The very top of your neck, right below the base of your skull, is called the “Upper Cervical” region. This area is responsible for much of the movement of your head and neck- about fifty percent! Unfortunately, because this area has so much movement, it’s also vulnerable to injury. Injury in this area will buckle the spine in very profound and complex ways. An injury can tear loose connective tissue, sprain ligaments, and strain muscles responsible for maintaining normal posture and head alignment. The result can be catastrophic for the entire body, from the top down.
“It’s not the load that breaks you down, it’s the way you carry it.”
In fact, if there is a shift in the Atlas/C1 from its normal position we will find stress and altered nerve flow to and from the brain which creates posture distortion and body imbalance as the spine shifts off center.
Here is how your body is affected by atlas misalignment:
- Posture and Balance: With misalignment, the muscles along each side of the spine pull unevenly and shift the entire body off center.
- Blood Pressure, Respiration, and Heart Rate: The neurological centers that control these vital functions are located in the lower brainstem and can be adversely affected by Upper Cervical misalignment. Research has proven that the Upper Cervical adjustment correction helps people with high blood pressure. (Google “Orthospinology + blood pressure” to read awesome research and hear stories of patients who have been helped!)
- Sleep & Mood: Your “happy, feel good” chemical, serotonin, is produced in the brainstem. Serotonin influences various function including regulation of mood, sleep, appetite, muscle contraction, and cognitive functions like memory and learning. Upper Cervical misalignment causing stress in the lower brainstem can have a negative effect on both energy and learning as we see in Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Fibromyalgia, and many learning difficulties.
- Immune Function: A portion of our nerve system, called the Autonomic Nerve System, is responsible for controlling all of our body function that we don’t need to think about. If this system is under stress it will activate the Sympathetic Nerve System which has been nicknamed the “fight or flight” response. Upper neck misalignment creates a long-term activation of this system which in turn down-regulates the immune system. We can either be in stress/”fight or flight” mode or we can be in healing and regeneration mode- never both at the same time.
- Digestion: The Vagus nerve is very influential in regulating digestion and elimination. This important nerve is affected by misalignment of the Upper Cervical vertebra as it passes next to the Atlas/ C1 vertebra as it leaves the brain. Stress to this vital nerve creates digestive irregularities and distress.
- Head and Facial Problems: Cranial Nerve dysfunction can cause some of the most painful diseases known. Trigeminal Neuralgia, Bell’s Palsy, Meniere’s Disease among them. Other less painful but still serious diseases such as chronic sinusitis, headaches, ear pressure, recurrent ear infections, dizziness, and vertigo can all be caused by Upper Cervical misalignment. People with these problems often respond to the Orthospinology correction since cranial nerves have tracts that descend into the upper neck. Most recent research is beginning to show how upper neck misalignment impedes cerebral spinal fluid flow and blood flow in and out of the brain!
- TMJ Dysfunction: The upper cervical region and the temporomandibular joint share a close relationship that can affect one another. People with chronic TMJ dysfunction often have an underlying Upper Cervical misalignment that prevents correct use of the jaw muscles and joint function.
Due to the nature of the Upper Cervical region, this is one area that will require help from an Upper Cervical Chiropractor to correct. Once corrected, however, you will notice changes throughout your entire body.