Chiari Malformation and Pain

May 3, 2010

by Anne Colyn, MS-PREP, MAc, Dipl Ac (USA)
An episode of “House MD” on Fox on May 3 will be presenting a girl with Chiari Malformation, for many experienced as chronic unrelenting headaches.
The syndrome is complicated to explain because each individual has different symptoms. The symptoms mostly stem from a congenital problem with the lobes of the cerebellum (the very back of the brain) “sinking” into the opening at the bottom of the skull where spine meets the brain. This structural problem causes pressure on the brain stem and congestion in the opening where the spinal fluid flows in and out of the brain from the spine. The symptoms manifest themselves in each person differently, depending on how much pressure is being caused on which nerves. Most commonly a person will find out about their Chiari diagnosis after years of “unknown causes” of headaches in the back of their head, and doctors telling them it’s only an emotional problem.
Due to the structural nature of Chiari, medications typically are not beneficial. The common treatment is to repair the structural imbalance by opening that part of the skull and shrinking the lobes that are causing undue pressure on the brain stem and interrupting the spinal fluid from flowing in a direct path in and out of the brain. In fact, statistically this syndrome is just as common as Multiple Sclerosis. It’s crucial for doctors to begin educating themselves on this syndrome for those patients struggling with pain and yielding no benefit from conventional headache treatment.
Go to www.conquerchiari.org for information if you’d like to read more about Chiari.

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