Cranial Nerves and Their Functions

Did you know that there are 12 pairs of cranial nerves that perform some highly sophisticated functions? Some of these direct the activities of our muscles, some relay information from the sensory organs to the brain, and some are linked to internal organs such as the heart and lungs. Injuries to the neck and head can affect these nerves, leading to many ailments besides just headaches and neck pain!

Each of the cranial nerves is referred to by Roman Numerals:

i. Olfactory – linked to the sense of smell

ii. Optic – linked to vision

iii. Oculomotor – connected to eye movement and dilating the pupils

iv. Trochlear – also connected to eye movement, particularly eyelids and eyeball

v. Trigeminal – linked to facial sensation and chewing

vi. Abducens – linked to side-to-side eye movement

vii. Facial – controls facial movements, taste and sensory information from the ear

viii. Vestibulocochlear – relates to hearing and sense of balance

ix. Glossopharyngeal – controls muscles for swallowing and our sensation of taste

x. Vagus – motor function to the larynx, modulates heart rate and digestive organs

xi. Spinal Accessory – controls the muscles responsible for head movement

xii. Hypoglossal – controls the muscles of the tongue

Of course, any type of disease, injury or accident to a cranial nerve may affect the functioning of what that specific nerve controls. Just as chiropractors can test the functioning of nerves that exit along your spine, there are tests which can reveal whether each cranial nerve is functioning properly.

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Oh My Aching Head!

It’s back again – that dull steady pain that starts at the back of your head and moves forward, making you feel as though your head is being squeezed in a vice.

Sometimes it lasts for a half hour, other times it may last for weeks on end. Tension headaches, also known as stress headaches, affect nearly 40% of all adults and teenagers, making them the most common type of headache.

Tension headache causes include stress, hormones, depression, fatigue, dehydration, holding your head in the same position for long periods of time (i.e., working at a computer, performing research using a microscope, and other types of “close” work), anxiety, TMJ, and spinal conditions, such as degenerative disc disease or arthritis.

So what do you do when you experience this type of headache? Do you pop a few pain relievers and go to bed? Grin and bear it? Take a prescription pain pill? Do you realize that these so-called solutions to your pain only address the symptom (the pain) and not the cause of your headaches? Do you realize that chronic pill popping can actually cause more headaches (known as the “rebound effect)? Are these “solutions” really working for you?

Headaches are the most common condition for which patients seek help from chiropractors. Why? Because chiropractic has shown impressive results in reducing both the number and the duration of tension headaches.

A recent study, conducted by Dr. Niels Nilsson of Odense University in Denmark, and Dr. Geoffrey Bove of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Harvard Medical School, examined the impact of chiropractic treatment on headaches. The researchers found that chiropractic adjustments often decrease the frequency and length of headaches as well as the number of painkillers needed for relief.

Chiropractic care seeks to discover the cause of your headaches; it doesn’t just address symptoms, hoping that they’ll go away. Tension headaches are often the result of muscle tension in the neck, and chiropractors are trained to locate and correct this muscle tension which can wreak havoc on your nervous system, causing problems throughout your body.

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Solutions for Rotator Cuff Injuries

Your rotator cuff is made up of four tendons that attach four muscles to your upper arm so you can freely move your shoulder, the joint with the widest range of motion in your body. Think about all the things you do, from raising your arm, to reaching for something, to swinging a golf club or a tennis racket, to driving a car – all require free movement of the shoulder joint.

Unfortunately, because of the shallowness of the shoulder socket, the shoulder joint is one that is most prone to injury from sports and falls. If one of the rotator cuff tendons is partially torn, pain and restricted movement result. If there is a complete tear, the muscle supported by the affected tendon can affect shoulder movement and cause muscle pain and weakness.

When a rotator cuff injury is serious enough that it irritates the nerves that pass through the shoulder joint, this is known as rotator cuff impingement. Impingement can produce tingling sensations and numbness down to the hand and fingers, in addition to pain. It is often part of the aging process because the muscles and tendons that support the shoulder tend to weaken.

Traditional approaches to rotator cuff injuries include rest, ice/heat applications, the use of over-the-counter pain relievers, steroids, exercise and physical therapy. For a rotator cuff that is completely torn, surgery is usually recommended. But that too has its drawbacks and rarely results in complete healing.

Is there a natural alternative? Certainly there is. Chiropractic care helps to restore the health of your spine and neck and this often relieves pressure that is causing your shoulder pain. Because an accident or injury to the shoulder may cause the misalignment of vertebrae in your neck, chiropractic adjustments are an effective means to reposition the vertebrae, restoring proper alignment, increasing shoulder mobility, and relieving pain.

Of course, we might also suggest some complementary approaches to help relieve your shoulder pain that include moist heat, ice packs, traction, massage or stretching and strengthening exercises.

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The Controversy Over Food Irradiation

Each year, food-borne microorganisms (e-coli, salmonella) are responsible for approximately 76 million illnesses, 325,000 hospitalizations, and 5,000 deaths, just in the U.S. alone.

In an effort to curb this trend and ensure the safety of the food you eat, irradiation is being used to destroy disease-causing organisms found in food, a process that treats foods with a short burst of potent radiation. Foods that are currently irradiated include pork, poultry, red meat, eggs, sprouting seeds, fruits and certain vegetables, such as potatoes and lettuce. But, is irradiation safe? Those committed to natural health mostly say “no.”

As with most issues, there are two sides:

The Pros of Irradiation:

  • Kills dangerous bacteria that cause illnesses, such as salmonella and e-coli
  • Extends shelf life of foods
  • Kills insects in grains
  • Allows fruits to be picked early, delaying maturation
  • Allows fruits, such as strawberries, to keep for longer periods (i.e., three weeks vs. 4-5 days.

The Cons of Irradiation:

  • Doesn’t address the causes of the problem, such as unsanitary plant and farm conditions where foods are processed and packaged
  • Reduces the nutritional value, taste, quality and texture of foods
  • Causes meats to darken and fish to become mushy
  • Destroys certain essential vitamins, some of which aid fat digestion (Vitamins A, E, K and C)
  • There may be possible reproductive effects
  • May cause farmers and food processing plants to become more lax about cleanliness and sterilization procedures
  • Increases the price of treated foods to compensate for cost of the process
  • Long-term effects on consumers and food-processing plant workers are unknown

Food irradiation is endorsed by the World Health Organization and is permitted in nearly 40 countries; appropriate package labeling is usually required. The president of the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment (CAPE), Warren Bell, comments, “The slaughterhouse industry is out of control. They can’t safely process the volumes they do in those plants.” This organization argues that processing a large volume of animals makes it nearly impossible to keep fecal matter out of food.

It’s always frightening when governments introduce procedures that have yet to be fully evaluated. The choice is yours, but keeping your immune system in tip-top shape is certainly advised if you do eat irradiated meats and produce. And the best way to do that is through regular chiropractic adjustments.

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Your tummy hurts. You have a terrible headache. You can’t sleep and you’re cranky. One more thing: you can’t ask for help because you’re only two weeks old! So you cry. And cry. And cry. And your parents feel helpless.

Infantile colic was first thought to be merely indigestion. The most widely accepted definition of colic today is “unexplainable and uncontrollable crying in babies from 0 to 3 months old, more than 3 hours a day, more than 3 days a week for 3 weeks or more, usually in the afternoon and evening hours.”

Birth Trauma?
If a baby is inconsolable, it’s hard to know if it’s a digestive disturbance. Consider another explanation. Upon examination, we often find spinal distortions (subluxations) in the baby’s upper cervical spine. These babies are probably suffering from head and neck pain. This is especially common if there was a difficult birth.

A 67% Reduction in Crying
The results of a randomized controlled trial published in the October 1999 issue of the Journal of Manipulative and Physiologic Therapeutics tracked a small group of 50 infants. Half received the drug dimethicone and the other spinal manipulation. At the conclusion of the two-week study, the babies being adjusted saw a 67% reduction in crying and the drug therapy group saw a 38% reduction.

Little Research
While large scale research results are lacking, and colic is considered a condition that resolves on its own with the passage of enough time, there are many case studies showing improvement, sometimes dramatic, among colicky babies with subluxations.

Not a Cure
Chiropractic isn’t a treatment for colic! If subluxation is present, interfering with the proper function of any part of the body, restoring proper nervous system control often allows the body to heal. This may happen regardless of age and regardless of what the particular symptoms are called.

Find Out More
Consult a chiropractor for more information. What have you got to lose?

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Sick Care or Life Care?

We often hear the words “health care” in the news. But usually they’re talking about “sick” care. Care that is administered to someone who already has symptoms of an illness or injury. Often times, “healthcare” refers to the heroic efforts we see in the media and on television to save a person’s life using drugs or dramatic surgery.

But true health involves what we do on a regular basis to stay healthy, the proactive approach we use to ward off life-threatening illnesses and disease. True health is a state in which your body works as it was designed. And it may actually have very little to do with how you “feel.” For example, if you eat tainted fish and you respond with an upset stomach and then vomiting, your body is actually functioning properly (health) and ridding itself of toxins, even though you don’t feel very well.

There are several things you can do to create a proactive approach to stay well
and enjoy optimum health:

  • Regular exercise – when was the last time a doctor gave you a prescription script for exercise? Yet it is one of the most proactive things you can do.
  • Proper nutrition – Many of us do not eat the healthy foods we need to ensure our overall health. We skimp on fruits and vegetables and load up on fats.
  • Adequate rest – Proper sleep balances your body’s hormones, slows down the aging process and decreases risk factors associated with many illnesses.
  • Chiropractic care – Keeping your nervous system in tip-top condition helps keep other systems and organs of your body working at their best.

Adopting a proactive approach to healthcare is like brushing your teeth twice daily to prevent dental problems. While rescue measure healthcare may look heroic on television, the real “heroes” practice true “health” care every day of their lives!

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Are You a Log? A Starfish?

Sleeping used to be simple. You climbed into bed, pulled up the covers and closed your eyes. Today, it takes a consulting firm to figure out all the choices – conventional mattress or air, posturpedic or tempurpedic, ergonomic pillow or Scandinavian goose down?

And what about sleeping positions?

It turns out they have names, and they can even reveal aspects of your personality, in addition to contributing to such conditions as headaches and neck pain. A whopping 41 percent of us sleep curled on our sides holding a pillow, the “fetal” position, indicating a shy and sensitive personality. Those who sleep straight on their backs, in the “soldier” position, tend to be quiet and reserved. Many people sleep on their side—the so-called “log” position. This popular position shows a small degree of insecurity and stress. The least healthy position, the face down “freefall” position, is used by 6.5 percent of people who tend to have “a brash and gregarious exterior,” although this confident front hides a nervous personality who responds badly to personal criticism.

Unassuming, good listeners and outgoing folk usually adopt the “starfish “position—on the back with outstretched arms and legs. And, as for pillows, blankets and mattresses, for a truly unbiased opinion, ask us for recommendations for the best sleeping equipment.

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The Rodney Dangerfield on our Backs

The cervical spine – that is, the upper seven of our vertebrae – must surely rank among the most under-appreciated and most vital parts of our body. Its 37 separate joints endlessly allow the head and neck to move atop the torso – all the while obeying constant commands from the special senses and reflex mechanisms.

Look at it this way: the cervical spine faithfully holds up our 9 to 16 lb. heads between 14 to 16 hours a day. This is hardly easy. First of all, the head is far from evenly balanced on top of our spine. In fact, it’s tilted heavily forward; without the cervical muscles, it would topple over onto our chest.

Secondly, the head’s weight can become unbearable over time. (If you’d like to get a clearer picture, try this experiment: hold a 16-pound bowling ball with your elbow on a table for as long as you can. Few people can keep this up longer than an hour.)

That means the cervical spine is a vital part of nearly all our everyday activities, including speaking, gesturing, sitting, standing, lying down, breathing and many more. Most of what our head does, it does thanks to the cervical spine.

That’s why so many of the injuries to this area are so serious – often resulting in paralysis or death. For example, hitting your head on the bottom of the pool or “spear-tackling” in football can compress the cervical spine against the shoulder and cause grave injury. Even everyday headaches often involve the cervical spine.

And that’s why you’ll be glad to know that chiropractors have led the way in recognizing the cervical spine’s uniqueness – even from the rest of the spine – and caring for it accordingly.

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To visit the doctor when you’re feeling great is something new. Yet, a growing number of people who want to be and do their best are visiting chiropractors on a regular basis – to stay well, not just to take care of their back pain!

The First Symptom
Remember staying home from school when we were sick and returning when we were feeling better? We learned to think of being sick as having obvious symptoms.
But these days, many health problems are the result of lifestyle choices that don’t always have obvious symptoms until the effects are well advanced.

Healthy Response
The reverse is true as well. If you eat improperly prepared food and find yourself vomiting to expel it, you probably won’t feel good, but you’re having a healthy response.

Turns out that true health is how well our bodies work, not how we feel.

Central Control
How well our body functions is based upon the integrity of our nervous system. That’s why so many seek our practice for wellness care. They want to make sure that every organ and tissue has an uninterrupted nerve supply. It just makes sense to detect little problems before they become serious concerns.

The Key to Health
True health is optimum physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity. Drinking more water, eating nutritious foods, regular exercise and virtually every other healthy habit produces even bigger dividends when you have a properly working nervous system.

Although everyone wants to feel good, your care should not be based on whether
you have pain or other symptoms. Subluxation may exist without obvious symptoms… just like dental cavities, high blood pressure or heart disease.

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Estimates suggest that up to 90% of women suffer from some form of premenstrual syndrome (PMS) with 10 -20% experiencing severe or disabling symptoms. If you’re resolved not to give in to menstrual or premenstrual discomfort, and you want a natural solution that avoids drugs, many women turn to chiropractic.

The Lumbar Spine
Your nervous system controls and regulates every cell, tissue, organ and system of your body. The spine, especially in the lower back, can impair nerves that direct and monitor the reproductive and hormonal systems. Women with undetected subluxation can suffer from a wide variety of female health problems including pelvic pain, PMS, incontinence, sexual dysfunctions and even infertility.

The Effects
Three types of effects can result when proper nervous system regulation of the reproductive system is disturbed from the abnormal motion or position of spinal bones.
Over activity – such as heavy bleeding or severe cramping.
Under activity – including missed periods or infertility.
Distorted activity – cells that normally line the uterus, implant elsewhere causing bleeding, pain and reduced fertility.

The Promise of Chiropractic
While chiropractic care isn’t a treatment for PMS (or any other condition), many women with spinal distortions have seen an improvement in their reproductive health while under chiropractic care. Restoring a more normally functioning nervous system helps the entire body work the way it’s supposed to.

If you, or someone you love, is put out of commission every month, encourage her to seek a thorough chiropractic examination. If there’s nerve interference, there’s a good chance chiropractic can help.

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