Continuing on our October theme for National Chiropractic Health Month, we’re going to take a look at our article published in the Journal of Upper Cervical Chiropractic Research this year.

Resolution of Post-traumatic Epilepsy, Headaches & Dizziness Following Upper Cervical Chiropractic Care in a 19-Year-Old Male: Case Study & Review of the Literature

If you’re interested in reading the entire article, we have a copy in our office. But if you want to skip pages and pages of technical jargon than this blog post is the read for you.

What is PTE?

PTE stands for post-traumatic epilepsy.  By definition it’s recurring seizures starting more than one week following an injury to the brain. These injuries could come from a traumatic brain injury (TBI) or a brain operation.[1,2]

Who’s at risk? Those most likely to suffer brain injuries. Young males are the biggest category followed by children and the elderly. The rates of PTE following a TBI are as high as 86% but vary depending on the severity of the injury.[2] The good news, about half of all PTE patients experience 3 or fewer seizures and then go into spontaneous remission.[1]

Finally, post-traumatic epilepsy accounts for less than 10% of all epilepsy cases in the US.[2] It’s a small portion of the population that may end up with epilepsy following a brain injury but chiropractic care made the difference in this case.

The case

The patient in this case was a 19-year-old male. While working, a nail gun slid off a roof and struck him in the head. A nail wasn’t shot into his head, but significant damage was done. He didn’t have any internal bleeding or a fracture but he had headaches, dizziness, and was disoriented.

2 months after the accident, he was diagnosed with a mild traumatic brain injury. 4 months after the initial incident, he had his first epileptic event. This continued to worsen, uncontrolled by medication.

He arrived in our office 6 months after the initial injury. At this time he was experiencing 2 to 3 seizures per day. During the examination there were numerous indications that the nerve signals between the brain and the body were being distorted in the upper cervical region. X-rays were taken to determine the exact misalignment of the bones of the neck.

His epilepsy started to improve following the upper cervical adjustments. The patient experienced only 4 seizures in the first month of care compared to an average of 2-3 per day before. After 11 months, he had no further episodes.

Why did this work?

In our paper we discussed how an adjustment could effect the nervous system in such a profound way. In essence, the upper cervical region, also known as the craniocervical junction (CCJ), is a complex area between your head and your neck. It houses the transition from the brain stem to the spinal cord with a multitude of small ligaments and muscles.

Atlas Misalignment Subluxation Orthospinology Chiropractic

In this region, the nerve tracts that relay muscle tone information to the brain are vulnerable to distortions especially after significant trauma to the head and neck.[3] This could result in the seizures experienced by the patient.

However, this study is limited by the nature of a case report. It is not appropriate to apply this treatment approach to all PTE patients. Just because one patient had these results doesn’t mean everyone will.

Because of this, we also dug into the research on chiropractic, epilepsy, and seizures. There are some additional case studies as well as literature reviews that demonstrate improvement in epilepsy sufferers.[4-16] Notably, there were 4 other cases where a subject developed epilepsy after significant head trauma that improved with chiropractic care focusing on the upper cervical region.[6-8,13]

More research is needed into chiropractic care and epilepsy, but specifically upper cervical chiropractic and posttraumatic epilepsy. The exact relationship between an upper cervical misalignment and PTE is unknown. More study is needed to understand the role of upper cervical chiropractic care in the treatment of epilepsy.

We’re always here to answer your questions. Please let us know if you have any or would like to know more about this study.


  1. Medscape [Internet]. WebMD LLC; c1994-2017. Posttraumatic Epilepsy; 2014 Apr 04 [cited 2017 June 4]; [Overview Background Epidemology and Prognosis]. Available from:
  2. Christensen J. The epidemiology of posttraumatic epilepsy. Semin Neurol. 2015;35:218-22.
  3. Grostic JD. Dentate ligament – cord distortion hypothesis. CRJ. 1988;1(1):47-55
  4. Pistolese RA. Epilepsy and seizure disorders: a review of literature relative to chiropractic care of children. J Manip Physiol Ther. 2001;24(3):199-205
  5. Holuszko J, Falardeau P, Banks C, Coonrad H, Lubbe J, Oumi K, et al. Neurodevelopmental disorders and chiropractic: a systematic review of the literature. J Pediatr Matern & Fam Health – Chiropr. 2015;2015(1):51-70
  6. Komarek AJ, Tedder N, Tedder A. Cessation of seizures, behavioral disturbances and improvement in cognitive developmental delay following upper cervical chiropractic care in a 2 year old: a case report. J Upper Cervical Chiropr Res. 2015;2015(2):14-8
  7. Elster, EL. Treatment of bipolar, seizure, and sleep disorders and migraine headaches utilizing a chiropractic technique. J Manip Physiol Ther. 2004;27(3):8
  8. Hubbard TA, Crisp CA, Vowles B. Upper cervical chiropractic care for a 25-year-old woman with myoclonic seizures. J Chiropr Med. 2010 jun;9(2):90-4
  9. Goodman RJ, Mosby JS Jr. Cessation of a seizure disorder: correction of the atlas subluxation complex. Chiropr. 1990 Jul;6(2):43-6
  10. Hyman CA. Chiropractic adjustments and the reduction of petit mal seizures in a five-year-old male: a case study. J Clin Chiropr Pediatr. 1996;1(1):28-32
  11. Hartenburg M, Denton A. Resolution of seizures & improvement in quality of life in a 22-year-old female with epilepsy following upper cervical chiropractic care. J Upper Cervical Chiropr Res. 2017;2017(1):8-11
  12. Sweat R, Pottenger T. Seizure, ataxia, fatigue, strabismus and migraine resolved by precise realignment of the first cervical vertebra: A Case Report. J Upper Cervical Chiropr Res. 2012;2012(1):20-6
  13. Brown N. The use of chiropractic adjustments as a complementary approach to treatment of seizures in children. J Clin Chiropr Pediatr. 2005;6(3):436-7
  14. Livingood B, Feizi S. Resolution of chronic epileptic seizures & improved cervical curve following chiropractic care: a case report. Ann Vert Sublux Res. 2016;2016(3):67-72
  15. Zielinski E, Borkhuis SJ. An epidemiological approach to the effects of subluxation-based chiropractic care on a child with autism, acid reflux, headache, seizure, and vomiting: a case study and review of the literature. Ann Vert Sublux Res. 2013;2013(3):51-65
  16. Alcantara J, Heschong R, Plaugher G. Chiropractic management of a patient with subluxations, low back pain, and epileptic seizures. J Manip Physiol Ther. 1998 Jul/Aug;21(6):410-8

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