Why Upper Cervical

What Is Orthospinology?

Orthospinology is a sub-specialty of the chiropractic profession, focusing on aligning the upper cervical spine. It is one of several upper cervical procedures utilizing radiographs (x-ray films) of the top two bones of the neck and the base of the skull (the upper cervical spine) to determine a misalignment or subluxation that may create irritation of and thereby, interference to, the functioning of your nervous system.

Through a cascade of adverse physiological events, this misalignment may manifest in a variety of unhealthy consequences due to the special characteristics of this area of the spine. The anatomy of this region of the spine is unique in many ways. For example, there are only two vertebrae in the spine with names; the first and topmost, or C-1 vertebra, is called the Atlas, because as in Greek Mythology, he held up the world, or in this case, the eight to twelve pound world known as your head, and the second, or C-2 vertebra, is called the Axis, because it is the axis of rotation of your head and much of your neck.

This area is also the most mobile of the spine and is without interlocking joints, meaning that traumatic forces, such as falls, repetitive motion or motor vehicle crashes, can easily misalign the upper cervical spine. These traumatic events can occur in childhood, as early as the birthing process, when the head is pulled to birth the child, or in subsequent childhood traumas such as in learning to crawl, walk or ride a bike. Skiing, skateboards, boats and wakeboards, football, soccer, basketball and baseball all contribute to a child's likelihood of becoming misaligned or subluxated, not to mention the ubiquitous trampoline and failed gymnastic endeavors. The ever-present cell phone cradled between the ear and shoulder producing extreme head tilting, or the chronic forward head posture so common when young people text, may also cause, but more likely, exacerbate misalignments of the upper cervical spine. Those less fortunate to have had motor vehicle trauma or moderate to severe blows to the head are at increased risk to suffer from the adverse health consequences of the Occipito-Atlanto-Axial Subluxation Complex or simply put, the misalignment of the upper cervical spine.

What Happens When the Upper Cervical Spine Misaligns?

When a misalignment of the upper cervical spine occurs, the central nervous system can be stressed in a variety of ways that can cause negative health consequences. The chiropractic profession is founded on the principle of spinal misalignments or subluxations compromising the functioning of the nervous system. When the nervous system is compromised, the ability of the body to self-regulate and selfheal is also compromised because the nervous system is the master coordinating system in our bodies. Misalignments of the upper cervical spine effect the spinal cord, and therefore the central nervous system directly and that is why it is so critical to be specific and gentle when trying to correct these misalignments and why, if left uncorrected, many health problems linger.

How Does the Upper Cervical Misalignment Affect My Lower Back?

While the upper cervical spinal subluxation or misalignment can have broad health consequences, most chiropractic patients are motivated to seek chiropractic care due to neck and back pain, particularly lower back pain. When the upper cervical spine misaligns, the spinal cord deviates from its neutral position within the spinal canal causing irritation to the region of the upper spinal cord that regulates the tone of the lower back and pelvic musculature. This irritation creates tighter muscles on one side versus the other creating an unlevel pelvis and distorted posture. The pelvic distortion or body imbalance thus created can result in lower back, hip and leg pain, degeneration of the inter vertebral discs and spinal joints, spur formations as well as compensations up the spine effecting the head and neck area. When the pelvis becomes unlevel, the weight of the pelvis and trunk is distributed unequally to the weight bearing joints of the spine and lower extremities, accelerating osteoarthritis. For this reason, people commonly complain of spinal and extremity pain on one side and most hip and knee replacements are done unilaterally. In turn, the unlevel pelvis can alter gait patterns leading to hyper-extension injuries, chronic muscle pulls, sprained knees, ankles and foot problems such as fallen arches, plantar fasciitis, bunions and bone deformities. These injuries tend to illicit greater pain on one side and generally, the same side as the back and neck pain.

Medical and chiropractic research illustrates the direct connections between the upper cervical spine and the cerebellum for postural control. The position of the head and neck is constantly regulated by information sent from the upper cervical spine to the brain. This information is analyzed and conveyed back to the spine to facilitate proper muscle tone and joint control to enable the body to function properly in response to our spatial environment. Other regions of the brain, as well as the Cranial Nerves may also be affected by abnormal input from the mispositioned upper cervical spine. Without proper information into the spinal cord, cerebellum and brainstem, the body becomes structurally imbalanced leading to spinal dysfunction, premature degeneration and pain. Using a common computer analogy, it’s a "garbage in, garbage out" situation.

What About Headaches, Migraines, Vertigo and Facial Pain?

Reduced blood supply to the brain and alterations in Cerebral Spinal Fluid circulation have recently been demonstrated to improve after upper cervical adjustments as evidenced on upright MRI studies. This research is helping to explain why upper cervical doctors have had such success with patients suffering from a variety of head complaints such as; Headaches; Migraines; Trigeminal Neuralgia; Vertigo; Blackouts; Seizures; TMJ pain, Sinus Congestion and Drainage Problems; Ear Infections and Congestion; Brain Fog; Visual Acuity and variety of other head symptoms including "tics" and tremors.

To learn about the safety and effectiveness of upper cervical chiropractic click here.

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