The top bone in the neck is sometimes referred to as the atlas. This is because it balances the head the way mythology says Atlas carried the world on his shoulders. But is balancing the head that important of a role? How does this top vertebra in the neck (also called the C1) become misaligned in the first place? What can the results of an atlas misalignment be? What is an atlas realignment procedure and where can you go to get one? We will answer all of these questions and more in today’s article.
What Does the Atlas Do?
The atlas serves a number of vital functions within the body. Here are some of the more important functions:
Balancing the head – This is what makes it so vital for the atlas to be in proper alignment. It literally keeps your head on straight.
Range of motion of the head – The atlas is responsible for more than half of the range of motion of your head. The joint between that atlas and the occipital allows you to nod your head forward and back. The joint between the C1 and C2 is responsible for turning your head from side to side. There are seven vertebrae that make up the neck, but this one does more than 50% of the work when it comes to being able to move your head and see what is going on around you.
Protecting the brainstem – The atlas is also at a pivotal location for the central nervous system. It surrounds the part of the brainstem that attaches to the spinal cord. Not only is the brainstem in charge of things that occur subconsciously (like breathing, heart rate, blood pressure, etc.), but it also the connecting point the signals from the body pass through on the way to the part of the brain where they are processed.
Facilitation of blood flow – While this is not unique to the atlas, it is one of the seven cervical vertebrae that have vertebral foramen, loops of bone that provide safe passage for the arteries that carry blood to the head.
Clearly, this is an important bone. But just how much havoc can one little bone create by being out of alignment?
The Potential Results of an Atlas Misalignment
The consequences of an atlas subluxation are related to the functions it performs. For example:
- Changes in the spine – When the atlas is misaligned, changes take place in the spine to keep the head properly balanced. This can result in neck pain, but also shoulder pain, back pain, and pinched nerves anywhere along the spine.
- An inhibited range of motion – It may be painful to move the head in certain ways, or you may even lose some mobility if the C1 is out of place.
- Reduced brainstem function – A fraction of a millimeter can take the atlas from protecting the brainstem to applying pressure to it. This, in turn, can inhibit proper brainstem function. Remember what the brainstem does. It is no wonder then that correcting a misalignment has even helped some to get high blood pressure under control.
- Restricted blood flow – Throwing off the alignment of the neck means that the arteries don’t have their normal clear path through the vertebral foramen. Any misalignment can inhibit proper blood flow and keep the brain from getting the precise amount of oxygen required for optimal performance.
While these are some of the changes that take place inside the body, the symptoms that become noticeable to a person who is dealing with the misalignment are many and varied. For example, you may experience things such as:
- Neck, shoulder, back, or hip pain
- Numbness and tingling
- Headaches or migraines
- Dizziness or vertigo
- Neurological conditions
- Cognitive problems
- Hearing loss or tinnitus
- Sensory sensitivities
- Decreased tolerance for pain
And these are just a few of the many possible outcomes. If you or just about everyone you know is dealing with one or more of these issues, it could be because atlas misalignments are very common and often go undetected for years at a time.
How Do Atlas Misalignments Occur?
The usual answer is some form of trauma. Car accidents, sports injuries, or slip and fall accidents account for many of the head or neck traumas that result in upper cervical misalignments. Other traumas such as an assault can also be to blame.
Repetitive motion injuries may also be an issue. Whether you sleep with your neck twisted or move your head a lot for work, you may be at risk for a misalignment. Then there is also the wear and tear that comes from office work, manual labor, or technology overuse.
The Atlas Chiropractic Realignment Procedure
Upper cervical chiropractors specialize in identifying and correct misalignments of the atlas. Once diagnostic imaging is used to pinpoint the exact location and degree of the misalignment, then a custom adjustment is calculated to meet your personal needs. The atlas realignment procedure is extremely gentle and does not involve any of the popping or twisting of the neck that you may associate with chiropractic care in general.
To learn more about upper cervical chiropractic care and the benefits an atlas realignment procedure could have for you, contact a practitioner in your area today. You may discover that this chiropractic subspecialty is the answer to a chronic health condition you have been dealing with. A no-obligation consultation may be your first step down the path to greater overall health and well-being, so start today!