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POTS and Dysautonomia: Know the Basic Facts

pots-and-dysautonomia-know-the-basic-factsEvery upper cervical chiropractor in Decatur is familiar with the “head rushes” that can happen from standing up too quickly. This head rush, otherwise known as orthostatic hypotension (temporary drop in blood pressure due to standing upright), often gets better when you sit back down, and generally is not a cause for concern. However, understanding this mechanism can help us understand the critical role of the nervous system. What happens when it does not function properly?

Your nervous system has two separate systems. The somatic nervous system allows us to control our skeletal muscles and our movements. On the other hand, the autonomic nervous system controls the automatic functions of the body that we do not consciously think about or control. These are things like heart rate, blood pressure, digestion, kidney function, temperature control, and even dilation and constriction of the pupils. The division of the brainstem and spinal cord regulated these functions.

Now imagine if that system of detecting and correcting for changes in blood pressure, temperature, etc. did not always work properly.


What is Dysautonomia?

Dysautonomia is an umbrella term that describes a variety of conditions that cause a malfunction of the autonomic nervous system. People with various forms of dysautonomia experience drastic and unwanted changes in these functions. As a result, they frequently deal with fatigue, lightheadedness, dizziness, fainting, cold extremities (fingers, toes, etc.), unstable blood pressure, abnormal heart rates, palpitations, headache, bladder, malnutrition, and other digestive issues. Over 70 million people worldwide have various forms of dysautonomia.


What is POTS?

Postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS) is a form of dysautonomia. It afflicts one to three million Americans and millions more around the world. POTS is a form of orthostatic intolerance (feeling faint, lightheaded, nauseous, fatigued, weakened) that involves the presence of excessive tachycardia (rapid heart rate) and many other symptoms upon sitting upright or standing.


What Are the Causes of Dysautonomia?

The causes of POTS and other dysautonomia syndromes are largely unclear. Many words, such as “idiopathic” (unknown cause) and “heterogeneous” (multiple causes), can describe the origins of these signs and symptoms. Because dysautonomia is a blanket term that describes the general dysfunction of the autonomic nervous system, its signs and symptoms may also stem from a separate underlying condition.

POTS sufferers often present with numerous musculoskeletal conditions. For this reason, POTS is frequently associated with hypermobile conditions such as Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome.


What Are the Current Care Options?

Since the direct cause of dysautonomia is still a mystery, many care options focus on managing the individual symptoms and seeking to improve the quality of life. Recommendations to manage orthostatic hypotension include elevation of the head of the bed, intravenous fluid transmission, and prescription medication. Often, doctors prescribe midodrine and fludrocortisone.

Also, changes in diet (increasing salt intake, reducing sugar and caffeine intake, maintaining hydration, minimize over-eating, etc.) may help. Other symptoms of dysautonomia respond well to regular exercise and maintaining regular sleep cycles. Counseling and psychotherapy may also help sufferers cope with the stresses of living with dysautonomia.


How Can an Upper Cervical Chiropractor in Decatur Help?

As upper cervical practitioners, our focus is on maintaining the alignment of the head and neck. As the brainstem descends through the base of the skull, it is then surrounded by these top two bones in the neck, C1, and C2. These bones do a great job of protecting the brainstem and surrounding nerves, as long as they maintain their alignment. When they misalign, they have the potential to stretch and distort the tissue in the area. These tissues include muscles, ligaments, blood vessels, cerebrospinal fluid channels, and nerves.

The brainstem, as mentioned earlier, houses several important processing centers within the autonomic nervous system. The lower half of the brainstem, the medulla, contains the cardiac, respiratory, and vasomotor centers of the body. These centers directly control things like heart rate and blood pressure, the very same systems that dysautonomia patients display symptoms.

Though further research is required, the proximity of the upper cervical spine to these control centers shows how a misalignment in the upper neck could negatively impact their ability to function normally. While each case is unique, our office has seen significant and positive results in POTS and dysautonomia patients when correcting the alignment of the upper cervical spine. This mechanical dysfunction could prove to be a missing link in POTS sufferers and other similar conditions.

If you are looking for a trusted upper cervical chiropractor in Decatur, give us a call at 470-347-3737 to reserve your complimentary consultation. This way, we can find out if upper cervical chiropractic care is right for you.



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