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If someone were to say to you "Chiropractor", what would be the first thing that comes to mind? If you’re like the majority, it’s likely LOW BACK PAIN! And you’d be right because 80% of the people that seek out a chiropractor have some sort of pain in their lower back. So as an Upper Cervical doctor, one that only adjusts the top two bones in the spine, does that leave me with the remaining 20%? Can adjusting a bone in the neck really help? Well sit tight because it’s a beautiful Monday morning and I’m in the mood to do a bit of myth busting.
Let me begin by saying I absolutely love what I do for a living and because of that, I try to share it with as many people that will tolerate hearing about it. On occasion (more than I’d like to admit), however, the dialogue I have with people goes something like this:
Person: "Oh, so you’re a chiropractor? Can you crack my back?!"
Me: "Ha, I get that a lot. Actually, I’m an Upper Cervical doctor and I look for misalignments of one of the top two bones in the neck. They can squeeze down on the brain stem and prevent the messages from the brain to communicate with the body. That could be causing your problem."
Person: "You only adjust the neck? Oh, well I have low back pain. You wouldn’t be able to help me."
In that very moment, I know I’ve lost them because no matter what I say after that, they’ve already settled back on their preconceived notions of what a chiropractor does. SMH (google it). To say the least, it’s incredibly frustrating! That’s ok though, because as a doctor, that’s my lifelong job…to educate.
Repeat after me class, "Upper Cervical chiropractic helps low back pain (and SO much more)."
The spinal column is just that, a column that supports the entire body. Not only is it the body’s primary support structure, but it also houses and protects the one thing that animates us- the spinal cord. It’s designed to not only be strong, but resilient to all of the really dumb and daring things we do in life. Of the 26 vertebrae, 24 have locking facets or joints that are all intricately wrapped with connective tissue, fascia, ligaments and muscle to essentially form one continuous functioning unit. The top two vertebrae on the other hand, do not have the locking facets so as to allow maximum motion of the neck. If you’re from the South, you’d know them as the "Yes Ma’am, no Ma’am, and I don’t know Ma’am" bones. The down side to having this great mobility is that they’re more vulnerable to injury or misalignment.
Okay, so a bone in the neck is out of whack, how does that relate to my low back? Ever play the game Jenga? Jenga is a great example of what can happen when even one block (vertebrae) is out of alignment. Even if you have the perfect foundation, if you don’t place the blocks on top perfectly, the entire tower crumbles. Because here’s the deal, your head, which weighs 12-14 lbs rests on your Atlas which weighs in at a paltry 3 oz! You want to talk about a juggling act? There are literally thousands of so-called "sensors" (second only to the number found in the under side of the foot) in the upper region of the neck that communicate to the brain to keep your head upright and level. When a misalignment occurs, the spine WILL compensate by twisting, turning, or rotating the body – whatever it has to do to get your head straight again. Yes, you could look like a pretzel, but if it meant the head was level, the brain would allow it.
This will trigger a chain reaction from the top down and compromise the rest of the spine causing an entire imbalance of the body. The result? Weak spots in what should be a relatively strong spine. And what area of the spine do you think would be compromised the most by a weak spot? I’d wager to say the area that supports the most weight, the low back. Make sense?
Think low back pain is the only side effect to a misaligned Upper Cervical spine? Think again. Degeneration and arthritis might be in your future forecast as well.
Now if you know me at all, you’d know that I love cars, almost as much as I love using car analogies to explain the proper functioning of the body. Apologies in advance if you’re not a motor head, but please, bear with me for a moment. For example, let’s consider your car tires. Usually, they’ll carry a warranty for a certain number of miles. In this case, we’ll say 60K miles. If properly aligned, rotated, and balanced, you should expect those tires to last the lifetime of the warranty, right? Now suppose you’re a tiny bit negligent and forget to do that all together? Do you think they’ll last? Of course not! They’ll wear unevenly or even prematurely, and could eventually turn into a real safety risk.
This principle can be applied to ANYTHING, because when something is not aligned, it will always wear out faster than intended. Ever wonder why someone will only get arthritis in one knee and not the other? Aren’t the knees the same age? Well, I’ll put it bluntly, age has nothing to do with arthritis or degeneration! Believe me, the hunched over teenager is going to have a worse looking spine when he’s 30 than that of an elderly person that has always been mindful of their posture.
The Bottom Line
If you have chronic low back pain or it "keeps going out", then I would strongly suggest you reconsider the idea that a "neck doctor" can’t help. There are plenty of people much smarter than me (hard to believe) that have done extensive research on the topic and the evidence speaks for itself. Personally, I’ve had low back cases that have time and time again, gotten well WITHOUT ever touching their back. It’s not magic, but sure seems like it.
If you’re curious whether or not your low back pain might be related to a misalignment of the Upper Cervical spine, go ahead and do a rudimentary self check at home. Next time you look in the mirror, look at your ears. Are they level? Are your shoulders? Lie flat on your back on the floor and have a friend look at your feet. Are the heels even with each other? If you answered "No" to any of these questions, you’re more than likely misaligned and a ticking time bomb waiting to be in pain. Please share if you found this article useful!
(Editor's note: Remember the objective of upper cervical care is to correct head neck misalignment that is interfering with proper brain to body communication. When this is corrected the body functions at a higher level and can often correct other problems more efficiently on its own. Please do not confuse upper cervical care as a treatment for any condition, disease or symptom.)