When you feel pain, it hurts. But when you feel nothing at all, you know you’re in trouble. Whenever an area is numb, there is a direct relationship to the nerves. The nerves aren’t working properly to create this problem. But what’s causing the nerves to do this? Well, there a couple common mechanisms which can produce this.
The main area of concern whenever numbness occurs, is at the craniocervical junction or CCJ. This is the region between your skull and first bone, the atlas. This vital area is where most of the communication between the brain and body has to flow through. So anatomically, this is the first area to check when one experiences numbness. Tension on the nerves or brainstem at this level can result in this symptom.
The second major area of concern when numbness occurs, is at the nerve root level. This is where the nerves exit the spinal cord, go through the spine, and out to your tissues. If you’re experiencing numbness in the arms, the area of concern would be in the middle of your neck. If you’re experiencing numbness into the legs, the area of concern would be in the lower back area. Due to an accident or injury, the bones in your spine may subluxate and either sit in the wrong position or doesn’t move properly. This causes inflammation to occur which could be the source of the symptom. If this occurs over long periods of time, the spine can degenerate can place pressure on the nerves directly. Once the area is degenerated, it does take a longer time to recover in comparison to someone that doesn’t.
Lastly, individual muscles can tighten up at different points which press on the nerves running through the tissues. This is the least concerning mechanism since a wide variety of providers and methods can help this type of numbness. This mechanism seems to improve the quickest out of the four mechanisms listed.
To determine the area of concern and the source of the numbness, first we want to determine if the body is balanced or not. This is determined by a spinal balance test. When an individual is lying on their back, you can see if one leg is shorter than another. While standing, you can see if one hip is higher than another. Only an upper cervical chiropractor can accurately determine if this is true or not. If this holds true, then next step is to do a biomechanical analysis. Are things sitting in the proper position at the top of the spine and are the structures moving properly? Our upper cervical films can determine whether the structures are sitting in the correct position and how to correct it. Our stress films can determine if the structures are moving properly. Once this is done, we can have a clear idea if the first three mechanisms listed are at play. If this is the case, only an upper cervical doctor can correct the initial problem and only a chiropractor can address the non-moving segments.
Once these mechanisms have been addressed, there may be need for dietary change, seek extremity help from physical therapists or to re-evaluate the medication one may be on. This list is not an all inclusive list of all the mechanisms which can result in numbness. Just some of the common sources that we see in our clinic.