I attended a seminar years ago conducted by Paul St. John, licensed massage therapist LMT. His topic was sudden infant death syndrome, SIDS. He said he helped conduct extensive research in Europe (vs in the USA as this type of research was not allowed by the medical community) on children who had died of SIDS. About 95% of the children who died of SIDS had their 2nd cervical vertebra greatly out of alignment. This caused the boney part of that vertebra (dens) to be pushing into the part of the brain stem called the reticular formation (RF). The RF controls bodily functions such as breathing, waking and sleeping, and balance.
Paul St. John’s findings were that when the upper cervical vertebra are greatly out of alignment, a very boney part of the spine (dens) will push into the part of a baby’s spinal cord that controls its breathing and waking, and actually turn off the baby’s breathing and ability to wake up. This will usually only happen when the baby is sleeping on its stomach as in this position the dens is angled and pushed into the RF.
To end SIDS, Paul St. John said is rather simple. Have your child seen by a chiropractor to have their vertebra properly aligned. Trauma from the birthing process, stressors, falls or rough play may easily have caused a baby’s vertebra to be out of alignment. Trying to have your baby always laying on their back or sides as they grow up is not practical, as they may easily roll on their stomach at any time.
I have 3 children myself. I have taken all of my children for chiropractic adjustments while they were under 9 months old. In each case their necks and backs were mis-aligned but not greatly.
Below is some extra information on this subject.
Bone: Dens (anatomy)
Second cervical vertebra, or epistropheus, from above. (Dens labeled at center top.)
The reticular formation is a part of the brain that is involved in actions such as awaking/sleeping cycle, and filtering incoming stimuli to discriminate irrelevant background stimuli. It is essential for governing some of the basic functions of higher organisms, and is one of the phylogenetically oldest portions of the brain.
The reticular formation is a poorly-differentiated area of the brain stem, centered roughly in the pons. The reticular formation is the core of the brainstem running through the mid-brain, pons and medulla. The ascending reticular activating system connects to areas in the thalamus, hypothalamus, and cortex, while the descending reticular activating system connects to the cerebellum and sensory nerves.
The reticular formation consists of more than 100 small neural networks, with varied functions including the following:
1. Somatic motor control - Some motor neurons send their axons to the reticular formation nuclei, giving rise to the reticulospinal tracts of the spinal cord. These tracts function in maintaining tone, balance, and posture--especially during body movements. The reticular formation also relays eye and ear signals to the cerebellum so that the cerebellum can integrate visual, auditory, and vestibular stimuli in motor coordination. Other motor nuclei include gaze centers, which enable the eyes to track and fixate objects, and central pattern generators, which produce rhythmic signals to the muscles of breathing and swallowing.
2. Cardiovascular control - The reticular formation includes the cardiac and vasomotor centers of the medulla oblongata.
3. Pain modulation - The reticular formation is one means by which pain signals from the lower body reach the cerebral cortex. It is also the origin of the descending analgesic pathways. The nerve fibers in these pathways act in the spinal cord to block the transmission of some pain signals to the brain.
4. Sleep and consciousness - The reticular formation has projections to the thalamus and cerebral cortex that allow it to exert some control over which sensory signals reach the cerebrum and come to our conscious attention. It plays a central role in states of consciousness like alertness and sleep. Injury to the reticular formation can result in irreversible coma.
5. Habituation - This is a process in which the brain learns to ignore repetitive, meaningless stimuli while remaining sensitive to others. A good example of this is when a person can sleep through loud traffic in a large city, but is awakened promptly due to the sound of an alarm or crying baby. Reticular formation nuclei that modulate activity of the cerebral cortex are called the reticular activating system or extrathalamic control modulatory system.
Mass lesions in the brain stem cause severe alterations in level of consciousness such as coma due to their effects on the reticular formation. Bilateral damage to the reticular formation of the midbrain may lead to a coma or death.
Lesions in the reticular formation have been found in the brains of people who have post-polio syndrome, and some imaging studies have shown abnormal activity in the area in people with chronic fatigue syndrome, indicating a high likelihood that damage to the reticular formation is responsible for the fatigue experienced with these syndromes.