On May 1, 2017, the Journal of Upper Cervical Chiropractic Research published a case study documenting the improvement of a 6-year-old boy with symptoms from Arnold-Chiari Malformation being helped by chiropractic. According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke of the U.S. National Institutes of Health, Chiari Malformations (CMs) are structural defects in the cerebellum, the part of the brain that controls balance.
Some form of Chiari Malformation, also known as Arnold-Chiari Malformation (ACM), is found in about 1 in every 1000 people. There are four types of CMs each with a different type of malformation and severity. This condition is more common in women than men and can cause symptoms of headache, neck pain, vertigo, sensory changes, and lack of voluntary coordination of muscle movements. Other symptoms can also included leg weakness, ringing in the ears, hearing loss, speech disorders, loss of consciousness, and scoliosis.
In this case, a 6-year-old boy was brought to the chiropractor by his parents. The boy had previously received a diagnosis of Arnold-Chiari Malformation that was confirmed by an MRI. He was suffering from unrelenting daily headaches that began at the age of three. The history revealed that at the age of three the boy had fallen off the back-end of a toy wagon after the wagon was jerked forward by another child. The fall caused him to hit the back of his head on the ground. His parents reported that about 2-3 weeks later their son started having headaches.
The boy’s headaches were made worse by movement of the head which also created neck pain as well. Months after his headaches started, the parents noticed that the boy also had a hearing loss, and developed an ear infection. After a number of unsuccessful medical treatments, an MRI was done from which a diagnosis of ACM was made. The options recommended by the pediatric neurologist were either surgery or to seek an alternative type of care. The boy’s parents decided to try the alternative direction and brought their son to the chiropractor.
A chiropractic examination was performed focusing on the upper neck area near the brain stem. The examination included paraspinal thermographic scans and cervical spine x-rays. The conclusion of the examination was that subluxation was present in the upper neck. With this information, specific forms of chiropractic adjustments were started.
As care continued, follow-up x-rays and thermographic studies were performed and confirmed the ongoing correction of subluxation. The results of the care were that the boy reported a discontinuation of his headaches as well as no more motion sickness. Eventually, he had recovered enough that he was able to return to sports activities.
In their conclusion, the authors noted that one single case can not draw definitive conclusions, but they commented, This case study has shown a potential link between removing upper cervical vertebral subluxation and the reduction of symptoms concomitant of ACM and an overall increase in quality of life for this patient.