Homocysteine and Migraines – What Does It Mean?

Homocysteine and Migraine


Headaches are very common and almost everyone has experienced one at one point in their life. They can be painful and disabling, which cuts into your focus, productivity, and quality of life. Headaches come in different types such as tension, cluster, and migraine. The migraine type headaches are the third most common disease in the world and effect about 14.7% of the worlds population. That’s around 1 in 7 people who will experience a debilitating headache that will put that person down for the count, locked up in a room with the lights off, and a trash can near by. It is not a pleasant way to spend your day.

When you have a migraine you look for any way to get rid of them. People have asked what’s the relationship of homocysteine to migraines after hearing about methylation problems in the body.

Homocysteine is an amino acid found in the blood, but if found in high amounts has been shown to cause inflammation leading to an increased chance of stroke or cardiovascular disease. Migraine headaches are severe throbbing or pounding headaches that usually occur on one side of the head. People may experience a sensitivity to light, sounds, and smells. Some experience nausea or vomiting. Some migraine patients experience what is called an aura before the onset. An aura is a visual disturbance, such as a blind spot or flashing light.

Homocysteines are a major player in chronic inflammation.

Homocysteines are a major player in chronic inflammation.

The question being studied is, “does an increase in homocysteine in the blood directly relate to an increase in migraines?” There have been a lot of studies to answer this question and the results appear to be conflicting. On one side, many studies show no significance between the two. On the other side, some do show significance that an increase of homocysteine in the blood does correlate to an increase in migraine headaches. There seems to be no sound conclusion when it come to levels in the blood.

However, a study out of Headache tested homocysteine levels in the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) in the spine and showed a very significant increase. It showed that migraine patients with auras had a 376% increase in the CSF and patients without had a 41% increase. What this means is an increase of inflammation in the CSF for people with migraines.

What is Special About Cerebrospinal Fluid

CSF also acts an a cushion and protector of the nervous system. It should flow normally through out the system without being stagnant. In recent years, CSF has been identified as a fluid that helps to remove waste products from the brain’s normal metabolism, and that failure in CSF movement from things like lack of sleep may contribute to the pathology of Alzheimer’s disease.

Why Is CSF Important to Us?

Sometimes when a segment in the spine shifts out of place it can not only put pressure on the disc, nerves, and bloods vessels around that segment, but it can also effect the flow of CSF through that area. When this happens this can cause CSF in areas in the head and spine to be stagnant because a segment has shifted out of place affecting the normal flow. When the CSF is stagnant you can have a pooling where it can collect homocysteine causing inflammation.

As a structural chiropractor that focuses on the craniocervical junction, the interaction between the neck and cerebrospinal fluid is an important area  of interest. A study by the Upper Cervical Research Foundation showed that a correction of the atlas vertebra shows significant improvement in migraine symptoms and potential changes in venous drainage patterns. This allows things to function better, including the CSF to flow better.

Ask Dr. Haslett a Question

Fibromyalgia and the Atlas

FIbromyalgia and the Atlas


Read time: [5 minutes]


Fibromyalgia Syndrome (FMS) and other conditions involving chronic pain are among the most frustrating conditions that affect a human being. While the condition is not life threatening, it is without a doubt life impairing.

While the pain of a surgical procedure, broken bone, or acute disc injury can be more excruciating, the pain from those tissue injuries will tend to decrease over time. Pain from FMS is unique in the fact that there is frequently no injury to treat and the pain seems to have no expiration date. That patients must learn to live with the expectation that it may never go away.

This can make you feel a sense of helplessness if you have been diagnosed with FMS. If you have fibromyalgia, it’s common for you to just feel run down, tired, and in agony but you don’t know why. This results in friends and family members feeling like you’re a hypochondriac, and often results in ostracizing the afflicted patient.

Fibromyalgia Syndrome and The Need for Integrative Care

Despite what many gurus, vitamin peddlers, and book sellers say, there is no cure for fibromyalgia. There are so many co-morbid illnesses tied with fibromyalgia that it has turned into a syndrome (FMS) as opposed to a single chronic pain entity. These symptoms include pain, brain fog, chronic fatigue, irritable bowel syndrome, and headaches. That is a wide variety of symptoms for one illness, and each have their own physiology behind it.

From that stand point, it wouldn’t make sense to try to have a one treatment fits all strategy to a condition like FMS.

Conventional treatment focuses on medications, progressive exercise, sleep disorder treatment, and psychotherapy to help control the pain of fibromyalgia. Exercise in particular has a strong track record for therapeutic benefit in FMS.

However, one of the things that I’ve seen after spending time hundreds of patients with fibromyalgia is that they find the mere thought of doing exercise to be overwhelming. Patients also find the idea of getting psychological therapy to be condescending to their condition despite the evidence that it is helpful.


All of this makes an evidence-based approach to fibromyalgia syndrome to be extremely challenging at this point in time. The end result is that new, experimental, alternative, and potentially pseudoscientific methodologies become entrusted to improve the quality of life in patients with this condition.

For decades, chiropractic and spinal manipulation has generally been lumped into this category. However, the growing amount of research is showing that manual procedures in the spine do have a real impact on the central nervous system. One study released last year tackled the fibromyalgia problem with some promising results.

The Addition of Upper Cervical Manipuluative therapy in the treatment of patients with Fibromyalgia: A Randomized Controlled Trial

Abstract Link

A clinical trial was published in the journal Rheumatology International. The authors looked at the addition of upper cervical spinal manipulation to a comprehensive fibromyalgia treatment regiment to see if it any effect on outcomes.

The standard treatment for fibromyalgia includes cognitive behavioral therapy, light exercise recommendations, and pain education. This study compared standard treatment alone and compared it to when standard treatment included manipulation of the upper neck. The patients were treated for about 12 weeks and had a follow up appointment in a year.

They measured changes in pain, sleep, anxiety, posture, and quality of life.


Interestingly enough, the group that received upper cervical manipulation didn’t have a significantly better outcome than the standard treatment group after 12 weeks. Both groups improved in their symptoms, but there wasn’t much difference between the 2 groups. On a good note, the postural measurements of the upper cervical group did improve quite a bit.

Here’s where the magic is:

At a one year follow up, the upper cervical manipulation group continued to show better control of their pain, sleep, anxiety, and posture even though they stopped getting manipulations. On the other side, the control group actually started to regress towards their original scores.


Important Notes

  • The study used a physical therapy technique called the Maitland Concepts. It’s not a chiropractic technique, but has elements of high velocity, low amplitude manipulation commonly found in chiropractic.
  • The patients continued to get better even after they stopped getting manipulation. A common knock against manual techniques is that you need to keep getting adjustments in order to feel better. The multi-modal approach used in this study suggests that patients can continue to get better even after treatment is done.
  • The authors showed that manipulating the neck created widespread changes in the patients’ posture measurements including the low back, shoulders, etc. They attribute this to the fact that the upper neck is a critical element to controlling the posture of the body.


You all know my biases as a chiropractor that uses a niche technique. The truth is, I don’t care about what techniques I end up using, or whether the technique was created by a chiropractor, physical therapist, or a marine biologist. All that matters is that people get great outcomes!

I love this study because it shows that changing the physical structure of the body can happen through the neck, and doing this can get people a great long term outcome from an illness that makes millions of people miserable.

Ask Dr. Chung a question

Dr. Chung Joins ESPN West Palm to Talk Youth Football, Neck Surgery, Stroke, and Heat


This week Dr. Chung joined Jeremy Marks-Peltz on ESPN West Palm Tonight. The interview is available below. This week Dr. Chung addresses:

  • The new study showing changes in the brains of youth football players
  • Dolphins Linebacker Koa Misi will be getting fusion surgery for herniated disc in his neck
  • The tragic Katie May stroke incident and chiropractic
  • Heat basketball

Getting a Safe Correction after Spine Surgery

Spine Surgery

Read Time: [3 minutes]

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been seeing a lot of posts about this article filling up my Facebook newsfeed. The article talks about how a specific type of spine surgery called spinal fusion has been found to be mostly ineffective. The author goes so far to say that the surgery should be put to rest.


Article by Dr. Chris Centeno

I’ve seen a lot of patients with a previous history of spinal fusion. Some people feel like their life was made dramatically better by spine surgery, others feel like it didn’t have any effect at all, and some people will actually feel a lot worse. Overall, the verdict on fusion surgery seems to be pretty dim.

People Don’t Volunteer for Spine Surgery. It’s a choice made out of desperation

Here’s the thing. I don’t blame people who choose to elect spinal fusion even in the face of the world’s best evidence. Why?

I’ve never experienced the level of pain that makes someone consider spine surgery an option.

It’s the easiest thing in the world to be a chiropractor, physical therapist, or pain management doctor to tell someone that they don’t need spine surgery. Our professions are invested in the idea that you should choose us over surgery because you should exhaust your conservative options before being cut open.

However, someone who is choosing spine surgery is often someone who is desperate. Their pain is debilitating and costing them the ability to work and move like a normal human being. Many patients have tried numerous conservative options and feel like they have spent years feeling debilitated. They are tired, frustrated, and just want something, anything to make their pain go away.

I hear it in my office all the time. “Doc, can you just cut this thing out of me?”

Sure it’s said in jest, but it opens a window to what someone’s last option looks like. Just cut me open, and take whatever is causing this pain, and remove it.

You’ve had surgery, now what?

People that choose surgery often feel like they’ve exhausted all possible treatment options.

If your pain didn’t improve or if you develop or new and worse pain after surgery, it can be devastating to the psyche. You tried everything and it still didn’t work. Will you have to suffer like this for the rest of your life? Do I just have to rely on pain management and more surgery?

From time to time, I’ll meet people who tell me about how bad their back or neck problems are, but they’ll usually say something like:

But I’ve already had surgery, and my doctor says I shouldn’t have my back cracked.

I understand this fear. If I had hardware in my spine, the last thing I would want is someone just jerking my back or neck around and possibly hitting one of those fused parts.

Here’s the thing though. Not all chiropractic techniques require heavy force.

There are a lot of chiropractors trained to be extremely precise with their adjustments. With a high level of precision, you can avoid doing anything to the spine that may jar or disturb these fused vertebrae.

This is important to remember because precise Structural Correction of the spine is something that can really help these patients! It’s one of the reasons that there are doctors in Palm Beach County that refer cases to our office when patients still have pain after surgery.

The Problem Isn’t Just the Spine, it Might Be in the Brain

Pain is a complex physiological phenomenon. As doctors, we can sometimes oversimplify back and neck pain as a bad bone or a bad disc. The fact that people don’t get better after surgery isn’t the fault of the surgeon. The problem is that the bones and discs in the back may not have been the actual cause of the pain to begin with.

Pain can exist in the absence of physical tissue damage as is often seen in things like fibromyalgia or complex regional pain syndrome. In these cases, there is a problem with the way the brain perceives the environment. It is overreacting to normal stimuli.

When people have successful cases with surgery, then we can probably assume that a bad disc or some bad vertebrae were big contributors to the patient’s pain process. However, if we are operating on patients whose symptoms are coming from a brain that is overly sensitive to pain, we are giving that sensitive brain more ammunition to be in pain because of the surgery itself.

Sometimes the answer is not simply to change the bones, but we have to desensitize the brain to normal living.

That’s one of the biggest unknown benefits to Structural Correction with the NUCCA procedure. Normal Structure plays a vital role in normal input into the brain. Our gentle approach to correcting the spine is capable of changing the signals the brain should be focusing on and reducing some of the chronic inflammation impacting your sensitive brain tissues.

Changing the Conversation

Millions of people every year are going to have spine surgery. It’s up to the doctors and surgeons to decide if surgery is appropriate for a patient’s situation. There’s no use in beating a patient up for making a decision that they think is going to help them live a better life.

It’s our job to let people know that whether you had surgery or not, there are still options available to help people live a normal life without feeling debilitated.

Ask Dr. Chung a Question

Case Study: 6 months of Post-Concussion Syndrome

Post-Concussion Syndrome


Read Time: [3 minutes]

Post-concussion syndrome has become a big deal with more athletes showing concern about the risks of chronic brain injury. Recovery from a concussion usually takes about 7-10 days for most people but many will have symptoms that last 30 days or more.

Our most recent case had post-concussion syndrome that lasted 6 months prior to visiting our office.


A young woman was a passenger in a car that was struck from the side. The shock of the accident caused her head to whip from side to side and she lost consciousness immediately.

Although many concussions are a result of a direct blow to the head, a concussion can occur through rapid acceleration and deceleration of the head causing the brain to move and collide with the inside of the skull.

Following the concussion, the patient began having daily episodes of migraine headaches. During the migraine attacks, she would also have vertigo that led to a persistent feeling of nausea.

After being discharged from the hospital the patient was seen by an orthopedist and chiropractor. While chiropractic adjustments were helpful, she felt her symptoms come back repeatedly within hours of her treatment. The patient had an appointment with her orthopedist to receive neck injections, but was referred to our office before that to see if correcting her atlas would help.

Assessing the Neck in Concussion

The patient was put through a full examination to evaluate the  neck. In many cases of post-concussion syndrome, the neck has numerous pain-generating tissue that can be responsible for these neurological symptoms. This includes precise x-rays of the top of the neck, evaluation of neck muscle tone, structural positioning, and evaluation of head and neck control.

You can see some images of our head control laser testing below.


Laser head positioning system

Testing head control using a maze

Testing head control using a maze

When people suffer a concussion or whiplash injury, it can cause damage to the muscles and allow us to control our head and neck movement. These injuries can lead to headaches, but they also cause problems with our sense of balance.

Once we have some baseline information on their current abilities, we can monitor how they respond and heal from the damage to their neck.


After her 2nd visit, the patient said that her headaches and nausea were almost completely non-existent.

Imagine that. Going from daily migraines, to no headaches for an entire week. All from a getting the head and neck into a better structural position.

Now that isn’t to say that life is perfect after that. There were certainly some ups and downs along the way. Overall, the patient’s headaches have improved about 80% in frequency and intensity. She has elected to skip getting injections, and is working hard everyday to get stronger.

Here’s the most important element and really the part that matters:

After the head injury, the patient was unable to do the things that made her life fun. She had trouble working out and getting motivated to exercise. Staying focused at work meant having to rely on pain killers. Taking care of a young daughter meant gritting her teeth through pain and nausea instead of being present in the moment.

That’s what all of this is about. It’s not about the pain reduction, it’s about the restoration of normal life!

For more information, you can read this patient’s testimonial below:

I’m a very active mommy that carries around the weight of a 6 year old and owning a salon full time. Work and mommy duties call for my body to be at all times ready and with it. There isn’t time for rest, much less any fatigue or achy-ness. Between playing sports when I was young, actively working out and having the burden of standing on my feet the majority of my work days, my simple adjustments just got me through. I didn’t realize that there could be a cure for my migraines, constant neck stiffness and what seemed to be a much older body that I was trapped in.

I was a back seat passenger in a car crash on New Years, where the car was deemed totaled. There were no major signs of trauma, besides the concussion and black eye I received, however, I knew something was wrong when my pain was continuing to get worse months after the accident. My routine visits to the chiropractor, became tedious weekly visits that just got me through; my pain kept coming back if I didn’t get adjusted that day. I refused to succumb to cortisone shots previously, but felt desperate. Instead of my Chiropractor sending me off the receive the possible relief from an invasive procedure, he referred me to his dear friend Dr. Chung that specializes in post concussion, migraines, fatigue and achy-ness.

Dr Chung was very thorough and did a series of X-rays and tests to see how my whole body was aligned and reviewed my MRI. He explained the symptoms and showed me what was happening to my brain and surrounding inflamed tissues. After one precise adjustment and many months of not being able to be active or myself, I felt 150%. I was scared and apprehensive as to when my pain would return. To my surprise, months later and just a few maintenance NUCCA adjustments, my pain has not returned and I was immediately able to carry on with my workouts, mommy life and my physically involved career. I was even able to hike, travel and do Cross-fit within weeks of being adjusted. My energy and range of motion has returned. I couldn’t be happier for the referral to such a dedicated, intelligent, passionate Doctor of Chiropractic. Thank you so much for your passion to treat your patients and wish you much success.
Jessica S.

A New Way to Protect People from Falling?


protecting from falls


Read Time: [6 minutes]

Osteoporosis, falls, and broken hips are one of the biggest concerns of people 55 and up. The fear is real and justified, as falls are a leading cause of death and disability once you hit the age of 60. To combat this, conventional wisdom has suggested that older adults focus on increasing calcium, taking bone hardening drugs, and to keep monitoring your your bone scans.

This isn’t to say that bone density is unimportant. Bone density is really important! But bone density is REALLY, REALLY, REALLY hard to change once you’re at the age of risk. Your only source of protection are drugs like Fosamax. The problem with that is that bone hardening drugs like Fosamax have come under scrutiny for waning effects after 3-4 years.

Prestigious medical journals like the New England Journal of Medicine have shown that you may actually have a greater risk of thigh fractures if you stay on the medication for 5 years compared to placebo. [source]

Once you have osteoporosis, you are basically going to have it throughout your life. It’s not like you can just take the drug for 3 years, stop, and still be protected. You are expected to take this drug for the rest of your life, but doing that will increase your fracture risk.

It’s just one of those ironic moments in medicine when the cure can eventually cause the problem.

Addressing Balance and Coordination

The best time to address bone density problems is likely in early adult hood. Resistance training combined with a diet high in calcium and magnesium can help build thick and strong bone during your 20’s and 30’s. Trying to build bone in your 50’s and 60’s as a post-menopausal woman can be a losing battle. For many it’s way too late to try to increase bone density naturally.

However there is more to blame in for the devastating impact of falls beyond just soft bones. We also have to look at why people fall to begin with. Research suggests that just 15% of falls occur due to some external event (wet floor, pushed over, etc) and 15% of falls are a result of an underlying disease process (MS, diabetes, epilepsy).

That leaves a whopping 70% of falls are a result of a combination of factors that lead to poor balance and poor mobility.

Unlike soft bones, balance and mobility are traits that can be trained and improved upon throughout your life.

Common Way to Improve Balance

When it comes to balance, you have to address 3 parts of the nervous system. The visual system, the vestibular system, and the proprioceptive system. For ease of understanding, we’ll just call them your eyes, your ears, and your joints/muscles/skin.

balance and dizziness

By identifying which system is deficient, you can design interventions that can improve the balance of a human being. Some of these therapies include:

  • Vision therapy
  • Physical therapy
  • Strength training
  • Occupational therapy
  • Vestibular therapy

These are the most commonly prescribed recommendations for people with balance problems. But what if these therapies don’t work well for you? Many people are told that they just have to live with their balance issue.

New Research on Spinal Health and Balance

A recent study published in the Journal of Manipulative and Physiologic Therapeutics suggests that chiropractors may play a large role in helping people get their sense of balance back. The study looked at 30 patients receiving chiropractic care versus 30 controls. Both groups had measurements taken of various balance metrics and were tested at 4 weeks and 12 weeks.

Here are some of the charts from the paper:

Link to paper:

Link to paper:

The patients in the chiropractic group had a significant decrease in errors in joint position tests.


Link to paper:

Link to paper:

Patients in the chiropractic group had higher scores in a sound flash illusion test.

Link to paper:

Link to paper:

 Patients in the chiropractic group had a significant improvement in health related quality of life scores.

Do Tests Translate  to the Real World

So here’s the thing. The results look good on the charts, and seem to be significant. However, we can’t really make the leap that people will fall less by getting adjusted based on the results of this study. It’s just a good place to start.

What this study does tell us is that there’s something about patients who get adjusted seem to have a better sense of their own body. That’s the proprioception idea that we talked about earlier. If you have a better awareness of your body, then you will generally have better balance.

While we can’t make a leap based on this study, we do know that many patients under chiropractic care see some astounding changes in their balance and quality of life when they start getting their brain and spine connected.

Check out one of my favorite patient success stories below:

I am a 72 y.o. retired R.N. with history of Vertigo and Poor Balance.
Having had this problem for more than 20 years; I have seen many Doctors with little or no improvement.
On April 11, 2014, I walked into Dr. Chung’s office holding onto walls or anything available to keep from falling. After my first visit, I knew that I had finally met someone that truly cared. After my first adjustment, I was able to stand on my own.
Fast forward to 12 weeks of treatment, I am now able to go out without fear of falling.
I am now on the Maintenance Program and feeling stronger and able to “LIVE” and not merely :SURVIVE”.
Thank You Dr. Chung
You are the BEST !!!!!!

– Peggy McDaniel

Many doctors didn’t go into chiropractic because they want to be a quick solution for pain. They went into chiropractic because it can dramatically change the quality of someone’s life.

When you lose their sense of control over their surroundings, it can become devastating to your sense of independence. Our job is to find a way to give that sense back to you.

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The Anatomy of a Headache



Outline: [5-10 minute read time]

  • Headaches come in different shapes and sizes and may have different anatomical triggers
  • The brain cannot generate pain. Head pain must come from a source outside the brain
  • Common sources of head pain
  • How head and neck positioning can help

Not all headaches are created equal. Part of being a doctor that sees patients of all shapes and sizes, we have to become familiar with the different types. Here’s a short list of the most common types:

  • Tension headache
  • Migraine headache
  • Sinus headache
  • Hypertensive headache
  • Cluster headache
  • Post-traumatic headache
  • Cervicogenic headache

It can be a challenge for a doctor to identify the type of headache you have because while these headaches have distinct characteristics, most of them overlap and make the clinical picture very gray. In some part, the type of headache you are having is determined by the anatomy that is generating the pain signal.

Although the pain of a headache can make it feel like your brain is going to explode,  there are actually zero pain generating tissues within the brain itself. That means that something outside of the brain is transmitting a signal to the brain that something has gone wrong. I won’t go into some some of the more serious secondary causes of headache like tumors, strokes, etc, this will be more focused on primary headache.

Headache Anatomy

1. Arteries in the brain –

For decades, scientists have studied arteries in the brain and their role in headaches. While we don’t know everything about migraines, we do know that migraine attacks tend to happen when the arteries of the brain swell and lead to inflammation of the nerves that are connected to the artery. These nerve endings are transmitted to the trigeminal ganglion causing the pain portion of the headache.

It’s for this reason that many of the drugs used to treat migraine are those that reduce the swelling of brain arteries. In fact, the target of new drug therapies are using antibodies to target the molecules that cause the arteries to open, and hopefully prevent the attacks from occurring to begin with.

2. C1, C2, C3 Nerve Roots

The top 3 nerves in your spine are highly linked to headaches following a head and neck injury. When someone suffers a whiplash injury or concussion, these upper cervical nerves can become irritated and generate pain across the back and top of the head. In some cases, this leads to a condition called occipital neuralgia where the nerves are chronically disturbed leading to unrelenting pain or numbness in the skull.

c1 c2 c3 nerves

The nerves coming from the top of the neck


3. The Meninges

The meninges is a layer of tissue that wraps around the brain, spinal cord, and nerves. When you hear people talking about meningitis, we are referring to this outer covering becoming enflamed. One of the symptoms of meningitis can be a bad headache, and the meninges can be a cause of headache pain even without a meningitis infection.

Some anatomical studies show that small muscles in the neck can connect into the meninges which may be the problem with certain types of headaches.

Brain Meninges

A cross-section of the skull showing the brain and the meninges

4. Head and Neck Muscles

Muscles of the head and neck have been long associated with tension type headaches. While the influence of these muscles in headache were exaggerated over the years, certain muscles do play a role in head pain. Neck pain generated by muscles like the  splenius capitus can generate pain that refers into the head.

With TMJ patients, the jaw muscles like the masseter, pterygoids, and temporalis muscles can become highly contracted and become potent pain generators which is one of the reasons why jaw problems are highly associated with headache.

Neck Muscles

Muscles commonly associated with headache

5. Dysfunctional Neck Joints

The joints of the neck play a large role in postural feedback to the brain. These joints are also sensitive to irritation through injury and chronic malpositioning. Headaches resulting from dysfunctional neck joints are known as cervicogenic headache. These types of headaches are hard to diagnose because they are generally classified by whether a neck treatment helps, but we do know that this is more commonly seen with whiplash and head injuries.

What Do They All Have In Common?

So here’s the fun part. What is it about all of these different pieces of anatomy have in common besides the fact that they all cause headaches? Neurologically it comes down to a bundle of nerves that make up the trigeminal complex.

The Trigeminal Complex

The Trigeminal Complex

This particular piece of anatomy is important because it is the hub for almost all pain signals in the head and neck. Everything from the C1-C3 spinal nerves, meninges, jaw muscles, and skin of the face gets transmitted and processed by these nerves. In some cases, a chronic headache problem might possibly be a less severe form of trigeminal neuralgia.

That means if we can can change the way the trigeminal complex is working, then we can have a meaningful effect on the status of someone’s headache disorder.

How Structural Correction of the Neck Can Help

In our Wellington office, we work heavily on correcting the positioning of the top part of the neck. We talked about how C1, C2, and C3 nerves can transmit pain in regards to a headache, but they also transmit valuable information about your posture and positioning in space.

When the head and neck are in a normal position, then this information gets to the brain without a problem and all seems well. However, a structural shift like Atlas Displacement Complex creates a scrambled signal into the brain and allows pain to be the dominant message. That’s why those nerves at the top of your neck are so important. They can dampen pain signals going into the trigeminal complex and stop the headache process from starting!


Image credit to Dan Murphy, DC

Diagram showing how the nerves from the neck meet with the trigeminal nerves Image credit to Dan Murphy, DC


Our success rate with headaches is so high, not because we’re treating each headache we see differently, but we are finding the neurological element that seems to tie them all together. In many cases, it can be as simple as the Atlas Displacement Complex.



Could your problems be the result of ADC?

Could your problems be the result of ADC?

Research: Active Vagus Nerve Predicts Cancer Survival Regardless of Stage

The Vagus Nerve and Cancer


  • What’s a Vagus nerve?
  • Sympathetic vs Parasympathetic
  • The Startling stats on HRV and Tumor Blood markers
  • How You Can Improve Your Vagus Nerve Activity
  • Tools to use today

Abstract Link:

If you have an active vagus nerve, cancer stage may no longer be important

I don’t usually like to post articles about cancer because it’s a sensitive subject that affects a lot of people. I just had to write about this because it’s really fascinating and really surprising. I’ll be interested in seeing how research in this field evolves. So here we go.

Active Vagus Nerve? What’s That?

The vagus nerve is probably the most interesting nerve in the body. It goes from your brainstem and connects to almost every organ in your body that you hardly think about. Check it out below:

Vagus Nerve

Historically, this nerve is associated with creating a parasympathetic response for the body. A parasympathetic response is essentially the opposite of a sympathetic (aka stress response).


Fight or flight

Speed Up Heart Rate

Slows down digestion

Down Regulate Immune System


Feed and Breed

Slows down heart rate

Turns up digestion

Up Regulate Immune System

We need both of these systems working properly in order to be healthy. Our sympathetic system helps us to run away from danger and perform outrageous feats of athleticism when activated properly. Our parasympathetic system helps us to prepare for sleep and improve digestion and absorbtion of vital nutrients.

Life is really about finding a balance between these subsystems of your nervous system. It’s extremely common in our stressed out world to be sympathetic dominant. This dominance is what leads many people to have problems like high blood pressure, irritable bowel syndrome, diabetes, and other chronic illness.

While we cannot always control the environment that causes us to be stressed out, there are things we can do in our daily lives to help activate our vagus nerve and turn on our parasympathetic nervous system.

The Vagus Nerve and Cancer

So that’s all well and good, but how does that line up with something as deadly as cancer?

The authors used a metric called Heart Rate Variability(HRV) to monitor activity of the vagus nerve. Heart Rate Variability monitors the rhythm changes between consecutive heart beats and is highly correlated to the activity of the vagus nerve.

In previous studies, high HRV scores have been associated with lower tumor burden and increased survival in cancer patients. [1,2,3] but it wasn’t known whether high vagal activity was the cause of improvement or just a characteristic of people that recover well.

Here’s what the authors of this study found:

Patients with prostate cancer and colorectal cancer were studied. The stage of cancer and heart rate variability were measured before treatment to see if they predicted tumor markers at a 6 month follow up.

Image from Paper:

Prostate Cancer markers and HRV Image from copy of paper:

Image from paper:

Colorectral Cancer markers and HRV Image from paper copy:

 These graphs were the most eye opening part of the paper. Each graph shows the presence of cancer biomarkers. For prostate cancer they used Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA). For colorectal cancer they used CarcinoEmbryonic Antigen (CEA).

These graphs show that patients with high vagal nerve activity (high HRV) had substantially lower levels of tumor markers in their system compared to patients with low vagal nerve activity (low HRV) in late stage cancer. This was true even when accounting for age and treatment differences. What does this mean?

If you have metastatic or late stage cancer, having higher vagal activity can reduce your tumor burden and improve your odds at recovery.

Can I Improve my Vagus Nerve Activity?

So can you actually improve your vagus nerve activity, or is it something that you’re born with? As it turns out, there are not shortage of things that you can do to help improve your heart rate variability. These interventions include:

Regular activity and exercise
Diet and Gut Bacteria Changes
Meditation, Stress Management, Biofeedback
Massage (Even in Infants)

And that was just from a quick search on Pubmed.

The point being:

Heart rate variability/vagal activity is something you can change whenever you want.

Not a Cancer Treatment

Now here’s where things get sticky and why I don’t post about cancer in my blog. In the alternative medicine world, it’s easy for some people to take the results of one study, and extrapolate in a way to say that makes it out to be the big thing to cure cancer naturally.

 Changing your vagal tone and HRV is NOT about treating cancer, and anyone using the above methods as a stand alone methodology of curing cancer is foolish.

Getting better function from your vagus nerve is about creating higher resilience in your body’s response to stress isn’t just good for cancer. It’s good for just about everything from post-exercise recovery to post-heart attack recovery.

Regardless of your condition, a better adaptation to stress benefits the body as a whole.

Tools for You

Heart Rate Variability is one of the metrics that we measure on patients in our office. It helps us keep a gauge of a patient’s autonomic nervous system in response to a Structural Correction program.

Fortunately, technology has evolved to the point where you can actually measure this on yourself regularly right from your own phone. While I have never used these apps before, these tools can provide a motivated patient to take their own measurements comfortably from their own home. Here are the highest rated tools:

Polar H7 Blue Tooth Smart Heart Rate Monitor (Starting at $55)

Elite HRV App (Free)

I suggest taking measurements over the course of a few days to get some baseline data before you start seeing what creates positive change. It’s important to control for certain variables. I would start by taking your HRV the first the in the morning so it helps eliminates some confounding variables. Remember that HRV can be influenced by numerous factors including sleep, prescription drugs, diet, and timing of the test.. It’s up to you to find the right combination that works for you.

Use these measurements to time your post-workout recovery, physiologic response to new treatments, or even the impact that sleep has on our overall health. While it’s not a full-proof measurement by any means, it’s a non-invasive and significant marker for overall health and well-being.

Case Study – What Happens When A Current Patient Has a Head Injury – Chiropractor in Wellington

Case Study


Last week I had a really unique situation that I wanted to share. It really helps to clarify what my approach to patient care is when a case is not going the way that I expect.

Case Presentation:

A year ago, a woman came into the office to see me for daily headaches. The headaches had been a problem for over 40 years. They had been using over the counter medications and meditation techniques to keep the headaches under control. The worst times for the patient were the days that it rained. On rainy days, their dull headache would start to become more of a pounding type pain. In West Palm Beach where it rains most days in the summer, it’s a pretty miserable way to live.

After 2 weeks of gentle Atlas Corrections, the patient’s headache frequency dropped to 1x/week and the rain no longer had an impact on their headaches.

Within 2 months, almost all headache symptoms had resolved completely.

Enter the Concussion

The case above is a pretty standard and regular occurance in the office. Headache cases are probably the fastest responding and most successful Secondary Conditions that resolve when the Atlas is corrected. What made this case interesting is what happened about a year after she first saw me.

The patient ended up having a concussion, and as a result started showing new symptoms. There was neck pain that was never present, a new headache pattern, and a persistent abnormal tingling that wouldn’t go away.

The patient came in about a week after the concussion happened. After evaluating the patient to make sure it was safe to take care of them, I attempted to use a similar adjustment that had worked on her in the past.

While some of the post-concussion symptoms got better, the headache and the abnormal sensations didn’t budge. The patient was concerned that they might have to seek out more aggressive medical options to address the new symptoms.

Many times, an Atlas Correction is like a key to a unique lock. It rarely changes over time, but a head trauma can force that lock to break, which means you need a new key. A new and different correction becomes necessary.

I decided that I needed to re-evaluate the situation based on the NUCCA protocol for Structural Correction.

Some people think it’s uncalled for, and others think it’s excessive, but I decided to take a new set of X-rays on the patient. The radiation dosage on craniocervical X-rays are about the same as a cross-country flight, and the patient thought it was worth it.

I never want to irradiate a patient more than they need and I look to avoid X-rays if I don’t need them. I decided that the chance to help this patient recover from their post-concussion symptoms warrented a new series.

Concussion Created a New Lock, NUCCA Provides a New Key

As it turns out, the new imaging revealed a completely different angle that I needed to use for the correction. The head injury disrupted the structure of the neck so much, that it rendered the previous correction useless.

Within minutes of using the information from the new X-ray, the patient’s headache and abnormal head sensations vanished.

It’s one of the reasons I embrace the NUCCA procedure because it provides a very elegant way of troubleshooting a difficult case, especially one that had achieved such success in the past.

Some people go through and have an extremely successful run with chiropractic care, but out of nowhere it stops working.

In these moments, I encourage people not to dismiss chiropractic as a whole, but to reevaluate the APPLICATION of chiropractic to find what went wrong.