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The fact that the head, is only held onto the neck with ligaments, proved to be quite an important player in the failure of my recovery, following my head and neck injury in 2002. Bending forwards caused me no end of problems, non the least of which was that it caused my heartbeat to instantly change – weird! I didn’t have to bend right forwards, just leaning forwards could trigger it. From immediately after my accident I couldn’t work bending forwards at all, it made me feel so ill.
By 2010 I had been diagnosed with the hereditary condition called Ehlers Danlos, wherein I have a problem in the production of collagen – Ahh, things started making sense now because ligaments are made of collagen!
Now then, I’ll try and explain why bending forwards can make you symptomatic. Dr Diana Driscoll says External Communicating Hydrocephalus plays a heavy role in our condition because an excess of cerebro spinal fluid (CSF – which is the fluid that normally gently bathes the brain) collects above the brain, in the subarachnoid space and bears down on the brain. This causes the brain to put subtle pressure on the cranial nerves, which lay at the base of the brain (ok so far?).
This pressure, on the cranial nerves causes a wide variety of symptoms that come and go (intermittent, therefore difficult to test for, sound familiar?). Anyway, these symptoms affect the rest of the body in detrimental ways, as the level of pressure inside the head intensifies.
Why does the pressure intensify ? well, the downward bearing weight, from the excess CSF in the subarachnoid spaces above the brain, also displaces the back lower part of the brain, the cerebellum (or more precisely, the cerebellar tonsils). It pushes this bit of cerebellum brain into the hole at the bottom of the skull where the brainstem/spinal cord passes through. This bit of cerebellum brain, being where it shouldn’t be, acts as a ‘bung’ between the head and spinal ‘CSF pathways’, blocking or partially blocking the flow. (Still with me ?)
Additionally, this bit of brain, once in this rogue position, puts subtle pressure onto the brainstem, which is now directly infront of it. The brainstem is responsible for regulating the Autonomic Nervous System, so this pressure interferes with the normal autonomic function (breathing, heartrate, blood pressure and temperature, etc.) and generates the symptoms of POTS (Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome). (Still ok ?) This part, is all going on, in an area referred to as the craniocervical junction (or in layman’s terms the joining of the head and neck).
So, knowing all that, along with knowing that EDS weakens ligaments, imagine what the state of your ligaments are in, that are holding your head in place, hhmm. So, here we have a head that weighs similar to a small bowling ball, fastened to a neck by some substandard ligaments. Imagine what the influence gravity would have on it, when we go swinging it about.
Remember that rogue bit of brain ? well each time you bend forwards it is getting subtly compressed by the back edge of the opening of your skull – not good! In turn, that bit of brain will be compressing your brainstem which is in now in front of it remember – REALLY NOT GOOD !! At the least pressure, it will probably cause an autonomic reaction of sweating, any firmer might cause nausea, firmer still can cause what’s known as a ‘drop attack’ where your legs just give way, for seemingly no reason. Get the picture ?
Head & Neck Injury (June 2002); Mild Concussion; Post Concussion Syndrome; Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS); Peripheral Vestibular Dysfunction; Mild Radiculopathy & Small Fibre Neuropathy (right leg & foot resp.); Partially Empty Sella (Oct 2002) Fully Blown Empty Sella (Oct 2004); Whiplash Associated Disorder (WAD); Cerebellar Ectopia (Chiari 0); Cranio-cervical Instability (CCI) with Posterior Gliding (PG) & Cranial Settling (CS); Brain Compression; Retroflexed Odontoid; Stretched/Elongated Brainstem; Vitamin D deficiency; Ehlers Danlos (EDS) type 111; and now Osteoarthritis! and oh, I forgot Arrhythmias – confirmed as runs of Bigeminy and Trigeminy.