Upper Neck Misalignment, a Global Epidemic
The Atlas is the 2 oz. top bone in our neck that holds the weight of our 10-15 lb. skull. Just like the Greek god Atlas who holds the world on his shoulders, your atlas literally holds “your” world on its shoulders. The head weighs anywhere from 10-15 lbs. This is the equivalent of a bowling ball sitting on this little 2 oz. donut shaped bone. The brain sits encased in the skull and sends the brain stem and spinal cord through the base of the skull.
The atlas vertebrae surrounds and protects the brainstem that exits out of the skull, however, because of the anatomical make-up of the body at this area, it is very susceptible to injury and misalignment.
The reason for this is because the atlas vertebrae is much different than the other 23 vertebrae below. All the other cervical, thoracic, and lumbar vertebrae below the atlas have interlocking facets or joints that keep the movement of these lower vertebrae limited and more stable.
The atlas, however, has only one interlocking boney structure keeping it in position. The remainder of stabilization comes from attaching muscles and ligaments of the upper neck. Because of the lack of stabilizaition in comparison to the rest of spine, it is very prone to injury and misalignment. Traumas, falls, acidents, inuries, etc. all contribute to this. When misalignment in this area occurs, two things can occur. Structural body imbalance and brainstem pressure.
From a structural standpoint, when the head and neck misalign as little as a ¾ degree, everything below adapts to the position of the head. A shoulder will rise higher on one side, a hip will rise higher on one side, and one of the legs will draw up short. This creates a tremendous amount of stress throughout the body, typically in the neck and low back. This can cause neck pain, headaches, low back pain, hip pain, knee and ankle pain.
Many people experiencing this get treatment in the form of therapy, manipulation, injections, and surgery on the low back and neck when deterioration occurs to a certain degree. Unfortunately, when these secondary stresses are addressed, but the cause of body imbalance (head/neck misalignment) still remains, more often than not, only temporary results are achieved. And in many cases, the problem can get worse in the long run.
From a neurological standpoint, an upper neck misalignment can cause upper spinal cord and brain stem pressure. This can cause global dysfunction throughout the body, effecting blood pressure, sleep, energy, mood, immune system, digestion, facial problems, etc. Because every signal to every tissue, cell, and organ in the body must first come down through the brainstem area, potentially anything could be affected by an upper neck misalignment.
Some ways to identify this body imbalance is by checking posture and neck motion. Have someone check your posture. When looking from behind, head tilt can be identified by the bottom of one ear lobe being lower than the other, or a shoulder may be lower on one side. Laying down on the back or stomach, a leg will appear shorter on one side due to the structural torque in the entire system. When turning the neck from side to side, there will be restricted motion to one side. These are a few simple ways to screen for upper neck misalignment and body imbalance.
To know for sure how the degree of upper neck misalignment exists, an upper cervical doctor is best equipped to locate and analyze this. By getting this corrected safely and effectively, the probability of avoiding unnecessary drugs and surgery is much more likely.