The atlas, or C1 vertebra, is the top bone in the spine. It plays a number of key roles in the body, meaning that even the trinities of misalignments can have negative effects on the central nervous system (CNS) and other vital body functions. We’re going to take a closer look at the role the atlas plays. Then we will discuss a subspecialty in the chiropractic field called upper cervical, so you can learn more about what atlas treatment chiropractors do and the benefits that can be derived from this natural therapy.
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There are a number of ways that the atlas plays a key role in the body, but let’s start with one of the obvious functions. It allows you to move your head.
The atlas and axis (top two bones in the neck) are uniquely shaped among the vertebrae. This is why the head has such a wide range of motion. The way the atlas meets the skull creates a joint that lets you nod your head forward and backward. The joint between the C1 and C2 is responsible for the left to right turns of the head. In short, more than half of the head’s range of motion is thanks to the unique position and shape of the atlas.
Unfortunately, this unique position and shape may also be why the atlas is prone to misalignment. However, we will discuss how to correct such an issue later on in our article. For now, let’s look at the next vital activity the atlas carries out – it protects the brainstem.
The brainstem is attached to the spinal cord. Messages that travel through the central nervous system come through this mass of nerves. This is the part of the body that is responsible for the unconscious activity. For example, it tells your lungs to breathe without you having to consciously take in a breath every few seconds. It also controls blood pressure, heart rate, digestion, tells the body when to release certain hormones, facilitates the changes from being asleep to being awake, and more.
The atlas surrounds the lower part of the brainstem, right where it meets the spinal cord. As a result, proper alignment is a must. Even the slightest misalignment can put pressure on this vital part of the central nervous system and can affect all of the functions that it performs.
Finally, we have to consider the role this bone plays when it comes to making sure the brain has a complete supply of oxygen-rich blood. The vertebral arteries bring blood to the head after it has received oxygen from the lungs. So what does the neck have to do with this oxygen supply?
Each of the seven vertebrae in the neck has two tiny loops of bone called the vertebral foramen. The loops provide safe passage for the arteries that bring blood to the head. However, this also means that misalignments in the neck can affect this free flow of blood. Less blood means less oxygen, and that translates into problems in the central nervous system.
Since the atlas is so important, you can’t leave a misalignment untreated. Therefore, let’s take a closer look at what atlas treatment chiropractors do to correct the underlying issue.
The content and materials provided in this web site are for informational and educational purposes only and are not intended to supplement or comprise a medical diagnosis or other professional opinion, or to be used in lieu of a consultation with a physician or competent health care professional for medical diagnosis and/or treatment. All content and materials including research papers, case studies and testimonials summarizing patients' responses to care are intended for educational purposes only and do not imply a guarantee of benefit. Individual results may vary, depending upon several factors including age of the patient, severity of the condition, severity of the spinal injury, and duration of time the condition has been present.