Why do I have a Heavy Head Feeling?

Posted in Head Pain Disorders on Nov 5, 2019

Why do I have a Heavy Head Feeling?

Can upper cervical adjustments help a heavy head feeling?

“My head feels heavy,” is one of the most common things thatpeople say when they first visit our practice for care.

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I know it sounds strange, but I want to share this observationwith you so that you know from the start that what you are feelingis neither unique nor strange for you!

  • “I have a heavy head feeling, like it’s hard keeping my headup.”
  • “I feel like there’s something swimming inside my head.”
  • “I feel like someone is choking off the blood to mybrain.”
  • “My head feels foggy, and I can’t concentrate or rememberthings well.”
  • “I just don’t feel right. I think it’s stress” is anothercommon description when what people actually feel is a sense ofanxiety, frustration, or helplessness about certain things intheir lives.

The thing about it is that many people don’t do anything aboutthese sensations such as a heavy head feeling until they experiencesome other sort of common symptom - _eg., _headaches, back pain,shoulder pain, muscle, tightness, etc - that is easier todefine.

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The problem, however, is that when these symptoms come along,you’ve usually been suffering in silence for a long time, justdealing with the sensation of a heavy head feeling or other things,thinking - hoping - that it would just go away on its own, when thereality is that they typically don’t!

So what is this heavy head feeling? And why is it so common(even though no one really talks about it)? I mean, you can’texactly google “heavy head feeling specialist” because that’s notexactly a formal diagnosis.

In this article, I want to give you a potential answer and hopethat there may be a solution for your heavy head feeling: that youdon’t have a pathological condition that will kill you. Butinstead, the you may have a relatively common and simple conditionwhere there is a misalignment of the bones in the top of your neck,and the result of this misalignment is the the centre of gravity ofyour skull has shifted in such a way that you experience a heavyhead feeling.

I will explain how this happens, what the common symptoms inaddition to a heavy head feeling are, and most importantly what youcan do about it.

How to “read" the symptoms of a heavy head feeling

Do you experience a heavy head 100% of the time? Or is it morenoticeable when you do certain activities?

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For example, when you bend forwards to pick something up off thefloor. Or at the end of the day when you have been sitting in frontof the computer all day long.

What about any other symptoms that happen at approximately thesame time when you get the heavy head feeling?


  • Headaches or migraines
  • Blurry vision or pain behindthe eyes
  • Dizziness, lightheadedness or vertigo
  • Ringing in your ears or tinnitus when you move your head incertain directions 
  • A pulling or painful sensation in your neck or betweenyour shoulder blades
  • A pulling sensation in your lower back, even where it has goneactue
  • Odds are that if you notice these or any other symptom at thesame time as the heavy head feeling that they are connected.

When your body experiences problems, pain is not always thefirst sign! If you have little kids, you would be familiar with thesituation where they want your attention. They may not yell rightaway, but instead try to get your attention in subtle ways.However, if that doesn’t work, they’re going o keep getting louderand louder until you finally pay attention.

Many times, the same phenomenon occurs in your body. So theheaviness in the head sensation is often one of those earlysymptoms that there is something not quite right, but if thatsensation is ignored, it is likely to evolve into somethingelse.

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Moreover - and this is especially true if you experience morethan one symptom in your body - the odds are not that you have 5different things all wrong with you. It is more likely that youhave 1 thing wrong, and that is is showing up in 5 differentways.

So when it comes to the heaviness in the head feeling, that isoften a very important clue to tying together the pieces. And it isbecause a heavy head feeling points to a physical, mechanical lockat the base of your skull as the likely culprit.

What is the cause of a heavy head feeling

Your head-neck relationship is like a heavy flower on a weakstem.

Your skull weighs approximately 3-5Kg, and it sits atop the topbone in your neck - called the atlas or C1 vertebra - that weighsabout 30-50 grams. The muscles, tendons and ligaments in your neckare like a series of suspension cables that then maintain thenormal alignment and balance between your neck and your atlas.

But what do you suppose would happen if that balance wasdisrupted?

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ESPECIALLY if the head shifted forwards?

Characteristically what we see in people is that their posturestarts to shift with the head leaning forwards. This is not just amatter of poor posture or laziness or too much time in front of acomputer. It is a physical condition that is affecting thestructure of your body, and most importantly your brain!

You see, your atlas is the bony ring that protects yourbrainstem, which is the master control centre of your entire body.There is no function in your body that is not directly orindirectly affected by alignment of your C1 vertebra and theclarity of the nerve messages that transmit between your brain andthe rest of your body!

Now, your brain is not stupid!. It will sooner put the extrastress into your muscles, causing your head to lean forwards andaffecting your posture, that it would allow your nerves to getsquished. The catch is that your muscles can only bear the extraburden for so long before they fatigue.

It is when the fatigue sets in that the symptoms including thehead head feeling start. It had to do with simple physics.

Your head’s normal centre of gravity is directly over the tip ofyour shoulder.

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  •  When your head sticks forwards by an extra 2.5cm, itsweight will effectively double - 6-10Kg, or a small suitcase -which puts all that extra load on your neck muscles
  •  When your head sticks wards by an extra 5.0cm, its weightwill effectively quadruple (!): 12-20Kg, or a LARGE SUITCASE!!

With all that extra stress, is is any wonder why you might feellike your head is so heavy? It is not that your head is actuallyheavier, but that the effective stress and strain is so much morethan your body is designed to bear!

It is also not uncommon for people to describe a “full head” or“pressure” sensation in addition to a heavy head feeling. Thissensation may be related to the normal flow of blood andcerebrospinal fluid within your head. If the centre of gravity ofyour skull shifts, it can affect the ability of this fluid tofreely circulate. And if it congests in your head when you areupright, you can experience the same heavy head feeling.

It may also explain why you typically feel better as soon as youlike down. It is because the extra stress of your head finallylifts from your shoulders, and so your muscles can relax. Moreover,lying down allows the blood and other fluids to drain better fromyour brain.

I hope you may appreciate from this simple description now thata heavy head feeling is not something to keep to yourself. It maybe a sign of a potentially serious condition that would affect yourhead in unforeseen ways.

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The question now is, “What can you do about it?” What to doabout a heavy head feeling.

If the reason for you heavy head feeling is due to amisalignment between your C1 (atlas) vertebra and your skull, theprofessional that deals specifically with these conditions is knownas an upper cervical specific chiropractic doctor.

Upper cervical care is a special division of chiropracticdeveloped in the USA that focuses on the alignment of the top bonesin the neck and their effect on your brain, blood flow andmuscles.

In Australia, there are currently only around a dozen certifiedatlas chiropractic doctors (which is unfortunate because the needis so great!).

Upper cervical care is not the same as general chiropractic thatmay use things like spinal manipulation to move the joints in yourneck. Upper cervical is a precise series of methods that usesdetailed neurological and structural tests to determine the exactdirection and degree of misalignment of the bones in your neck, andthen using a customised type of adjustment without cracking ortwisting the neck in order to restore the alignment and motion.

It is estimated that looking at the top 4 bones in your neckthat there are over 500,000 potential combinations ofmisalignments, and so even though we are dealing with a small areaof the body, it requires significant precision and attention todetail!

Most common reasons adults have a heavy head feeling

I want to be sure that you don’t confuse “cause and effect.”

It is because the heavy head feeling that many adults describeis often blamed on working on computers too much, stress ordegenerative arthritis. Although these things are all important,they are usually EFFECTS.

To illustrate, simply by working on a computer a lot does notcause your atlas to misalign. That type of misalignment is due to aphysical injury of some kind.

Now, here’s the kicker: that injury would have been somethingthat happened 20 years ago!

Do you remember that I said that you don’t always experiencepain as the first symptom that you have a problem in your body? Itis because sensory nerves are only 1/3 of the types of nerves inyour neck. What if you suffered an injury that affected the other2/3? You may not feel it at all!

In addition, we aren’t talking about the type of injuries thatbreak or dislocate anything in your neck. But we are talking aboutsomething that cause some internal damage to the effect of 1-2mm(maybe more) and that caused things to shift.

Now, if you think that 1-2mm is not a big deal, consider a fewthings. First, the total range of motion for any one joint in yourneck is between 10-20mm. Also not very large. Nevertheless, a 1-2mmshift represents a 5-10% deviation from the normal. Think of thatlike the interest on your house or car or something like that.

… Now, don’t pay that interest for 10-20 years. Will that 5-10%make a difference now? You bet it will! This is the nature of thetypes of conditions that upper cervical chiropractic doctors workwith all day, every day. Very small things that at face value seemlike inconsequential things; but when considered from a biggerperspective can actually have progressive and significantaccumulative effects on any person’s wellbeing.

It is then as an adult WHEN we do our normal activities - eg.,computers, work, stress, etc - that we blame these currentactivities instead one considering how an old injury may be comingback to haunt us.

It is one of the things that defines upper cervical doctors ofchiropractic: it is that we are interested in identifying the CAUSEof people’s health issues - the reason WHY you experience the heavyhead feeling - to address it atet he root of the problem, not justby treating the effects.

Most common reasons children have a heavy head feeling

Children are not immune to a heavy head feeling either. Ifanything, it could be even more important!

First, consider that in children (infants especially) the headrepresents a much greater percent of total body weight. That heavyflower sits on an even weaker stem because the muscles have notfully developed!

The result is that children may be especially prone to injuriesof the neck that affect their structural development later in life.I mean, isn’t it usually in childhood where parents and teachersidentify “posture problems?”

But remember: posture problems may actually be neckalignment-brain health problems in disguise! Posture is also anEFFECT, NOT the cause!

There are any number of potential injuries that can affect thealignment for the bones in a child’s neck and lead to a heavy headfeeling or other issues later in life.


  • Getting dropped or tumbling off household items
  • Falls learning to walk, or playing/running around as achild
  • Sports injuries
  • Even complicated births if/when a difficult delivery involvingforceps, vacuum, breech or other non-normal presentationsoccur

The thing is that kids especially - if they have no point ofreference that the weight of their head is not supposed to feelheavy - may not know any different! The result is that they may notbe able to describe their sensation at all until they get a littleolder and experience things like headaches or migraines or backpain or shoulder pain.

None of these sensations is every normal, but especially inchildren! And yes, it may seem like it is easier to simply mask thesymptoms, but I will emphasis here than whatever is actuallycausing the problem is especially important for the patient toidentify so that it does continue to cause health problems later inlife also.

Diagnostic for a heavy head feeling

In an upper cervical chiropractic office, the way there may be avariety of tests that examine the cause for a heavy head feeling.In brief, there are 3 types of tests that we use in our northBrisbane chiropractic centre:


  • Physical testing - this is where we consider things likeposture and muscle tension as a reflection of where and how thebody is working to maintain the balance of the head
  • Neurological testing - remember that only 1/3 of the types ofnerves in the neck are sensory. We therefore need to to differenttypes of tests to determine if your body is actually working right.Ultimately, when it comes to health, it is not merely the presenceor absence of symptoms that dictates how well you are: it ishow well your body is able to function properly!
  • Structural testing - if we find signs of a physical, mechanicalissue coming from your C1 or upper neck that is affecting yournervous system, then we do the next test, which is a 3D x-rayfor the alignment of the bones in your neck where we identify the1-2mm misalignments, and thus determine what we need to do to helpyou.
  • Unlike normal x-ray equipment, which looks at your body from 2standard angles for broken bones, arthritis, etc, in order todiagnose the misalignments in your neck, we customise the views tosuit your own bone structure. Without this information, is is easyto misdiagnose so many problems that affect people’s necks andtheir nerves.

It is the reason the we have our own diagnostic 3D x-rayequipment on side in our North Lakes chiropractor office: to makesure that we get the right information for you, and as efficientlyas possible so that you don’t have to run around town to get testsdone so that we can get to the bottom of your head head feeling,and start a plan of care as soon as possible.

Upper cervical chiropractic treatment for a heavy headfeeling

No one likes feeling anything less than their 100% optimum.Often times, as humans, we preserve through paint and discomfort.Often, the issues we experience go away. Other times they donot.

It is when problems are recurrent - that keep coming back, dayafter day or week after week - that it is a sign that something isnot right in our bodies, and that we need some type oftreatment.

The question then is, when it comes to a heavy head feeling,what is the right type of treatment? Because, again, there isn’treally such a thing as a “heavy head specialist.”

Nevertheless, here is where an upper cervical chiropracticdoctor may be the right person to help you out. Their entire focusin practice is on providing a natural, drug-free solution forhelping people with health conditions and symptoms that include aheavy head feeling. When the feeling is due to a misalignment ofthe top bones in your neck, the solution may we be in therestoration of the normal alignment so that your body can againfunction at a higher level, the way it is designed.

So if you would like any additional information or would like toschedule an appointment, we would like to invite you to have a chatwith us through the Contact Us part on this page, or at 073188 9329. At Atlas Health North Lakes chiropractor, we offer acomplementary over-the-phone consultation to discuss yourspecific conditions, needs, and to answer any questions you mayhave to decide if care is right for you.

Our office is located in North Lakes to provide upper cervicalchiropractic care for the local communities of Mango Hill,Narangba, Murrumba Downs, Griffin, Aspley, North Harbour,Morayfield and Burpengary.

We are still the first and only specific upper cervicalchiropractic practice in Brisbane, and it is not uncommon for manyof our local clients to travel 60-90 minutes in one direction forcare. So if you are in the north Brisbane., south Brisbane, westBrisbane or even Sunshine Coast areas - yes, it might be a littlemore travel than we all ideally like - and we are here to help youto the best of our abilities also.

Even if you are outside the Brisbane area, please feel free toreach us at 07 3188 9329 or Contact Us so that we can direct to youyour nearest upper cervical chiropractic doctor.

Atlas Health Australia - “A passion and purpose for helping livewell.”




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