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Hypoperfusion? What You Don't Know Can Hurt You

Hypoperfusion. Ever heard that word before? It is a condition that you may not know about, you may not realize that you have it, but it can be very serious to your immediate and long-term physical and mental health.

Perfusion is the term used to describe the supplying of blood to the various organs. Hypo is the Greek prefix for under, beneath. Hypoperfusion is the under-supplying of blood to an organ. This can be a very serious problem. Depending on the severity and duration of the blood deprivation, it can cause physical problems, pain, and cell death.

Hypoperfusion can occur anywhere in the body as a result of a variety of conditions. It is common in the extremities, such as the hands and feet, the kidneys, the skin, and the heart. It can be the result of external conditions, numerous diseases, or physical activities, and spinal conditions.

Blood carries oxygen and nutrients to the cells in the body. Any drop in the supply of these life-sustaining substances results in a decrease in cellular performance and, if severe enough, cellular damage that the body may or may not be able to repair. If the reduction is severe and acute, it’s referred to as ischemia or shock. One cause of stroke is severe hypoperfusion in the brain.

One of the most serious places for hypoperfusion to occur is in the brain. This condition is referred to as cerebral hypoperfusion. A reduction of blood flow in the brain can have a myriad of effects on one’s health, depending upon which areas of the brain are affected.

Dizziness, changes in vision or temporary vision loss, headaches, nausea, and fainting are among the symptoms that can result from reduced blood flow in the brain. Cognitive impairment, attention disorders, depression, emotional instability, uncoordinated motor functions, visual, auditory, and spatial relationship problems (sensing where your body is in space and putting it in the right position) can also result from decreased blood flow to certain parts of the brain.

A recent study has shown that there is a probable link between spinal health and hypoperfusion in the brain. 29 women and 16 men with varying degrees of chronic neck pain, chronic upper back pain, or both, were examined with a CT imagining system known as SPECT (Single-Photon Emission Computed Tomography). This technology can show blood flow in the brain. Researchers examined eight areas of the brain to see if there was any correlation between vertebral subluxation and cerebral hypoperfusion (J Manipulative Physiol Ther 2012;35:76-85).

Vertebral subluxation is a condition in which the position of individual vertebrae in the spine can become slightly misaligned. Vertebrae rest between discs of softer tissue that provide the spine with the ability to move and flex. The discs also provide spaces for individual nerves to connect with the spinal cord, which connects to the brain at the base of the skull. Those nerves connect to every part of the body. They provide information about the body to the brain and instructions from the brain to the body. In effect, these nerves that make up the nervous system control, coordinate and regulate the function of every single cell and organ in the body.

The health of the spine is vitally important to the nervous system’s ability to function properly. Any inflammation or constriction in the spine can have deleterious effects on the nervous system, including how the peripheral nervous system serves and interacts with the brain.

The patients were given a standard neck disability index (NDI) assessment. They were also examined for the number of painful or blocked spinal points (vertebral subluxations) that they had. Based on their NDI responses and spinal examinations, they were placed into three categories: mild, moderate, and severe.

The mild group consisted of 14 patients. The SPECT examination indicated that cerebral perfusion was normal in all eight areas measured.

The moderate group included 16 patients. SPECT examination results showed cerebral perfusion in this group was 20 to 35 percent below normal. The areas affected most were the frontal and parietal zones of the brain.

The severe group had 15 patients.   SPECT results showed cerebral perfusion to be 30 to 45 percent below normal. Again, the reduced blood flow was mostly in the frontal and parietal zones.

The conclusion of the study was, “In this group of patients with neck and/or upper back pain, NDI scores strongly predicted cerebral hypoperfusion” (J Manipulative Physiol Ther 2012;35:76-85).

Both the frontal and parietal zones of the brain control some vitally important functions. The parietal zone controls sensory input from the rest of the body, spatial sense, and vision. The frontal zone is key in coordinating voluntary motor skills, memory management, and mood control, all three of which are central in how we function socially and assess mental health.

Hypoperfusion may be a condition that you experience and without being aware that your physical and mental abilities are diminished. Even less likely is that you will make the connection between the pain in your neck and your slightly diminished abilities or mood changes. Prolonged inattention to this condition could lead to increased symptoms of hypoperfusion and possibly greater risk of actual brain cell damage due to long-term blood flow issues.

The most noticeable symptom you might have is neck and upper back pain. Many people simply choose to live with their pain, accepting it as just an unfortunate but normal part of life. However, as the above study has shown, ignoring treatment of this pain could be doing you physical and mental harm. It could possibly lead to more severe problems in the future if left untreated.

If you suffer from chronic neck and/or upper back pain, the best thing you can do for yourself is to let an experienced, professional spinal expert examine you. The chiropractors at Canberra Spine Centre are highly trained and experienced in the examination and treatment of vertebral subluxation. Your overall well-being and quality of life are the highest priorities of everyone at our office.

Book online or call us on (02) 6257 9400.