Some year later, I was confronted with a very unusual and probably the most challenging situation in my career. A mother brought in her 18 year old son to me, “Peter”, who was involved in a motor vehicle accident about two years before. The accident was very severe; his car had slid off the road into a telephone pole at about 40-50 mph. At the time, his car did not have air bags and his seat belt had failed. Peter was sent through the front windshield at a very high velocity. Peter had fractured five out of seven cervical vertebrae. There were two surgeries performed; one going through the back of the neck, and another across the front of his throat. Five out of the seven vertebrae were fused with screws and bolts.
Peter had recovered fully from the surgeries, but was left with severe migraines that had become a chronic daily event. Peter also had severe restriction of movement, which could easily be understood, along with a throbbing pressure at the base of the neck which shot into both temples around his eyes. Due to the severity of the surgery, the orthopedic doctors told his mother that no chiropractic or physical therapy should ever be done to his neck.
Peter’s mother had brought him into me against doctor’s orders just to see if anything could be done. She knew her son couldn’t live the rest of his life this way, but no one had any solutions.
After a cervical x-ray I found something very interesting; Peter’s neck had been fused in perfect alignment from C3 to C7, but the first two vertebrae, C1 and C2 were rotated in the opposite direction.
In the doctor’s rush to save Peter’s life and stabilize his cervical spine, the top two vertebrae which were not fractured were omitted from surgical intervention. Due to the severity of the accident, the head trauma and neck injury, the orthopedic surgeons had their hands full. The challenge was to fix Peter’s top two vertebrae without putting any stress on the rest of the cervical spine. Most orthopedics don’t realize that a chiropractic adjustment in experienced hands can be very specific.
At first, myofascial work was done on the upper cervical spine, the sternocleidomastoid muscle(SCM) and both trapezius muscles. Passive stretching was then gently applied and after a week Peter received his first chiropractic adjustment at C1-C2. Over the next couple of weeks, Peter began to notice a dramatic decrease in the frequency and severity of his headaches. And unexpectedly, the was also an increase in his range of motion. At the six week mark, Peter had his first full week with no medication and no headaches. After another two weeks, a follow-up x-ray was taken which showed a full correction at the C1-C2 vertebral level. Peter has come in periodically for a maintenance check-up, but remains headache free to this day.
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