Upper Neck 101
A Complex Problem
The weakest region of the human spine is where the head meets the neck! Half of all our head movements occur between the head and top two vertebrae. Injury will buckle this region of the spine in complex ways, negatively affecting the ligaments and muscles responsible for maintaining normal structural alignment. The result is the structural shift seen here where the head, neck and top bone (atlas) have shifted from their normal position. This causes mechanical stress, altered nerve transmission, and body imbalance as the entire spine shifts off center.
Click on the animation to illustrate how an adjustment realigns the structures
A Complex & Gentle Solution
Utilizing a very precise system of analysis based on math and physics, Blair Upper Cervical doctors can calculate the precise reduction pathway necessary to gently bring the head, neck and atlas back into alignment (represented by the correction arrow when you click on the animation).
This is accomplished with very little force and no “twisting” or “popping” of the neck. As the correction in the upper neck is achieved the entire body is brought back into balance (remember, where the head goes, the body follows!)
A Lasting Difference
The Atlas is the most complex and difficult region of the spine to align, but when correction is achieved the results can be simply amazing. At first, minor shifts are nothing to be worried about. However, if left uncorrected over time a number of Secondary Conditions will develop.
Very often, attempts at treating these Secondary Conditions (symptoms) are unsuccessful when the Atlas is left uncorrected. Once the primary issue (Atlas Displacement) is corrected, patients notice changes throughout their entire body as normal alignment and posture are restored.
How Did I Get This Way?
As you can see here, Atlas Displacement torques the upper neck adding stress to sensitive nerve structures in this area. The misalignment you see is likely the result of one or more past injuries. Injuries can often be traced all the way back to childhood: The header off the top bunk, a tumble down the steps, or the fall off the bike or swing set. Or perhaps it was that teenage sports injury or auto accident?
Regardless of the cause, many people are left with a structural shift in the upper neck and resultant body imbalance by the time they reach adulthood. After the initial pain of an injury subsides, Atlas Displacement can remain pain-free for years. Eventually, body imbalance takes its toll resulting in degenerative disc disease, arthritis, stenosis, and/or more. See “How Does This Affect My Health”.
Not sure if you’ve sustained an injury to the upper neck? Dr. Stenberg offers a Complimentary Consultation to determine if you’re a candidate for this gentle and effective care. Click here to schedule a 1-1 conversation with the Dr.
The Nervous System "Grand Central Station"
The Nervous System aka grand central station
The Central Nervous System (CNS) is the main control system of the body in includes your brain, brainstem, and spinal cord. The upper neck (upper cervical spine) is HIGHLY sensitive to the CNS. For this reason, the upper neck is our neurological “Grand Central Station”! Here’s why:
Posture And Body Balance
The Central Nervous System controls posture and balance. Structural Shift and stress in the upper neck causes the muscles along each side of the spine to pull unevenly and shift the entire body off center. (See “The Bigger Picture” to learn how stress on these posture control centers affect the entire body.)
Blood Pressure, Respiration, and Heart Rate
Automatic body functions such as blood pressure, breathing, heart rate, and immune function are controlled by the Central Nervous System. Now that we are aware of the impact that the upper cervical spine has on the functionality of the CNS, it stands to reason that problems in the upper neck can influence function in various body systems. This is the secret to seeing profound systemic improvements in health while focusing on correcting the neck!
Sleep / Mood
Serotonin is a chemical produced in the lower brain stem. Serotonin influences various functions, including regulation of mood, sleep, appetite, muscle contraction, and some cognitive functions including memory and learning. Atlas Displacement causing stress on the lower brain stem can have a dramatic effect on a person’s energy and overall sense of “aliveness” as is the case with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Fibromyalgia.
The Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS) is that part of our Autonomic Nervous System that becomes more active during times of stress and is often called the “fight-or-flight” response. Atlas Displacement creates long-term activation of the Sympathetic Nervous System which is proven to suppress the body’s Immune System.
The Vagus nerve is very influential in regulating digestion and elimination. This important nerve is often affected by a shift of the Atlas because it passes right next to the top vertebra as it comes down from the brain.
Head and Facial Problems
Cranial Nerve dysfunction can result in problems such as Trigeminal Neuralgia, Bell’s Palsy, Meniere’s Disease, Sinus Problems, Headaches, Ear Pressure, Dizziness, etc. Patients with these problems often respond positively to the Blair Technique 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 (CSF) flow and blood flow in and out of the brain!
The Bigger Picture
Injury to the upper neck has a global effect on the body. When the head shifts off the top of the neck due to injury, the body’s “righting reflex” moves the body into a compromised posture to bring the eyes into level gaze on the horizon. This complex system of compensation uses posture muscles that run along one side of the spine to regain temporary stability. In the same way that you can lead a 2,000-pound horse with gentle pressure on the reins, where the head goes the body follows!
Body imbalance has a very negative long-term effect on spinal discs. When the body’s weight is not distributed evenly across the discs, premature degenerative disc disease, herniation and even a closing down of spinal nerve canals (stenosis) can result. Just as driving your car with the front end out of alignment causes premature tire wear, long term body imbalance causes your spine to age quicker. The difference between a 75-year-old on the golf course and a 75 year-old pushing a walker is usually found in their spines!
Notice the short leg, uneven hips, high shoulder, and head tilt. Click the animation to see how a small strategic touch just under your ear restores balance and alignment to the entire spine!
How Does This Affect My Health?
The brain and nervous system controls and regulates every function of the body, most of which we don’t consciously think about, such as heart rate, breathing, digestion, etc. That is why the nervous system is the very first body part to develop in the mother’s womb. To live in complete health, the spine must protect the nervous system so that every cell in the body is 100% connected to the brain. Injury and damage to the spine itself interrupts the flow of energy to and from the brain. The common term for this nerve stress caused by Structural Shift of the spine is “vertebral subluxation.”
As stated earlier, the upper neck is especially vulnerable to injury and subluxation. Problems here tend to have a more detrimental effect on the body including:
- Chronic muscle tension and imbalance
- Hypersensitivity to pain
- Body fatigue and low performance
- Brain fog and cognitive decline
- Limited and painful movement
Is Your Spine Older Than You?
The human body is designed to live to be over a hundred years old! Unfortunately, a majority of people are robbed of their “golden years” by a spine that ages prematurely. Honestly, most people understand more about taking care of their teeth than their spine! The progression of spinal degeneration is explained below. Any idea where are you at?
Phase I: 5-15 Years of Adaptation
Uncorrected spinal trauma results in loss of normal curve, disc narrowing and subtle spine and nerve malfunction. Because the body is so adaptable, this early phase can exist without the warning of pain or other symptoms. If left uncorrected, the degeneration continues.
Common Secondary Conditions (symptoms) of Phase I Degeneration include:
- Neck Pain
- Strained Muscles
- Shoulder Tension
Phase II: 15-30 Years of Adaptation
Recognized on x-ray by visible bone spurs and rough edges of the vertebrae. Abnormal bony growths distort the shape and function of the vertebrae and cause stress to discs, joints and ligaments. Breakdown of these soft tissues results in lack of normal joint movement, inflammation and interference to nerve flow.
Common symptoms of Phase II Degeneration include:
- Disc Disease
- Degenerated Joints
- Joint Pain
Phase III: 30+ Years of Adaptation
A lifetime of neglect may cause the eventual fusion of the malfunctioning joints. Atrophy, permanent nerve damage, and soft tissue degeneration are prevalent. Reduced mobility and impaired nervous system function diminish one’s quality of life.
Common symptoms of Phase III Degeneration include:
- Chronic Pain
- Dramatically Reduced Mobility
- Irreversible Damage
- Spine Disease (stenosis)
- Relief Care Only
Remember: The difference between the 75 year-old swinging a golf club vs. the one pushing a walker? A spine that aged prematurely! An old saying in our profession could be adapted to read: “Blair Upper Cervical Specific care adds years to life and life to years!”
611 N Weber St, Suite 102
Colorado Springs, CO