The Connection Between Ménière’s disease and Atlas Subluxation

Health Solutions for Ménière’s Disease. You have 7 vertebrae in your neck, C1 – C7. Your head sits directly on Atlas, also known as C1, and is the first bone in your neck. Your head weighs between 10-15 pounds, and sits on top of C1, which weighs only 2 ounces. When Atlas is knocked out of place due to head trauma, it puts pressure on the brainstem.

C1 and C2 are the only spinal bones that do not have inter-vertebral discs, and are the most freely moveable. Increased movement means increased instability. This means that they are the most common to move out of place or subluxate. The base of the brain, or brainstem,  controls many important bodily functions, such as breathing, blood pressure, sleep, digestion and balance.

When you are subluxated, the weight of your head is no longer balanced evenly on your Atlas. The rest of your body compensates, one shoulder drops, one hip comes up, pulling up on that leg creating body imbalance and an abnormal gait. This causes interference at the point where your head and neck join (the atlas). If the atlas is out of its proper alignment, it can irritate, constrict or disrupt vital nerve signals to any part of your body. This can cause muscle or joint pain, organ dysfunction, a lowered immune system and many other conditions that you would not necessarily connect with your neck, including the symptoms of Ménière’s disease.


The Endolymph Connection

Ménière’s disease is also known as “endolymphatic hydrops.” Endolymphatic hydrops is defined as, “the accumulation of the fluid of the membranous labyrinth of the ear, thought to be caused by the over production or under absorption of that fluid” by the Merck Manual.

Your inner ear consists of two fluids, endolymph and perilymph. These fluids are in separate compartments. Hydrops is the medical term for excess fluid. Therefore, endolymphatic hydrops is an excess of endolymph.

When your body is working properly, your body produces new endolymph, and reabsorbs an equal amount of old endolymph, thus maintaining an equal endolymphatic pressure. It is believed that Ménière’s disease is associated with a build-up of excessive endolymph in the vestibular (balance) portion of the inner ear. This happens when too much endolymph is produced or not enough endolymph is reabsorbed.

Pressure on the vestibulo-cochlear nerve (the 8th cranial nerve) from an atlas subluxation is believed to disrupt your body’s ability to properly regulate endolymphatic pressure. Thus the real issue underlying Ménière’s disease isn’t found in your inner ear, but caused by having your atlas, C1, vertebrae out of alignment.


The Whiplash Connection

Whiplash injuries have been linked to both Ménière’s disease and Trigeminal Neuralgia. The trauma from a whiplash injury sets the stage, and it is not uncommon for these two conditions to show up later in life. They oftentimes happen many years later, and a causal relationship is often missed. When patients think of whiplash, they think of car accidents. However, whiplash injuries can also happen from any trauma to your head, such as a childhood fall. Dr. Burcon, an upper cervical chiropractor that has extensive experience in this area, states that half of his Ménière’s patients were involved in a vehicle accident and the other half had injuries involving head trauma. It is not uncommon for patients to deny a car accident or head trauma during an initial consultation, because they happened so long ago that patients have either forgotten or thought they were too minor to be connected.

Atlas subluxations affect the nerves of your autonomic nervous system, blood flow, and cerebral-spinal fluid (CSF) flow. This piece is important as Ménière’s disease is thought to be related to problems with excess endolymph, which is in essence, CSF in your inner ear.

It is important to note that 5 of the 12 cranial nerves originate in the brainstem, surrounded by the top bones in your neck. When the trigeminal nerve (5th cranial nerve) is compressed by an atlas subluxation, eustachian tube function is affected, causing the feeling of fullness in your middle ear. The trigemenal nerve also controls proper function of your temporo-mandibular joint (TMJ) which can also affect proper eustachian tube function. Also, when the vestibulo-cochlear nerve (8th cranial nerve) is affected, it results in low-frequency hearing loss, tinnitus and balance conditions such as vertigo and dizziness. It is believed that an atlas misalignment can result in Ménière’s disease. Learn more about vertigo here.

If you are suffering from Ménière’s disease, give us a call for a consultation at (619) 313-5403.

Gentle Adjustments. Powerful Results.


Gentle NUCCA Chiropractors

Intouch Chiropractic | San Diego, CA



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