Back and Neck Injury/Old Neck Injury

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Question
About 40 years ago I injured my neck when I picked up a heavy load and twisted the wrong way. It causes severe dizziness and I actually lose my vision when I turn my head a certain way, everything turns black until I quickly turn my head back. After 10 years of seeing medical doctors, having many tests and trying many medications, even for epilepsy, a top neuroligist tossed a perscription at me and said "There's nothing wrong with you! Go home and take these valium." I was unable to function normally, having to hold onto walls to walk. I was afraid to drive, take baths, etc., not knowing what the cause was. I became sucidal and was laying in bed one night contemplating how I was going to do it, when for some reason I picked up the phone book on the nightstand next to me. I opened it up and there was a huge ad for a chiropractor starring at me. I called him at home that evening and after talking a bit, he told me to come see him the next day. After Xrays and other tests, he told me that the top vertebrea in my neck was off kilter and that there was a main artery running through it. He told me that when I turned my head in certain positions, the vertebrea was cutting off the blood flow to the brain. He gave me adjustments for a year and I was like new again. I had no problems, no dizziness, I actually lost weight and felt happier than I had in many years. Then I was injured again when I worked at a prison and an inmate jumped me, coming down on my head and neck. My chiropractor had since moved away. I found another one, but I just go on ocassion when the dizziness comes on too bad as I have no insurance that covers it. I'm getting older now and I worry about what could happen ... like if I were to have surgery and my head got turned the wrong way during the process, or if I was in a nursing home and unable to go to the chiropractor when I need to. I would like to know your opinion on all this and what you would advise. Surgery on my neck scares me to death! But is it safe and healty to continue getting adjustments? Thank you for any input you can offer.

Answer
Wow, that's a lot to take in!

Your chiropractor was exactly correct in that there is a major brain artery traveling through the bones of the neck, and it's pretty important.  It's a  delicate question that you ask.  Will there be a rupture of the vertebral artery?

The answer is actually: Noone knows.  You could get an arteriogram; it's an xray of the arteries in your head and neck.  That could show if there are any kinks in that vessel.  You can also get a Doppler ultrasound of the neck to see if there is a reduction in flow.

Simply having a doc listen for bruits in the neck is the old school non invasive method of looking for issues.  

However, these tests all simply tell you if, or how bad the problem is.  I'm sure there is a surgical repair for the vessel, but you really should look at another round with a chiropractor.

So let's talk about what you want, and don't want for adjustments.

Extension (tilting up) and rotation (turning) together are what close down the arterial opening, and adjustments combining those two motions are really bad for you.  Doing one at a time should be okay, but together, they are bad actors.

Having a curve in your neck should take the pressure off the vessel, and I recommend a pillow called the Therapeutica pillow... love it.

Getting a chiropractor to adjust your neck without these motions can be tough to find.. we were taught to perform adjustments that way.   I do what's called an anterior to posterior adjustment... it only rotates the head from front to back, and I can teach that to any chiropractor worth their salt, if you find one willing to do it.

Surgery isn't really on the table for you right now.  It's uber invasive, and is risky, certainly riskier than what you've had for what I assume is 50 to 60 years!

Overall, though, if I had advice to give, it would be to not fret too much about your condition.  There's not much to do for it in the meantime, and it's been there probably since birth.  

Back and Neck Injury

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Dr. Peter Carr

Expertise

I can answer spine related issues, as well as golf, running, and whiplash related issues. I run a very busy practice in Downtown Seattle, Dynamic Chiropractic Clinic, and sometimes do not get to answer questions every day, but when I do, I'll try my best to answer the question(s) you have.

Experience

I have a doctorate from Palmer College of Chiropractic, and am a Certified Chiropractic Golf Practitioner. I am also a lecturer on whiplash injury, certified in the etiology and treatment of auto accident cases, and was a national-level mid distance runner.

Organizations
American Chiropractic Association, Washington State Chiropractic Association, Whiplash Seattle Member and founder

Publications
Dynamic Chiropractic, The Beacon

Education/Credentials
DC, BS

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