Prior to 2015 the medical community had zero workable knowledge of lymphatic drainage from the central nervous system. In theory, it was thought to exist and function in some capacity but no physical structure was ever found. In the words of one of the researchers from the University of Virginia who was a part of this amazing discovery, Dr. Jonathan Kipnis stated,
“I really did not believe there are structures in the body that we are not aware of. I thought the body was mapped…and that these discoveries ended somewhere around the middle of the last century. But apparently they have not.”
The structures the researchers had discovered are tiny vessels that reside in the meninges. These structures line the dural sinuses and transport immune cells to and from the central nervous system. The full text for the study can be found following this link.
This discovery should have profound effects on how neurological conditions are treated, particularly those characterized by a neuro-inflammatory response. Whether it is the build-up of proteins in the brain with conditions such as Alzheimer’s Disease (amyloid plaques) or Huntington’s Disease (huntingtin protein), or the waxing and waning response of multiple sclerosis, the mechanistic relationship adjoining the brain and immune system cannot be ignored.
As upper cervical chiropractors, we have a responsibility to our patients to make sure we are optimizing the bony structure that surrounds the brainstem. One study performed by the National Upper Cervical Chiropractic Association found that secondary venous drainage from the skull was reduced in people suffering from migraine headaches and subsequently relieved symptomatically through the NUCCA correction process but also there was a greater percentage of venous blood flow from the skull post adjustment.
Another study that is currently still in the works is finding a plethora of evidence involving a stagnation of the cerebral spinal fluid and its inability to properly circulate around the brain and spinal cord due to a herniation of the cerebellum through the hole in the bottom of the skull that transmits the brainstem. (This often misdiagnosed as most MRI units view the structures in non-weight baring positions.) This has the effect of placing a cork in the opening of a bottle. Pressure can then build up inside the cranium and around the meninges that surround the brain and spinal cord. When restoration of the bony structure occurs through a specific correction to the misalignments between the skull and the top two vertebrae, the fluid can then begin circulating in a more normal pattern. When this occurs long term, neural tissue has displayed a remarkable ability to heal.
If venous drainage and cerebral spinal fluid can be altered to the extent that it causes disease based on the misalignment of spinal bones, it stands to reason that the same can be said of the proteins that build up in the brain with certain conditions. By restoring normal spinal biomechanics along with dietary changes to reduce systemic inflammation, a conservative approach to some of these conditions could drastically alter the outcome for many people suffering from neurological conditions. For those already under long term management for such conditions, co-managing with upper cervical providers could prove to be an essential missing piece of the puzzle in the patient’s journey back to health.
Dr. Andrew R. Burns
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