- By: Dr. John Stenberg
- Date: Dec 28, 2018
Many architectural marvels include structural forms with columns and arches. Both modern and ancient man understood the structural integrity, stability, and beauty in these forms. The structure of the human body, mainly the skeletal structure, also includes these forms. The spine, which is made up of 24 individual segments, is often referred to as a column for both its structural purpose in the skeletal system as well as its architectural design. This column includes in its architectural design three arches or curves that provide both structural stability, optimal loading, as well as a base for safe and efficient movement.
Individually, each region of the spinal column has its own unique arch or curvature under normal structural circumstances. The low back and the neck have a lordosis, which is an arch backward, and the mid back has a kyphosis which was a forward arch. Of the three arches in the spinal column the cervical lordosis, or backwards curvature of the neck, is perhaps the most impactful on the stability of the spinal column as well as the health of the neurological system.
A growing body of research is illustrating the importance of optimal structural integrity of the neck for both maintaining the stability of the head over the shoulders, and for providing a wide range of motion. The cervical spine supports the weight of the head, which weighs between 10-14 pounds on average - approximately as much as a bowling ball. With proper structural positioning the weight of the head is balanced directly over the center of gravity of the body. In an anterior or forward shifted position, the head is held away from the center of gravity resulting in a stress load on the joints, discs, ligaments, and supportive tissues of the cervical spine (neck). When this loss of proper curvature occurs as a result of injury, poor posture, or repetitive micro-traumas, the mechanics of the neck joints become compromised producing irritation, inflammation, and degeneration.
Because of its mobility, relatively small structures, and weight bearing roll, the cervical spine is highly susceptible to injury. With so many sensitive nerve structures traveling through the segments of the cervical spine, the potential for nerve irritation in this region of the spinal system is high. When these nerve structures become dysfunctional due to mechanical irritation, the tissues or functions that the nerves supply become compromised. Over time the onset of secondary conditions, also referred to as symptoms, is likely to occur including:
- neck pain
- headaches of different varieties
- jaw and facial pain
- muscle spasms between the shoulder blades
- muscle aches
- numbness and tingling in the hands
- arm or shoulder pain
Research by Alfred Brieg has shown that a loss of the curvature or arch of the neck results in stretching forces on the spinal cord, tension on the cervical nerve roots, and subsequent postural distortions. Atlas Displacement Complex is a structural condition of the cervical spine that includes abnormal alignment, joint mechanics, and nerve system function.
Since the cervical spine, and particularly the upper cervical spine - or top portion of the neck - is so unique in form and function, specialized approaches for correcting abnormal structure in this area of the spine have been developed. Upper cervical chiropractic including the Blair method use image-guided adjusting procedures, objective nerve testing, and conservative low-force approaches for reducing and correcting Atlas Displacement Complex.
The restoration of alignment and mechanics of the joints (or “knuckles”) of the neck allows for the curvature of the neck to be maintained throughout life. This not only relieves secondary conditions or symptoms but prevents further structural damage from occurring including spinal degeneration, arthritis, and degenerative disc disease.
Just like blood pressure, temperature, and heart rate, there is a range for what’s considered normal structural alignment for the joints of the neck. Utilizing objective testing NeuroStructural Chiropractors can detect early signs of structural stress and damage in the cervical spine. These test results provide the blueprint for a plan to restore alignment and function. Since this area of the spine is prone to instability, specialized adjusting procedures are used that do NOTinclude twisting, popping, or cracking the joints of the neck. This allows for improved mechanics without introducing the risk of further tissue damage, injury, or discomfort during adjustments.
To determine if you are experiencing the effects of abnormal structure in the cervical spine, reserve a Complimentary Consultation with Colorado Springs chiropractor Dr. John Stenberg. A Consultation is a simple conversation that allows for the opportunity for you to tell your story, uncover risk factors or prior injuries that may have produced Atlas Displacement Complex, and to learn if NeuroStructural Chiropractic is a potential solution for you.