The brain and the spinal cord have a casual relationship in the nervous system as they help transport neuron signals to the rest of the body. These neuron signals travel through the various nerve pathways that provide motor-sensory functions to the arms, legs, neck, and back that help keep the body upright and function properly. When natural causes or traumatic issues affect the spinal cord, it can cause pain symptoms associated with nerve compression that overlaps with different chronic problems. When there is spinal nerve compression in the back, it may potentially involve low back or neck pain. Today’s article looks at a condition known as Chiari malformation, its associated symptoms with the spine, and how decompression and chiropractic care manage Chiari malformation. We refer patients to certified providers specializing in neurological treatments to help many individuals with Chiari malformation. We also guide our patients by referring to our associated medical providers based on their examination when it’s appropriate. We find that education is the solution to asking our providers insightful questions. Dr. Alex Jimenez DC provides this information as an educational service only. Disclaimer
What Is Chiari Malformation?
Have you been experiencing chronic headaches that are triggering neck stiffness? What about uncontrollable bladder issues? Are you feeling tingling sensations down your fingers and toes? Some of these symptoms are signs that you might risk developing Chiari malformation. Chiari malformation is uncommon when parts of the brain tissue extend into the spinal canal. This condition is a cluster of abnormalities that involves parts of the brain and cervical cord. The brain consists of 6 pieces that have different functions; they are:
- Frontal lobe (Problem-solving, emotions, attention & concentration, etc.)
- Parietal lobe (Sense of touch, visual perception, differentiation, etc.)
- Temporal lobe (Memory, understanding languages)
- Occipital lobe (Vision)
- Cerebellum (Balance, motor activity, coordination)
- The brain stem (spinal cord, breathing, sleep and wake cycles, etc.)
These different brain sections have a casual relationship with their correlated organs and muscles to keep the body moving. When there are deformities affecting the brain from Chiari malformation, studies reveal that the cerebellum is leaking out of the skull and pressing against the surrounding spinal canal, triggering symptoms along the spine.
The Symptoms Associated With Chiari Malformation & The Spine
The symptoms associated with Chiari malformation do affect the spine in the body. The symptoms vary from each individual, ranging from none to severe. The most common sign that is associated with Chiari malformation is a headache. Studies reveal that symptomatic cluster-like headaches are related to various diseases, including Chiari malformation. When dealing with a headache that radiates pain along the neck and shoulders, this is known as somato-visceral pain, where the affected muscle affects the organ, causing pain associated with a chronic issue. Let’s look at another symptom related to the presence of Chiari malformation. Scoliosis is when there is a sideways curvature in the thoracic or lumbar regions of the spine. So how is scoliosis associated with Chiari malformation? When skeletal maturity and age are affected by scoliosis, studies show that neural axis abnormalities correlate with curve progression, causing the risk of Chiari malformation to develop. Other symptoms that are associated with Chiari malformation include:
- Muscle weakness (coordination issues, loss of balance)
- Hearing problems (tinnitus)
- Vision problems (double vision, light sensitivity)
- Issues swallowing
- Troubles sleeping (chronic fatigue, insomnia, sleep apnea)
- Bowel issues
The Diagnosis Of Chiari Malformation-Video
Have you been experiencing bladder issues out of nowhere? Do you feel tingling, burning sensations along your arms and legs? Has your neck and upper back been feeling stiff? These are some of the symptoms associated with Chiari malformation in the cervical region. The video above gives an overview of Chiari malformation, its diagnosis, and how it’s treated. Chiari malformation has multiple causes, but the most common cause is when the cerebellum develops downward and compresses the spinal canal. This causes painful issues on the neck and affects the visceral organs and muscles, causing painful symptoms that potentially involve other parts of the body. Fortunately, treatments are available to manage Chiari malformation and its associated symptoms.
Decompression & Chiropractic Care For Chiari Malformation
Chiari malformation is treatable through decompression and chiropractic care by managing the associated symptoms. Studies show that decompression may improve the symptoms associated with Chiari malformation and regain motor functions in the neck and range of motion in the arms. Decompression for the cervical region allows gentle traction on the neck to elongate the compressed spinal disc to release the pressure off the nerve root. For chiropractic care, spinal manipulation on the upper back may help alleviate headaches due to subluxation or spinal misalignment. Utilizing these two treatments allows many individuals to find the relief they are looking for and help manage the symptoms associated with their chronic issues.
Overall, the brain and spinal cord have a casual relationship in the nervous system as they help transport the neuron signals to each body part to be functional. Traumatic issues or injuries to the spine can cause pain in the cervical, thoracic, and lumbar regions while potentially being involved with chronic issues. Chiari malformation is a chronic condition where the cerebellum develops downwards and compresses the spinal canal. This causes associated symptoms in the cervical region that can drastically affect the upper half of the body. Treatments like decompression and chiropractic care help manage the associated symptoms that are caused by Chiari malformation through non-invasive ways. Incorporating these treatments allow the individual to be pain-free.
Goldschagg, Nicolina, et al. “Decompression in Chiari Malformation: Clinical, Ocular Motor, Cerebellar, and Vestibular Outcome.” Frontiers in Neurology, Frontiers Media S.A., 22 June 2017, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5479925/.
Hidalgo, Joaquin A, et al. “Arnold Chiari Malformation – Statpearls – NCBI Bookshelf.” In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL), StatPearls Publishing, 1 May 2022, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK431076/.
Kaplan, Yüksel, and Özden Kamişli. “Cluster-like Headache Associated with Symptomatic Chiari Type 1 Malformation.” Noro Psikiyatri Arsivi, Turkish Neuropsychiatric Society, Mar. 2014, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5370268/.
Kelly, Michael P, et al. “Spinal Deformity Associated with Chiari Malformation.” Neurosurgery Clinics of North America, U.S. National Library of Medicine, Oct. 2015, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4584090/.
Staff, Mayo Clinic. “Chiari Malformation.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 24 Sept. 2021, www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/chiari-malformation/symptoms-causes/syc-20354010.
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The information herein on "The Impact Of Chiari Malformation" is not intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health care professional, or licensed physician, and is not medical advice. We encourage you to make your own healthcare decisions based on your research and partnership with a qualified healthcare professional.
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