Many treatments focus on the lower back when the actual cause of the problem may be in the upper spine. The upper neck can be a factor in the development of lower back pain for two reasons. First, the spine works and moves as one, continuous unit. The top two vertebrae, called the atlas and axis, are the most mobile segments in the spine. These two bones move in six different directions, allowing the head to move up or down, bend side to side or turn left to right. The other vertebrae move primarily in two directions, making them stronger and more stable than the top two vertebrae.
Secondly, the upper cervical spine (neck) has thousands of “sensors” responsible for maintaining both the proper posture and alignment of the spine, as well as the balance and stability of the head. These sensors are constantly monitoring the head position, making the necessary changes throughout the lower spine to assure that the head remains upright.
When the spine is aligned, it is extremely strong and stable. However, due to their mobility, the top two segments are especially vulnerable to injury or misalignment. When a misalignment occurs at the top of the neck, the spine compensates or adapts in an attempt to protect the vital nervous system it houses. This triggers a chain reaction from the top to the bottom of the spine. When the head is thrown off balance, the lower spine is compromised; the pelvis is tilted, or one leg may be drawn up or shortened, resulting in an internal weakness and a spine that is imbalanced. This chain reaction makes the spinal muscles, bones, and discs more vulnerable to injury – an accident waiting to happen. If neglected, an upper cervical misalignment can lead to premature arthritis and irreversible spinal degeneration.
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