To understand what Upper Cervical Chiropractors in Colorado Springs do, we must first understand what most traditional chiropractors do, and from there we can begin to understand what upper cervical even means.
Simply put, the upper cervical spine is the uppermost part of the neck. It is the junction between the skull and the spine. When you look at how the spine is built, most people have 24 moveable spinal segments. 7 cervical (neck) vertebrae, 12 thoracic (mid back) vertebrae, 5 lumbar vertebrae (low back). The spinal column, much like the skull, is incredibly strong and meant to protect the delicate spinal cord and nerve roots (the system that coordinates all communication between the brain and every organ, cell, tissue, and body part with electrical impulses). All 24 of these segments BESIDES ONE, has 4-6 locking joints. Any guess as to which spinal bone has zero locking joints? That’s right, C1 – or the first segment in upper neck! The upper cervical spine is also where the majority of neck motion happens. (looking up/down and left/right). Due to its wide range of motion and the fact that C1 only weighs 1-2 oz, and supports the weight of the human head/brain (which weighs between 8-14lbs) – the upper neck is the LEAST STABLE area of the human spine. Since the upper neck is relatively unstable, it often becomes injured without direct trauma or even symptoms initially (more on this later).
Most chiropractors and chiropractic patients provide and use chiropractic as a natural yet costly form of Advil (short term pain relief focused on areas where there is pain or symptoms). Most traditional chiropractors do an excellent job of helping people reduce pain levels by using a symptom based model.
According to the traditional symptom based model:
- If the patient’s low back hurts? – manipulation of the low back involving twisting or popping coupled with massage, electrical stimulation, stretching, etc. for the area of complaint.
- If it is the shoulder that’s hurt? – The same treatment is provided but for the shoulder.
- What about digestion issues? – Take away foods, add supplements/medication, alter mealtimes, etc.
Many traditional chiropractors do a great job at providing a means for temporary relief of symptoms by using things like general manipulation (snap, crack, pop), electrical stimulation, supplements, or muscle massage.
Most chiropractors and western medicine doctors use this symptomatic model for patient care however, as you may have experienced, this model is missing a key factor in the healing process... Within the symptom-based model, rather than focusing attention into CORRECTING THE CAUSE of dysfunction, a symptom-based doctor will focus their attention explicitly on reducing the EFFECTS (secondary conditions) of the problem.
Think of this example: If we take a human being who is sedentary, eats almost exclusively a fast food diet, is 40-100lbs overweight, with high blood pressure, and inflammation through-out their body – the traditional western model would indicate that the patient needs medication or procedures that target the high blood pressure and inflammation (the effects or secondary conditions from poor lifestyle habits over time). In this scenario, is the CAUSE to this patient’s health concerns the high blood pressure, OR is it the diet and sedentary lifestyle?
Why Focus On The Upper Neck?
Rather than looking at the body from a symptom-based model, upper cervical chiropractors in Colorado Springs look at the body as one functional and connected unit. This means from a scientific perspective, to look at the entire body as a complex whole, rather than just the sum of different parts. In other words, the human body is FAR DIFFERENT than your automobile. Any change in one part of the body, affects the entire rest of the body in at least some way, shape, or form.
All doctors are trained to know and understand the importance of ALL body systems including: the cardiac system, reproductive system, digestive system, and so forth. However, the science of anatomy and physiology has also taught us that these systems have one incredibly important commonality. All these body systems (and more) are coordinated, controlled, and regulated by one MASTER CONTROLL system. The nervous system!
Have you ever had to ask your IT technician for help with a malfunctioning computer at home or work? – Our technicians first two questions ALWAYS include, “Did you make sure it’s plugged in? Is the power turned on?” An Upper Cervical Chiropractor in Colorado Springs holds a similar philosophy – if the main power source for the brain to body is not ‘plugged in’… how well will the parts or systems of the body function together? If the main power source of any machine (blender, cell phone, computer, television, motor vehicle) is not connected, does it make sense to first fix anything else besides the power?
The human body is incredibly complex, exciting, and yet far more difficult to study than a computer or cell phone. When examining the importance of the brain-body connection, Upper Cervical Chiropractors focus on the alignment and function of the upper neck because a foundational shift in this area may cause:
- Decrease in electrical communication between the brain and body
- Abnormal cerebro-spinal fluid flow
- Abnormal biomechanics of the axial skeleton (postural deviations)
- Altered blood flow between the brain and body
- Decrease in waste clearance of the brain via the glymphatic system
- Altered function of trigeminal and vestibular nuclei (neurological centers of the jaw, face, balance, and sensation of pain)
Many people understand that a weak or faulty hip may eventually cause knee pain. And it is easy to imagine that walking all day with a pebble stuck in your shoe can eventually cause compensations and irritations that turn into knee, hip or low back pain. When the Brain-Body connection is altered, does it make sense that the body will compensate? How do you think this compensation could affect other parts of the body?
Why Would the Upper Neck Shift?
As we talked about earlier, C1 is the only spinal segment that has ZERO locking joints. Essentially C1 needs to have the most motion (to keep your head on a swivel), so instead of the robust and locking facet joints, the cranio-cervical junction (or upper neck) instead has less stable joint surfaces that allow for rotation, sliding and gliding.
We all know that a chain is only as strong as its weakest link, and regardless of where the force is exerted, the weak link will always be first to collapse. Similarly, many patients seeing upper cervical chiropractors in Colorado Springs have had physical trauma or injuries (concussion, whiplash, slip and falls, motor vehicle accidents, sports injuries etc.) where even falling and initially injuring the lower body directly transfers forces through the stable spinal column causing shifts at the bodies relatively unstable foundation (C1).
Many patients that seek out Upper Cervical Chiropractors have also seen doctors focused on traumatic brain injury (mTBI) in Colorado Springs due to injuries sustained in the military or head injuries from snow sports like snowboarding and skiing. The research shows that a decent percentage of people with traumatic brain injuries and concussions recover (at least symptomatically) over time without medical attention, however a large population of patients do not fully recover, and the reason is often due to the injuries to the upper neck that come with a mTBI that tend to go unnoticed.
Remember, the upper cervical spine surrounds and protects vessels that carry blood into the brain and vessels that carry waste out of the brain through the vertebral artery and glymphatic system. According to physics, for a mTBI or concussion to occur, the body must experience somewhere between 60 – 120G forces. Whiplash of the neck on the other hand, happens at only 5-8G forces. In other words, ANYTIME there is a head injury there will ALWAYS be a neck injury. If the upper neck is blocking adequate blood and oxygen flow to the brain, how well will the brain function? If the upper neck is obstructing normal waste drainage (think swelling after an injury) from the brain, how well can the brain heal?
Instead of focusing on simply treating or managing symptoms, non-traditional doctors of chiropractic that focus on the upper cervical spine use a precision, data-driven, manual correction procedure to restore the upper neck to its biomechanical and neurological normal. At Balance Chiropractic, we take 4 objective data points (all of which have a range of normal and abnormal) to:
- Determine whether or not you are a candidate for NUCCA Foundational Correction
- Create a customized correction based off your unique misalignment and injury
- Track your progress through the correctional process
- Deliver a gentle experience where there is never popping, twisting or cracking the spine.
To learn more about the many implications and testimonials worth sharing about Upper Cervical Chiropractic in Colorado Springs have a read through our website and blog at www.balancecolorado.com. If you or a loved one are suffering and looking for answers to your health concerns, call (719) 265-0115 and schedule your complimentary consultation today.