By Dr. Michael Polsinelli
Of all the bones in the spine, the first one (the atlas) is the most vulnerable because it doesn’t have the bony locks that the others have, and it has to support a large amount of weight (the head). Because this misalignment can irritate the spinal cord, it can be devastating to our health. Using a light touch or gentle pressure, Upper Cervical Doctors are able to free the atlas bone toward the proper position. This will strengthen many postural muscles, balance the hips and legs, and allow people to function and feel much better.
Once we have had a misalignment of the atlas, it is possible for the atlas to misalign again. In addition to another injury, physical stress is another reason that we can go out of alignment.
Physical stress can be things like improper lifting or sitting. Sleeping on our stomach can cause significant stress to the upperneck. Heavy backpacks stress the spines of our children and teenagers.
Having our head in an extended position for any length of time can stress the upper neck. This includes painting ceilings, getting our hair washed at a salon, and getting our teeth worked on at the dentist. For painting, use ladders and extension poles. Wash your hair before going to the salon, or bend forward for the hair washing (at the minimum, use lots of towels under your neck and don’t extend a lot). Finally, talk to your dentist before major teeth work and set up signals so that you can take very short breaks (even as small as 4 seconds can reduce the stress).
Sleeping in awkward positions can cause our atlas to shift out of alignment. Don’t fall asleep on the couch or in a chair. The jerking of trying to stay awake in a seated position can also cause the atlas to misalign. Finally don’t sleep in a moving vehicle (especially if driving). The vibration of the vehicle can cause the atlas to go out of alignment since our muscles are so relaxed. Sudden movements can also be problematic. The worst is flying. There is not enough room to get comfortable, and the turbulence can knock the atlas out of position.
With everything, allow comfort to be your guide, make sure you are comfortable while sleeping, sitting and lifting. If not, change position or take a break. When the ligaments can’t do their job properly, the muscles will take over. We’ll notice tightness in our necks. If this occurs, take a break, lay down, nap if you can. If you are driving, park the car and put the chair back and rest for 5 minutes. This will allow our ligaments to get the break that they need, and allow us to hold our alignments. By listening to our bodies we can take better care of ourselves and allow the healing process to occur.