Why Does a Misaligned Atlas and Axis Cause Pain?
When the atlas is misaligned, the head cannot sit properly on the spine and the body struggles to maintain a normal center of gravity. As a result, the body compensates to keep the head level. The spine and pelvis will bend, shift, and twist in an attempt to return the head to be positioned over the center of your feet, and to keep your eyes level with the horizon. This shifting and twisting of the spine and pelvis often makes one leg appear shorter than the other when you are lying down, even though both legs are the same in length. It can also make one shoulder appear higher than the other. When the Atlas is realigned, the rest of the spine returns into better alignment, and the legs will once again appear to be equal in length.
Causes and Consequences of C1 and C2 Misalignments
Unfortunately, accidents, trauma, improper lifting, poor posture, falls, slips, injuries, sleeping on your stomach, and other repetitive stressors can stretch the ligaments that support C1 and C2, and enable these structures to lose their proper positions. Cervical misalignments can irritate or place pressure on the nerves, blood vessels and brainstem, reduce blood flow to the brain, disrupt communication between the brain and body, and lead to a variety of symptoms and health issues.
- Headaches and Migraines
- Sinus Pain
- Neck Pain and Stiffness
- Numbness and Tingling into the Arms/Hands
- Facial Pain/TMJ Symptoms
- Clicking of the Jaw
- Sleeping Problems
- Dizziness and Vertigo Symptoms
- Digestive Issues
- Impaired Immune Function
- Back Pain
The Vital Roles of C1 and C2 in the Upper Cervical Spine
The upper cervical spine refers to the top two vertebrae in the spine, known as the atlas (C1) and axis (C2). These vertebrae are located at the base of the skull and play a crucial role in supporting the head, allowing for various movements, and protecting the delicate structures of the brainstem, spinal cord, nerves, arteries and more.
The upper cervical spine, specifically C1 and C2, serve many important functions:
- First, they support the weight of the head.
- They also protect the lower part of your brainstem that controls vital functions like digestion, breathing, heart rate and blood pressure.
- In addition, the upper part of your spinal cord and important nerves that connect the brain to the body and carry information from the brain to the rest of your body pass through the openings of C1 and C2. Even major blood vessels that supply blood, oxygen and nutrients to your brain are located within these vertebrae.
Anatomy of C1 and C2 Vertebrae
The anatomy of C1 and C2, the upper cervical spine, is unique compared to all the other spinal vertebrae. Most of the bones in the spine have vertebral bodies (the round, central portion of bone, which stack upon each other with flexible cartilaginous discs between them) and a spinous process (the bony projection you can feel at the back of your spine).
C1 Vertebrae (Atlas)
C1, the first bone below the skull, has no vertebral body or spinous process. Instead, it has two wedge shaped lateral masses which connect under the skull to support the weight of the head and facilitate neck movement. C1’s shape allows for nodding movements of the head. It’s shape enables forward flexion and backward extension of the head, motion similar to a rocking chair. It is the most mobile vertebrae in the spine.
C2 Vertebrae (Axis)
C2, the second cervical vertebrae, also has a unique shape. It’s the only spinal vertebrae that has a structure called the odontoid process or dens. This tall vertebral body projects up between the 2 lateral masses of C1 and forms a pivot joint. This pivot joint allows for rotational movements of the head (such as shaking your head ‘no.’) The shapes of C1 and C2 allow for the most rotation within the spine, as well as being the most flexible joint of the spine.
Therefore, maintaining proper alignment of C1 and C2 is crucial to your health and wellbeing.
Atlas Orthogonal: A Precise Correction Technique
Atlas Orthogonal (AO) is an advanced scientific instrument adjusting program designed to realign the Atlas at 90° to the skull by using the exact amount of energy without pain or pressure and without drugs, surgery or spinal manipulation. The Atlas correction using the Atlas Orthogonal Percussion Instrument is gentle, effective, and precise.
If you are experiencing symptoms, make an appointment with us to get your Atlas and Axis checked. We’re a leading expert and provider of Atlas Orthogonal services in Virginia, and are ready to help you on your road to recovery.