Chronic cervical strains can have serious consequences such as chronic cerebrospinal venous insufficiency (CCSVI) and Chiari type conditions. CCSVI occurs as a result of back pressure against the vertebral veins in the cervical spine. Chiari conditions occur when the brainstem sinks into the foramen magnum.
Chiari conditions can occur as a result of whiplash pulling the brainstem into the foramen magnum. It can also occur in the aftermath of whiplash due to deformation of the relationship between the foramen magnum and the neural canal of the upper cervical area. Lastly, a Chiari condition can result due to CCSVI causing failure of passive cerebrospinal fluid production and loss of brain support allowing the brainstem to sink into the foramen magnum.
Motor vehicle accidents are one of the major causes of whiplash injuries, which includes cars, atv’s, snow mobiles, dirt bikes etc. Collisions also occur in sports such as hockey, figure skating, skate boarding, bicycling, football, boxing, wrestling and many others too numerous to mention.
In addition to high speed accidents, slow, sustained and chronic strains can have similar affects on spinal structures.
In engineering terms, stress from any type of force always strains the structures and materials they act upon. Any structure or material can be strained technically speaking. All strains by definition result in deformation of their respective structures and materials. The difference is that elastic strains return to normal. Plastic strains do not.
The crossover point between an elastic and plastic strain is the yield point. Strains are categorized as large and small. Small strains can be further broken down into micro and infinitesimal strains. Regardless of the size, even small strains can have a large impact on structures, for example cracks in a foundation fortelling of catastrophic failure.
Likewise, the human body has many structures that can be strained from soft tissues like tendons, ligaments and cartilage to less elasic tissue such as bone.
Jumping from a steel bridge while attached to a bungee cord causes large elastic strains and deformation in the bungee cord. At the same time it causes infinitesimally small elastic strains in the bridge. Lastly, it causes, small, hopefully elastic strains in the jumpers body. On the other hand, whiplash and other sudden jerky or even slow sustained types of forces can cause chronic micro plastic strains in spinal bones, muscles and connective tissues.
Chiropractors collectively categorize all mechanical strains of the spine as subluxations. Technically speaking, subluxations are micro mechanical plastic strains that cause dis-ease in physiology, which is function. Some chiropractors maintain that subluxations must include interference in the communication in the nervous system. They further maintain that the only place that this truly occurs is in the upper cervical vertebrae, which are atlas and axis or C1 and C2 respectively. It’s an age old arguement in chiropractic.
All strains of the spinal tissues, however, can alter physiology. Furthermore, the spine is a unified structure, not a bunch of isolated segments, so one faulty segment can affect the function of the entire structure. Strains of the upper cervical area, for example, can affect the low back and strains of the low back can affect the neck. When spinal segments list to one side due to a tilt in the pelvis caused by a leg length discrepancy it affects the shoulders, neck and head. Likewise, a ten to fourteen pound head tilting to one side can affect segments in the low back and pelvis.
Scoliosis (abnormal curvatures)have also been shown to affect the contents of the spinal canal, especially the vertebral veins, as they get compressed against the inside of the curvature, which can result in venous congestion and sluggish blood flow in the area. Lastly, deformation of the cartilage between the vertebra, called discs, can compress nerve roots directly, while other types of spinal strains deform soft tissue tunnels, such as the thoracic outlets in the shoulder girdle, and the femoral and sciatic outlets in the pelvis.
The upper cervical spine, however, is without question, one of the most critical areas of the spine, subject to a great deal of wear and tear stresses that start with birth and continue throughout life. Sometimes those stresses result in chronic strains called subluxations. The difference between upper cervical subluxations and those that occur further down in the spine, is that subluxations of the upper cervical spine affect the health of the brain and cord.
Among other things, upper cervical subluxations are associated with deformation, albeit small, of hard and soft tissue tunnels that contain critical circulatory routes for blood and cerebrospinal fluid flow, including venous drainage routes used to drain the basement of the brain during upright posture. Thus upper cervical subluxations can result in CCSVI. But they also do much more. The fact of the matter is, upper cervical subluxations don’t simply pinch nerves and interfere with communication between the brain and body. In contrast to a fracture of the upper cervical spine that can kill a person instantly, upper cervical subluxations slowly strangle the life out of the brain and cord.