What is Upper Cervical Care?
Upper Cervical Chiropractic Care focuses explicitly on the first two bones in the neck, C1 (Atlas) and C2 (Axis). It is a known fact that these first two bones are the most important in the spine. This is universally understood within the Chiropractic community and the Medical community. Between all the vertebra there isn’t any other area that has more nerve activity than the Upper Cervical region. The Atlas (C1) is the gateway between the brain and the body. All of the information from your mind to your body passes through this bone, and all of the data from the body to the brain go through the Atlas. The brain is continually getting feedback from the body to regulate standard daily functions such as digestion, immune system, hormonal system, and even the external environment to name a few.
Furthermore, the brain-stem has 12 cranial nerves; the most important nerve is the Vagus Nerve which controls the autonomic functions of all of our vital organs such as the heart, lungs and digestive organs. Stimulating the Upper Cervical improves Vagal nerve function. One of the ways we measure how well the autonomic nervous system is working is through Heart Rate Variability (HRV). Through the years we’ve done thousands of HRV readings to which often show dramatic change after just one upper cervical specific adjustment.
Most of the time Chiropractic Schools overlook Upper Cervical Care even though are told how important it is. Most schools do not put in enough time to learn how to adjust this vital area. In a 4-year program, we should spend at least 2 years focusing on this precious area. Fortunately, as a student, I had the intuition to go out of my way to learn multiple Upper Cervical techniques to discover what works for me. THE central idea around adjusting the upper cervical is that it allows the person to adjust themselves. Slowly or rapidly after getting your Upper Cervical adjusted, your body begins to adjust itself when you are doing all the daily things you usually do. When your Atlas is in a better position than before, proprioception (joint position sense) will start to calibrate your body on its own. The Upper Cervical influences a majority of posture since the nerves that keep you alive are in that area. Therefore your brain is willing to tell your body to move in a position that will take away stress from the Upper Cervical.
The first time I witnessed the Atlas being adjusted by one of my mentors more than 16 years ago when I attended my first seminar with him. He had a student lay on the side to receive a toggle adjustment, I happened to be just in front of that student, and as he performed the adjustment, I remember the sensation of getting hit by a bolt of lightning which kicked my head back and I wasn’t even the person receiving the adjustment. The student was so elated with joy, tears were going down their face, I couldn’t remember who it was or whether they were male or female, but I remember how I felt inside. That’s when I told myself, “I HAVE to learn how to do that.” The human mind stores images in the head but your body remembers how you feel about an experience with much more detail. Before the seminar I never expected to a person moved in body, mind and even spirit. What I found most astonishing is, there were at least 50 or 60 other students with me, but not many of them had the same curiosity as me. Everyone was amazed, but not everyone was curious to dig deeper, I can say this because I went to a seminar almost every week when I was a student and would only consistently see just a few of them. I’m not bringing this up to boast about myself but to raise a question. How many times in our lives do we miss extraordinary events because we do not look deeply enough? Is it possible to see the same thing 1000 times and see it differently every single time? If everyone in the world had that ability, I am confident most of the world’s problems would be solved. It sounds like I am going on a tangent, but I am not. Since our Upper Cervical Spine is the gatekeeper, it is an area that should not be overlooked. Many of our perceptions and judgments run through this area. Every time there is a thought that creates a stress response there is a discharge in the brain stimulating the brain-stem in an emotion such as anger or guilt causing one side of the brain to conduct more than the other which then excites one side of the body more than the other creating a misalignment over an extended period. If you have trouble grasping this, next time you feel angry or extremely judgemental pay attention to your body. Is the thought locally in the brain or does it run wild in your entire body?
Our trapezium muscles start at the base of the skull and Upper Cervical and travel down the shoulder. Mental stress can cause physiological stress responses causing muscles in your neck along with the trapezium to contract. These lead to high blood pressure, cervical problems, shoulder problems, neurological issues, along with headaches to name a few.The day our ancestors decided to stand up on two was the day gravity started to work against our body. That’s right; gravity affects your bodies alignment! Especially in those that are sitting for too long with their heads in front of them. When misalignment occurs in any part of your body, gravity, movement, and even thoughts can begin to work against you. Think of a gear stuck or misaligned in your car’s transmission, when this occurs the vehicle can no longer run correctly. Our bodies are just the same, but we can function despite being misaligned. When an Atlas or any part of the body is misaligned, the role of our brain called the cerebellum will calibrate the frame to accommodate for misalignment(s) and create misalignment in areas less crucial. This would make something like poor posture an intelligent adaptation to the bodies innate intelligence to maintain function in the brain-stem and the upper cervical. This would make “poor posture” not completely bad and in fact more necessary than bad. When the atlas becomes realigned there is a feedback loop from the brain (cerebellum) to the position sensors located in all the joints in your spine that is connected to posture. Your eyes also play a role in your posture. Once your atlas is realigned your field of vision changes, the visual part of the brain will give feedback to the cerebellum to adjust your posture to an optimal position. There are also fluid in your ears that help you control your posture. To make things simple, your eyes, ears, and joints communicate with your brain to control posture. Once again adjusting the atlas stimulates these three things and the body has a greater desire to adjust itself.
The thing that can hinder you in life can also be a source of your strength. The practice I work in, Upper Cervical Care and most importantly Life is teaching me on a continual basis. Beautiful human beings such as physicist Stephen Hawking is a perfect example of this principle. People did not see a man with ALS; they saw a brilliant, beautiful human being that contributed tremendously to humanity. This would make the adaptability of an individual far more important than his or her ability to create the perfect circumstances in their lives. In Chiropractic we tend to have an idea that there is such thing as an ideal spine and it is easy to get anchored in that idea. However, the residing principle that there is an innate intelligence inside of us which is perfect is far more critical and should be a central idea of any Chiropractic practice.