Importance of the Upper Neck

Explore the unique anatomy and chiropractic treatment of the upper cervical spine, where misalignments can cause wide-ranging effects on the body, and learn why specialized upper cervical work is crucial for overall health and movement

By Dr. Steven Goeddeke

Understanding the Spinal Structure

Contrary to popular belief, most bones in your spine do not have the capacity to “pop” out of place. There are 24 bones in the spinal column, and nearly all of them actually have joints that “lock” together tightly, only allowing very small degrees of motion between any two bones. Though they may benefit from manipulation for other reasons, which we may cover in another article, being “out of place” is not one of them.

The so-called “upper cervical” vertebrae are a different story. The first and second vertebra, nicknamed the Atlas and Axis, have a special structure that permits a very large amount of movement in rotation – this single joint allows for a majority of the 80 to 90 degrees of head rotation – the movement we use when we check our blind spots!

Causes and Risks of Upper Neck Misalignment

Because of the large degree of movement, the skull and the top two or three bones in the neck have a special capacity to settle into a misaligned position, and to become “stuck” there! The most common reason for this is a car accident, but it could come from any kind of head or neck injury such as a concussion, a toddler catching their head on a counter, or even something as innocuous as practicing “headers” at soccer practice! Younger people, females, and untrained people (think less muscle mass to protect the neck) will naturally be more susceptible to these types of problems.

In the upper neck, we are not too far from the brain stem. We also have special ligaments in the upper neck that “anchor” to the spinal cord itself. As such, misalignment of the bones can result in changes in tension, and improper conductivity, of various nerves throughout the spinal cord. Studies have shown that the weight of a DIME can significantly impact the function of a nerve.

The Systemic Effects of Neck Mechanics

Neurologically, all body movement is deeply connected to the head and neck movements – because the body largely follows what the eye and head movements initiate. So disturbed mechanics and movement of the neck have ripple effects all the way up and down the spine, to the lower back, the hips, the knees, and arms and shoulders!

Because of these special considerations, we treat upper neck problems in a completely different way than everything else we do – AND, we have very special criteria that tells us if and when we have corrected the problem. Since it is so detrimental to everything in the body on a fairly “global” basis, it manifests as substantial weakening of specific arm and leg movements that we can quickly and easily test for so that we – most importantly, YOU – can be certain the problem has been corrected.

The Importance of Upper Cervical Chiropractic Work

Upper cervical work, as it is called, is a growing specialty in the field, for good reason. While we adjust more than just two bones here at Accel Chiropractic, the upper cervical work is the CORE foundation to what we do, and is the thing we start and end our analysis with.

So-called “generic” adjustments will often not do! Often there are multiple aspects or complex angles to a single “bone out of place”, and if it is not adjusted deeply enough or with the proper angles, patients often just don’t see and feel improvements! At Accel Chiropractic in Grandville, we aim to leave “no stone unturned” in the pursuit of maximizing the function of your body.