Parkinson's disease is a neurodegenerative disorder that affects predominantly dopamine-producing neurons in a specific area of the brainstem called substantia nigra. Symptoms generally develop slowly over a number of years. The progression of symptoms is often a bit different from one person to another due to the diversity of the disease. People with Parkinson’s may experience:
- Tremor, mainly at rest and described as pill rolling tremor in hands
- Bradykinesia (Slow movements)
- Limb rigidity (Stiff arms and legs)
- Gait and balance problems
The substantia nigra is located in the upper part of the brainstem called the midbrain, and plays an important role in brain function, in particular, in eye movement, motor planning, reward-seeking, learning, and addiction. The substantia nigra is a dopaminergic nucleus this means it is responsible for producing the hormone dopamine.
Dopamine enables neurons in the brain to communicate and control movement. When there is a lack of dopamine the neurons cannot communicate as effectively causing symptoms to begin manifesting. The symptoms of Parkinson’s are a result of this lack of dopamine.
The brainstem is supplied with blood via branches of the vertebrobasilar circulation. This series of arteries travel up to the brain passing through special holes in the cervical vertebrae. The vertebral arteries come together and then branch out to supply the brainstem and cerebellum. Misalignment of the cervical vertebrae particularly of the Atlas (C1) can disrupt the normal passage of blood flow to the brainstem. This change in hydrodynamics will alter the quality of blood supply to this area of the brain. A change in blood supply could alter the amount of nutrient delivery and removal of waste products occurring at the brainstem, affecting the substantia nigra and causing altered function. This is one potential mechanism for the change in dopamine release from these cells.
The brain and spinal cord are bathed in the substance called cerebral spinal fluid (CSF). The CSF has two functions, one is to keep the brain and spinal cord buoyant within the skull and neural canal. The second function is nutrient delivery and draining of waste products from the neural tissue. Misalignment at the upper cervical spine can alter the flow of CSF around these delicate neural structures, altering nutrient delivery and waste removal. This can have profound effects upon how the nervous system functions. This is another potential mechanism to explain the symptoms seen in Parkinson’s disease.
So what is an Upper Cervical Chiropractor’s role in Parkinson's?
At Top Chiropractic we focus on specifically analysing the upper cervical spine for misalignment and nervous system dysfunction. When we find, and appropriately correct, these misalignments people’s symptoms begin to resolve given enough time and when adhering to the appropriate personalised care plan.
As Upper Cervical Chiropractors our role is not to treat Parkinson’s disease or it’s symptoms. Our goal is to correct dysfunction at the upper cervical spine in order to allow the nervous system to function at its optimal potential and allow healing to take place.
For more information on Upper Cervical care please visit our blog.
If you have any questions book a call with us.