Optimize Monthly: June Edition

Welcome back... In this Edition of Optimize Monthly, I delve into how our lifestyle can affect our health as well as the health our future children. I also dive further into the cervical spine and it's relationship with concussion. Looking at how problems with the cervical spine could lead to a decrease in function and slow down concussion recovery time. I hope you enjoy this Edition of Optimize Monthly and that you continue to follow along!

All the best,
Dr. Jake

Exercise: The Positive Effects For You And Possibly Your Future Kids

Have you heard that you should be getting 150-300 minutes of of aerobic exercise per week? Meaning at least 20 minutes a day of exercises like walking, dancing, gardening, hiking, swimming, etc. The reason is because these activities can help reduce your risk of all-cause mortality, coronary heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and depression.
   As individuals many of us know the benefits of working out whether we take heed of them and actually do it is a different story. While we understand the affect aerobic exercise can have on our health, recent studies  have shown that exercise also could affect your future children. We’ll dive into that but I want to put a disclaimer that the research was done on mice, so its not a for sure thing yet, but it is promising. The study was done at the University Medical Center in Goenttingen Germany and published in the esteemed journal Cell Reports by Professor André Fischer and colleagues from the German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases.
   So what did the research say?
The research looked at male mice that were in an enriched environment to see if their offspring had positive effects from this.
   How did they do this?
They took a group of male mice and put them in an environment where they got plenty of exercise and cognitive
stimulation. It then took another group of mice and put them in a regular environment. Then both of these group were bred and the scientist looked at the offspring.
   What they found…
If the mice’s fathers were in an enriched environment then those mice had an increase in cognitive function.
   Why is that important?
Well it adds to the science showing that what we are doing now can affect our future kids. While the study was done in mice and is promising it doesn’t mean the exact thing happens in humans. However, many studies are first done in mice and then later done in humans and see similar results. 
   So that meditation and working out that you are doing, keep it up because it could change the lives of your future children. If you’re not having children or already have had children, re-read the first paragraph to remember all the benefits that come with working out.

A Look At The Relationship Between Concussion And The Cervical Spine

   Research and new technology is helping us better understand the effects of concussion and concussion recovery. Due to this new information a connection between the cervical spine and concussion has developed and because of the similarities of symptoms following concussions and cervical spine injuries, this relationship can no longer be ignored. 
   While concussions affect more than 3.8 million people annually in the US and the majority of those that suffer from a concussion recover within the first 7-10 days, up to 33% don’t recover in that time span and often have negative effects lasting from weeks to years. The symptoms that last over a few weeks to months are put under the umbrella category, post-concussive syndrome.
   These symptoms often times include: headaches, dizziness, tinnitus, irritability, sleep disturbances, blurred vision, neck stiffness, balance disturbances, depression, cognitive deficits, memory deficits, attention deficits, decreased neck strength and more.
   These symptoms that are often seen in post-concussion syndrome are also often seen after a neck injury.
   Due to the neurological and vascular connection between the cervical spine and the brain the cervical spine could play a crucial role in the 10-20% of individuals who don't recover from symptoms after the first 7-10 days.
   Due to the overlap between the symptoms in concussions and neck injuries such as whiplash, it is believed that some of the symptoms seen in post-concussion injuries are not due to the concussion but rather the trauma to the cervical spine that can happen during a concussion. This trauma to the neck is a vital piece when it comes to concussion recovery because of the neck’s (cervical spine) neurological and vascular involvement with recovery of the brain injury.
   So why is the neck so important?
Sensors (mechanoreceptors) in the neck let the brain know information about the neck and the heads position (afferent information). This information is combined with visual information the brain is picking up as well as vestibular information. Due to the close tie between these three systems the body is able to use this information to makes adjustments to the structure (posture) of the body (efferent information). It does this to keep the body stable by constantly adapting to the body’s surroundings. When trauma happens to the neck either by a concussive force or in a whiplash type injury it can cause the receptors to send improper information to the brain because of problems with the sensors.

Effects Of Structural Misalignment

   The problems with the sensors can cause muscles to not function correctly causing pain in the neck leading to irregular movement due to the pain, then to the muscles becoming stiff because of improper movement. Finally due to this protective movement it can lead to the muscles not relaxing causing an increase in inflammatory substances which will cause further damage to the sensors in the neck.
   If the sensors aren’t firing correctly they will continue to send improper information to the brain (afferent) and can cause neck pain, headaches, numbness and tingling, ringing in ears, low back pain, jaw pain, memory problems, dizziness, and more. If the neck and head stay in the improper structural alignment the brain will continue to get improper messages from the neck continuing the cascade of symptoms.
   Along with improper signals being sent to the brain after trauma to the neck there can also be issues with cerebral blood flow and cerebral spinal fluid (CSF) flow to the brain following neck injuries and concussion. Proper flow of both blood and spinal fluid is crucial to the brain for recovery after concussion because it brings vital building blocks to the brain for healing as well as clearing away build up that can occur due to concussion. 2 One mechanism of improper CSF flow is thought to be caused by the improper alignment of the spine affecting the pumping mechanism of the CSF and the improper alignment negatively affecting cerebral blood flow. 3
   When the structure of the cervical spine is impacted during a neck injury it poses a barrier for recovery in concussion. 3,4 While research is still delving into all the possible mechanisms and  why some people recover from concussion and some don’t, research is pointing towards the cervical spine and its alignment playing a major role in concussion recovery.


1. Kristjansson E, Treleaven J. J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 2009 May;39(5):364-77. doi: 10.2519/jospt.2009.2834. Review.

 2. Flanagan MF. The Role of the Craniocervical Junction in Craniospinal Hydrodynamics and Neurodegenerative Conditions. Neurology Research International. 2015;2015:794829. doi:10.1155/2015/794829.

3. Kent, Christopher. (1995). Models of Vertebral Subluxation: A Review. J Vert Subluxation Res. 1.

4. Xu Q, Yu S-B, Zheng N, et al. Head movement, an important contributor to human cerebrospinal fluid circulation. Scientific Reports. 2016;6:31787. doi:10.1038/srep31787.


Jacob Coffman