I’m sure you’ve just shown up after reading Part 2 of my “headache” story, where I discussed my diagnosis of C1/C2 instability, and the intracranial pressure that was being caused by the obstruction of cerebral spinal fluid flow via the atlas misalignment, brain scarring, and degenerative and damaged upper cervical discs causing even more obstruction of CSF through the spinal canal.
This is the final post in my short series on what started out as a migraine headache, but ended up being something entirely different. It was never a migraine or tension headache. It was intracranial pressure with a very real reason behind it: sluggish cerebral spinal fluid flow, and even moderately blocked in some places.
I now understand the importance of Cerebral Spinal Fluid (CSF) flow. More than most people, anyway. CSF cushions and protects the brain and nervous system. It provides nutrients. It’s life-giving. It washes the brain, and rids it of waste.
My mind has, literally, been sitting in a pool of filth for years.
I had always known it was more than a migraine, but I couldn’t get anyone to listen to me, so please use your voice. Speak your truth. Find a way to get them to listen or move on to someone who will. Eventually, someone will hear you.
And, treatment always lies in knowing the CAUSE. Search for the cause.
The Girl Seated Near Me
Before meeting with Dr. Rosa again, I was sitting in that small waiting room with my husband. We saw a young girl and her mother come in and sit down.
My husband noticed her soft neck brace, was intrigued, and immediately asked them why they were there.
This girl was very young, in her early twenties, and a nurse. She started by telling us that one night, a couple of years ago, she woke up with a “migraine” that never went away. She also started sleeping excessively, like 12-14 hours, and lose track of her days Her energy changed and she always felt depleted.
We started to compare stories.
They had also been to several doctors, with no help. Many of our symptoms were eerily similar. Her headaches starting out of nowhere. We were both fatigued. She couldn’t associate a trigger of any kind with her migraines either. We both had unexplained pain and discomfort coming from the same source, and it ultimately was stealing our joy for life.
She ended up in that waiting room because she was in the hospital with a family member who had just had surgery and she had a casual conversion with his attending doctor when, after hearing her story, recommended the chiropractor, whose office we were currently sitting in. They came from out of state, like we did.
It’s amazing how your path changes when someone crosses it. I don’t believe in coincidences, or that things happen by chance. I think if someone or something is put on your path, it’s for a good reason and you should pay attention.
And, in meeting her, I instantly felt less alone and better understood.
Atlas Orthogonal Treatment
Our conversation was, unfortunately, cut short as I was called back in to the doctor’s office. After the dizzying amount of information I had already tried to absorb throughout the day, it was time to determine what could be done about the C1 misalignment and C1/C2 instability.
Dr. Rosa explained to me that while things seemed bad, he had seen worse, and there is hope for healing through the Atlas Orthogonal approach. My bones and tissues had been “lead astray” by the misalignment for a very long time, which caused unforeseen changes in my neck and brain that only added to the complicated problem I was already suffering from.
As explained in the previous posts, Atlas Orthogonal gently puts the C1 back in place using percussion. It’s painless to have done, and very quick. One click of the machine and you’re done. That’s not the issue, though. The issue comes in the form of the “bad habits” my muscles, tissues, and bones have created over time.
My Very First Atlas Adjustment
My treatment was very focused on the C1 and getting it back into alignment and keeping it there. This proved to be very difficult, as it had been out for many years and my bones, muscles and tissues had adapted to it’s misalignment.
This adaptation is what lead to the obstruction of the cerebral spinal fluid, chronic intracranial pressure, and other strange symptoms, but I was ready to move on.
The first adjustment was done using an orthogonal machine with very precise measurements that Dr. Rosa calculated, using the MRI imaging as a guide. I laid on my left side on the table with my head on a small platform slightly above the table that adjusted up and down to get me in the right position for adjustment. A mechanical “arm” with a long, tapered metal rod was manually placed behind my right ear lobe (towards the atlas). Then a button is pushed, I hear a soft “click”, and it’s over.
I immediately felt better. The terrible shooting pains and eye pressure lessened, but my muscles (especially around my neck) got increasingly tight and painful, fighting against the change.
I was instructed to wear a soft neck brace to help hold the adjustment, but the pain in my neck was just too great and the pulling of the muscles forced me to take it off during a play we were seeing in New York City the day after my very first adjustment.
I, quite literally, heard my C1 snap back into it’s old, detrimental position while I was watching the show. I knew instantly that it had happened and was mortified, but the doctor knew it could take a few to several adjustments before I would start holding the adjustment. I stayed for almost a week and had him check me for four days in a row to make sure I was holding after my subsequent adjustment.
Holding the adjustment is one of the most important elements in healing soft tissue and scarring (scarring can only heal to a certain extent), the retraining of muscle, and the relief of some of the intracranial pressure. As noted in my lab report,
“The cerebellar tonsillar ectopia is producing interference with normal CSF migration through the foramen magnum related to cardiac activity and respiratory variation prior to adjustment of the first cervical vertebra (C1). After adjustment of C1, there is much more uniform CSF flow through the foramen magnum as well as improved blood flow through the straight sinus draining the “deep” system of the encephalic venous outflow tract.”
I was shown the CSF flow study before and after my adjustment of the C1. I could actually see where the flow improved in my brain and where it didn’t. There was improvement. I could both see it and feel it. It didn’t resolve all of my symptoms because 1) It was early and 2) there was the spinal stenosis.
Dr. Rosa said I would need to hold for 90 days before any real healing can begin. I’m still not there yet. It has taken me a year to hold for two months. There was much more healing to be done, and it hasn’t proven to be easy.
I held my adjustment for all of five days after I got home. I was wearing my neck brace, but it came out again. This time, I wasn’t in New York where Dr. Rosa could easily fix it. This is where things went downhill rapidly for me. Remember the Atlas Orthogonal Chiropractor I mentioned in Part 1, who didn’t use the Atlas Orthogonal machine correctly? I continued to see him, because this was still before I realized he was doing it wrong, so my symptoms all returned.
I felt like I was back at day one.
Fortunately, I was getting ready to move, so I only saw him for four more weeks, with my symptoms flaring up and confusing me. Once we moved to Southern Washington, I immediately found someone who actually knew what he was doing, and was familiar with Dr. Rosa’s and his approach. We did struggle with getting my C1 to hold. In the beginning, I couldn’t hold it for more than a day or two, but I’m very happy to report that today, I’ve now held for almost two months!
The goal is to hold for longer – three months, then six, etc. The longer I hold, the more healing that can occur in my brain. Scars will be minimized and CSF flow will improve over time, but the upper cervical spinal stenosis was still a contributing factor and needed to be dealt with separately.
Even Jim McMahon (the famed Chicago Bears quarterback), after a concussion, discovered he had vertebrae cutting off his spinal fluid flow, causing it to back up into his brain. He saw this chiropractor for diagnosis and adjustments, and now he only sees him periodically for a “tune-up”.
Meet Dr. Rosa in this recent interview.
The Second Part of Treatment
I did not know what to do about the upper cervical spinal stenosis. It was a big contributor to the blocking of CSF, so it needed to be addressed too. Non-invasive decompression surgery was mentioned, but with all of my other health issues, I just wasn’t physically prepared to go through surgery yet again (had orthopedic surgery the previous year that was very traumatic for my body), so what were my options?
There are some things I could do to slow progression. Care for my bones and damaged tissue by taking certain supplement like different forms of collagen, upping my calcium intake, hydrating well to keep the discs happy, etc.
I was already going to a naturopathic clinic for my leaky gut, several stomach infections, dysbiosis, SIBO, etc., and there just happened to be a highly reputable chiropractor working there who my naturopath thought I should see.
I showed him my MRIs, to which he responded with great concern. He was surprised to see four vertebrae, all in distress, so high up in the spine.
We had two full consultations before deciding that traction should be attempted. Traction is not usually done when it comes to any amount of instability in the spine. It can definitely cause trouble, so we tested the waters very slowly and with caution.
He performed traction manually, so he had full control of the amount of pressure applied. He did it in shorter increments of time, and gradually worked up in pressure from there. He was very careful, and was always checking in with me to make sure I was doing ok, and that no additional symptoms came on.
Interestingly enough, I did not really start holding my Atlas adjustments until I started doing traction. The longest I had held when beginning traction was a couple of weeks. Now, as mentioned earlier, I’m up to two months. I’ve been doing traction once a week for 7 months and I’ve been wearing a soft brace during that time to protect my neck. It allows my neck to still move around, but keeps much of the weight of my head off of my distressed discs.
I cannot say, at this time, if the traction will heal, or even improve, my spinal stenosis – or relieve what’s left of my intracranial pressure from the CSF blockages. Currently, according to the medical field, (who I’ve personally never received much help from, except in the case of an emergency), spinal stenosis only has one cure – surgery. Maybe I can prove them wrong. Maybe I can’t. We’ll see soon enough.
I will definitely keep you posted. In the case of the C1 misalignment and/or instability, I am well on my way to getting those symptoms under control, and I’m holding strong.
If you do decide to take this route, try and be patient. I know it’s difficult, but anything that takes years to develop into something painful and unhealthy can take a long time to heal too.
I know this was a long story, but I truly felt that it needed to be told. I hope it helps someone find their way to healing a little faster than I did. Better to start healing sooner rather than later.
Good luck to you all, on your journey back to health. I applaud your determination!
I’m not a health, nutrition, fitness, or medical professional. Please research and talk with your physician before making any changes to your lifestyle or health regimen. This is my personal health story, not a diagnosis or recommendation.