Whether you or a loved one has experienced a traumatic brain injury or TBI, it’s something that changes your entire life. The effects can range from mild cognitive disruptions in the short term, to long-term motor function and cognitive impairment. Discover how the spine plays into the effects of a traumatic brain injury, and three ways chiropractic care offers hope in recovery.

What Is a Traumatic Brain Injury?

It’s important to start with an understanding of what’s meant by a traumatic brain injury. According to the CDC, a TBI is an injury to the brain that affects how it works, and there are two major classifications.

The first is what most people consider a TBI, which is a closed head injury. Concussions are a great example of this kind of brain injury. These injuries happen when the head sustains a significant blow, jolt, or bump, but without something foreign entering the brain.

The second type is a penetrating brain injury. Just like it sounds, this is when a foreign object enters the brain by penetrating the skull.

The closed head injury is the most common type of TBI. These can result from a fall, sports impact, a car accident, or something hitting your head. According to the CDC’s data, over 64,000 people died from a complication related to a traumatic brain injury in 2020. This makes it a significant health concern we all need to learn from and understand how to treat.

What Happens To the Spine?

You may think that treating a traumatic brain injury falls into the specialty of neurologists, being it involves the brain. After all, what could a chiropractor know about helping recover from a brain injury? I’m glad you asked!

As chiropractors, we’re commonly seen to help people relieve pain, specifically back pain. However, that’s a very small part of the expertise chiropractors offer. Rather, your body is constantly sending signals through electrical impulses in your nerves and through chemical messengers in your brain and body. Your spine plays a central role in that process.

It’s kind of like how old-fashioned telephone lines worked. You have a receiver and transmitter at either end of the call. However, if the line broke anywhere between the two callers, the signal wouldn’t connect or had interference.

Your body works in a similar fashion, with your spine acting like that telephone line. The messages are coming and going, and the spine is the primary conduit carrying them.

Now let’s look at the process of sustaining a traumatic brain injury. As the name suggests, there’s some kind of trauma involved. In most cases, this trauma comes as a sudden shock to the head, which also affects the neck.

The upper cervical region rests at the place where the base of the skull meets the top of the neck. Unlike the rest of the spine, there are no discs between vertebrae in this area. This is also the most mobile part of the spine, subsequently making it the most susceptible to damage. When there’s a misalignment at the top vertebra, there’s a significant restriction in the communication line, oftentimes causing or exasperating the symptoms of TBI.

Properly performed chiropractic adjustments have shown great promise in helping improve outcomes for TBI patients. There are three primary benefits of chiropractic care that patients receive following a traumatic brain injury.

1. Improves Prefrontal Processing

The prefrontal cortex is exceptionally important to functioning as rational and reasoning organisms. The prefrontal cortex resides at the front of your head, and is responsible for things like:

  • Decision making
  • Memory
  • Attention
  • Intelligence
  • Emotional response
  • Processing pain
  • Motor control
  • Spatial awareness

According to one study in the Journal of Neural Plasticity, chiropractic adjustments show a significant improvement in brain function in the prefrontal cortex. This is why it’s common to hear of people having immediate improvements in processing and focus following an adjustment. The technique we use at Apex Chiropractic, Torque Release, has many studies of its own that show promising results in reorganizing the brain waves associated with the injury.

2. Restores Proper Cerebrospinal Fluid Flow

Your brain and spine depend on a clear liquid known as cerebrospinal fluid or CSF. The brain produces this fluid and then transported down the spine. It’s thought that this fluid serves multiple roles, including transporting nutrients through the brain and spine, transporting chemical signals, and removing normal waste from the brain.

A misalignment of the upper cervical region of the neck restricts the CSF flow. A significant restriction leads to an excessive buildup of CSF and increased pressure in the brain. This is a medical condition known as hydrocephalus and can pose a significant risk to your health.

Minor restrictions to the CSF prevent messages from effectively transmitting around the body and delay the nutrients feeding the central nervous system. They also create a buildup of natural toxins, like metabolites, in the brain. This can cause various cognitive symptoms, including headaches and problems with hearing or vision, just to name a few. By restoring proper alignment to the upper cervical region, chiropractic care helps restore proper CSF flow.

3. Improves Restricted Blood Flow

In addition to proper cerebrospinal fluid flow, a misalignment in the upper cervical region also inhibits proper blood flow to the brain. Minor blood flow restrictions may result in brain fog, migraines and difficulty concentrating due to starving the brain of the needed oxygen. Clearing misaligned vertebra at the top of the spine ensures there are no blood flow restrictions to and from the brain.

How Chiropractors Perform Adjustments

Most people think of chiropractic adjustments made by applying sudden pressure to problem areas. The Torque Release Technique, or TRT, uses a small instrument called the Integrator. This tool is the only FDA-approved adjusting instrument for chiropractic care and is exceptionally effective for traumatic brain injury patients. It not only addresses spinal misalignment, but also the tone and tension of the nervous system.

Traumatic brain injuries can present specific difficulties in trying to recover, both in the short and long term. Thanks to the research conducted in both neurosciences and chiropractic care, proper adjustments have demonstrated a critical role in TBI recovery.

Call (720) 328-1790 to schedule your initial evaluation and start seeing improvements to your or a loved one’s traumatic brain injury today.