the sacrum in the pelvis up and around the brain and back down. As with circulation of any fluid, there is opportunity for interruption. Often this takes place at the craniocervical junction due to the anatomy and function of the area.

Where the head meets the neck may be the most important part of the body. Almost every nerve in the body comes together at this point in order to send or receive signals to or from the brain. The brain stem is very nearby, which regulates all the autonomic functions of the body, from blood pressure to respiration to digestion and absorption. Remember what happened to Christopher Reeves? That injury was to this part of his neck, the first cervical vertebrae, which damaged the adjacent neurological structures, making normal function no longer possible.

While Super Man’s injury was an extreme example of excessive trauma to this area, there can be lesser degrees of neurological insult to this area still inhibiting normal function. As Dr. Julie Mayer Hunt has displayed in her research, malpostions of the top bones in the neck and directly affect the normal fluid dynamics in the area. Function MRIs have shown impaired CSF circulation when the top bone in the neck is not proper aligned with the base of the skull. After specific analysis and correction of this malposition, functional MRI shows restoration of normal CSF circulation.

Thanks great, but what does that mean?

This carries potential implications for managing patients with CSF circulation problems, and those with MS or neurodegenerative disorders. A commonality in these conditions is the build up of proteins, plaques or other waste that directly impaired function of the nervous system. If proper CSF circulation is maintained, it stands to reason that the central nervous system would be better off, free of toxic accumulation of waste and able to function interference free, as is was designed to do.

Thanks for engaging in our conversation this week. Please reach out if you have questions or comments.

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