Pain In The Neck, Shoulders & Upper Back? It Could Be Syringomyelia


If you are experiencing pain across your shoulders, upper back, and neck, you may be considering getting chiropractic treatment to help ease the pain. However, before you do, it's important to determine whether or not the pain is due syringomyelia and, if so, what has caused it to develop. That way, you and your medical team—including your chiropractor—can develop treatment plans that are appropriate for you, regardless of where your aches, pains, and complaints are located. Here's what you need to know.


Syringomyelia directly translated from medical terminology to plain English means a condition of an abnormal tube within the spinal cord. The tube itself is called a syrinx and is, essentially, a cyst or pocket of trapped cerebrospinal fluid. The syrinx can disrupt the flow of cerebrospinal fluid and, sometimes, block the flow completely. Should this happen, complete paralysis can occur. The cysts can elongate and/or widen over time.


In addition to pain in the neck, upper back, and shoulders and the risk of complete paralysis, there are a number of other symptoms of syringomyelia that may not seem related at all and some of which can be treated with chiropractic care, such as:

  • inability to regulate body temperature
  • loss of bladder and bowel control
  • reduction of muscular strength in legs and arms
  • joint stiffness and arthritis
  • facial numbness
  • numbness and tingling in extremities
  • scoliosis

It's important to understand that you may not recognize any of these additional symptoms until after the syrinx has gotten large enough to cause damage to the nerves and spinal cord. It can actually take years for this to occur.


Syringomyelia can be caused by several different things, including Chiari malformation, tethered cord, tumors in the spinal cord, meningitis, and spinal cord injury. In fact, studies show that 25-30% of patients with traumatic spinal cord injuries develop post-traumatic syringomyelia. Essentially, any medical condition or injury that disrupts the flow of cerebrospinal fluid can cause a syrinx to form.

Think of the cerebrospinal fluid flow as similar to that of a creek. When changes are made to the sides of the creek, the flow of water in the creek changes, which can be compared to a bulging disk pushing into the spinal cord. If something large or obstructive is placed in the creek, the movement of the water also changes, which can be compared to a Chiari malformation protruding into the opening for the spinal cord at the base of the brain. 


In most cases, the treatment for syringomyelia is to resolve the cause, such as a decompression surgery for Chiari malformation. However, spinal manipulation has been used successfully as a treatment for syringomyelia with Chiari malformation.

If the cause is determined to be scars from a spinal cord injury or a previous meningitis infection, treatment for syringomyelia can be done with conservative chiropractic treatment only as there is nothing else to fix or repair first. Typically, a large syrinx in the spinal cord contraindicates aggressive chiropractic manipulation of any kind. However, spine and neck adjustments aren't the only types of adjustments done by chiropractors.

Sometimes the syrinx is carefully watched via routine imaging until symptoms progress to the point that neurosurgical intervention is necessary. In the meantime, non-surgical treatment to reduce and/or relieve the symptoms may be achieved with some chiropractic treatment, depending on the location of the syrinx within the spine as well as problems with other joints and body systems that may be helped with chiropractic treatment.

As with all issues regarding health, it's important to keep everyone on your medical team, including your chiropractor, neurosurgeon, and neurologist, informed of your chosen treatment options. 

If you're unsure of the cause of your back, neck, and shoulder pain, consult with a doctor at a clinic like Davison Chiropractic.


30 June 2017

Learning All About The Benefits Of Chiropractic Adjustments

Hi there, my name is Georgette Limerick. I am excited to share my knowledge about chiropractic procedures with you today. I was a softball player through middle school, high school and college. I often stood on the pitcher's mound and lobbed the ball over the plate. The constant movement of my shoulder pulled the ligaments and joint out of alignment. Eventually, I developed an immense amount of pain throughout my neck, back and shoulder. The pain even shot down my arm to my fingertips, making it difficult to work at an acceptable pace. I visited a chiropractor several times to see if some precise adjustments would help. After the third visit, I was convinced the procedures healed me. My site will explore the benefits of chiropractic procedures in detail. Thanks for coming by.