The Patient With the Harrowing Headache

Last week I got a phone call from a middle-aged female patient who originally came to my St Louis chiropractic office earlier in the year. When I first met her, she was seeking relief for arm pain that radiated from her neck into her hand. Since bowling is one of her favorite hobbies, you can imagine how this discomfort was getting the best of her… so she desperately wanted it to stop.

After receiving her first Upper Cervical adjustment, she noticed significant improvement. In less than a month, her chief complaint was under control. She progressed to a point where she could go bowling without pain, and was holding her correction for 3-4 months at a time.

It’d been about 10-weeks since her last visit, so I was a bit surprised when she called asking to be seen right away. I could tell by the sound of her voice that something was wrong. In addition to the radiating arm pain, she developed a headache that hadn’t gone away for almost a week. She also noticed that her hands and fingers were becoming swollen. If that wasn’t frightening enough, during a trip to her medical doctor that same morning, her otherwise normal blood pressure had shot up to 144/96. (According to the National Heart, Lung & Blood Institute, “normal” blood pressure should be 120/80 or less).

When she arrived at my office, we checked her BP again (148/97), and graphed her using a computerized infrared thermography (CIT) scanner (here were the results). I noticed that her neck muscles were extremely tight on both sides of the spine, with marked tenderness in the upper cervical region.

Following the adjustment (here’s the post-check CIT scan), her BP dropped to 130/88… Still a bit elevated, but a welcomed improvement. The following evening, she gave me an update via email: “Dr. Tanase, I had much relief today. It started last night actually… My whole body felt much better all around. Thank you!”

So how did all of this happen? I asked her what may have triggered this experience… At first, nothing came to mind; but then she realized it started almost immediately after returning home from a 6-hour car ride.

Now, there’s nothing wrong with road trips… But over the years, I’ve learned that people who normally hold their spinal corrections for lengthy periods of time can often need an unexpected adjustment after they travel. While admittedly speculative, it’s possible that the cramped driving position she was in during the long drive home could have stressed her head/neck/spine in such a way that the sub-occipital muscles became very unhappy and snowballed into a more unpleasant problem.

Regardless of the exact mechanism of injury, this patient’s misalignment contributed to the miserable sensations she was having. This experience is a prime example of the havoc that one tiny bone at the top of the neck can cause for a person when it locks out of normal position.

It’s also a good example of how the body can overcome health problems naturally when given the opportunity. Remember, the effect ceases when the cause is removed.

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[…] have a history of neck stiffness, tightness across the shoulders, numbness/tingling/weakness of the arms or hands, cold hands, or swelling of the fingers (evidenced by difficulty removing […]

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