I recently had a patient finish one full year of NetworkSpinal Care, formerly known as Network Spinal Analysis or Network Chiropractic. This patient, I will refer to him as Tim, came into my office in fall of 2019 with a 40 year history of Sleep Apnea. He had taken a sleep apnea test when he was in his early teens, and subsequent tests in 2004 and 2012, and had tried nearly every sleep apnea treatment available, with no relief. He had used a sleep apnea machine, called a CPAP machine, for a while with positive results decades ago, but the effects eventually wore off and he would continuously have to increase the strength setting on the machine until the setting was so high, he wasn’t able to breath at all.
Tim had run out of options after trying many sleep apnea treatments. There was no sleep apnea mask that could help Tim sleep better. People who receive a severe sleep apnea diagnosis wake up more than thirty times per hour. At the time of Tim’s diagnosis, he was measured to be waking up 120 – 140 times per hour, every 20-30 seconds. He was exhausted but couldn’t sleep and seemingly with no way out. He tried all manner of medications: prescription, over-the-counter, natural sleep remedies, and even illegal drugs and alcohol to attempt to manage his sleep.
How Sleep Apnea Affects You
Sleep Apnea affects approximately three million people in the United States every year. That is about one person in every hundred confirmed cases, though it is estimated that nearly 20% of adults could be suffering with sleep apnea. The type of sleep apnea you have must be diagnosed by a medical doctor.
There are three main types of sleep apnea:
- Obstructive Sleep Apnea, the most common type where the throat muscles relax and prevent proper air flow into the lungs.
- Central Sleep Apnea, where the brain isn’t able to send proper messages to the muscles that control breathing.
- Complex Sleep Apnea Syndrome, also known as treatment-emergent central sleep apnea, which is a combination of the first two types of sleep apnea.
Regardless of the type of sleep apnea you have, it can affect not only the quality of your life, but your physiological health as well. People who suffer with sleep apnea are at a higher risk of:
- Heart attack
- High Blood Pressure
- Excessive Daytime Fatigue
- Type 2 Diabetes
- Metabolic Syndrome
- Liver Disease
- Brain Fog
- Difficulty Paying Attention
- Morning Headaches
- Exhausted Partners
Sleep Apnea is not only dangerous for the health of the sufferer, but also for anyone that may be sleeping near them. Sleep Apnea is often paired with loud snoring which can keep partners awake and cause them to lose sleep, which has its own complications for them as well. The chronic fatigue that sleep apnea sufferers face puts tremendous strain on the body and can lead to many stress related conditions.
How NetworkSpinal Care Alleviated Tim’s Sleep Apnea
When Tim finally found my office, he was drinking eight beers every night to fall asleep and taking 400-600 milligrams of caffeine every day to try to stay awake. He was simply exhausted in a way that most people cannot imagine. Tim was homeless and was working as a part-time janitor at a local gym. He rode a bike from his “nest” in Toco Hills to work and to my office in Chamblee, GA, all in Atlanta traffic.
NetworkSpinal is technically a form of chiropractic. The care focuses on relieving tension in the nervous system, which can affect how the nervous system functions. A system with high tension will be less adaptable to a continuously changing internal and external environment. Less adaptability means that the nervous system, and therefore the whole body, will be more prone to disease. NetworkSpinal uses a series of specific, light-touch adjustment contacts and achieves healing in the body beyond getting rid of headaches, neck pain, and back pain. Though pain relief is a part of the results of care, patients frequently also report experiencing improvements in their overall quality of life including boosted motivation, better relationships, and a deeper sense of overall well-being.
One of the tests I use in my office to measure the health of the nervous system is called heart rate variability, or HRV. During Tim’s examination, his nervous system was essentially falling asleep every 20-30 seconds, even while he was sitting with his eyes open. He did not get another official sleep apnea test and was not using a sleep apnea mouth guard or sleep apnea pillow. He had not undergone a sleep apnea surgery and had not seen a sleep apnea doctor in over forty years. He had exhausted all of the sleep apnea treatments that he could think of and had essentially accepted that he would never get any relief.
Tim’s life was significantly challenged when he first started care so we started with three visits per week and eventually got him on a twice per week schedule, which he continues today. Tim has dedicated himself to these visits and has rarely missed one. At each of his visits, he starts face down on the table. I scan his spine and muscles with my hands to see where his body is holding tension. Based on how the body is holding itself that day, I make a series of gentle touches to his low-back (sacrum) or his neck. These touches, or contacts, are highly specific and sometimes are barely noticeable to the patient. Using these contacts, I am communicating directly with Tim’s nervous system and teaching it new awareness of its own tension. With this heightened awareness, the body naturally uses breath and new motor strategies to unwind the tension and allow more ease in the muscles, bones, and nerves. Tim frequently described a sense of peace and calm after a session, what we call a spinal entrainment, as the tension in his body faded. I would simply suggest that he shift his focus to his breath or to breathe at specific parts of his spine and his system naturally and effortlessly took over and learned how to heal on its own.
In December 2020, about a year after starting care, he went to a local sleep center to get re-tested for sleep apnea. He used the take-home sleep apnea test. The results showed that he no longer had sleep apnea, but instead was just snoring a lot. These results confirmed what he had been feeling: rested in a way he had never known in his adult life. He had gotten relief from sleep apnea and his nervous system was able to function properly again. Finally, after being exhausted for decades, Tim could focus his energy and attention elsewhere. He found that he naturally had more motivation to find out what he was passionate about and pursue a career. He could finally think clearly enough to see that he enjoys digital art and programming. Tim could live his life without needing to use drugs and medications in an attempt to control his sleep apnea. He simply had more energy to do the things he needed to do.
Tim is now looking to pursue a career in digital arts and computer programming and he is currently searching for an apartment. Sleep apnea can affect not only your health, but the overall quality of your life. NetworkSpinal Care has helped Tim’s nervous system relax and heal and he no longer suffers with this debilitation condition.