The Atlas Misalignment - North Lakes, Brisbane Your upper neck - the atlas (C1) and axis (C2) - allow for a tremendous amount of movement, which allows you to tip and turn your head. However, the trade-off for this flexibility is that these vertebrae are more susceptible to injury and misalignment.
See the attached video link to see how this happens. The model shows the bottom side of the skull, called the foramen magnum, which is the opening is where the brain stem sits. The top part of the atlas glides over the smooth surfaces called the condyles in a circular motion as shown in the video.
In this way, the C1 vertebra is unique in that it is the only part of the spine that allows for 360 degrees of movement (called circumduction). However, this is another reason why the atlas is easiest to misalign: because it is the preferred place in your spine that your brain uses to adapt to stress ... and then if it is injured in that adapted position, that will likely damage the supporting muscles and ligaments.
If It Ain't Broke, It Might Still Need Fixin'
An injury to any part of our body - whether a direct injury to head or neck, or a fall on the tailbone or lower back, or an injury your knee or foot - can cause a ripple/whiplash effect that transmits up your spine and cause your atlas to misalign.
How this happens is discussed in a previous article and video. If you hit a person hard enough on a vertebra (or any bone) it's going to break. If you hit it a little less hard, it's going to dislocate. Fractures and dislocations are the domain of the orthopedic surgeon and the emergency department.
But, that's not the only thing that can happen. At the other end of the spectrum, if you hit a vertebra lightly enough, it would cause a misalignment ... but one that is within the normal flexibility of the joint, and your body should be able to pull it back in.
Misalignments like this happen down the spine all the time where your body is able to repair itself no problem. ... But what happens when it doesn't? What if there is a misalignment, just a little bit farther, that suddenly the body cannot pull it back on its own? It's not dislocated, but it is now subluxated.
Why The Misalignment / Subluxation is Important
As subluxation of the atlas or axis is the domain of the Upper Cervical Chiropractor. Imagine your head turned one way while sleeping ... but then it stays there even after you wake up. Turning your head at angles does kink your neck, but there is usually no problem for short periods.
However, those joints should come back to normal. Imagine though what happens if that position remains for weeks, months, years, or decades. Your brain stem is the same width as your finger. If your atlas misaligns/subluxations and the body was not able to return back to neutral, it causes a narrowing of the opening through which your spinal cord flows.
It also constricts and puts pressure on the fluids that circulate to and from your head. These resultant changes to the tissues of your brainstem and spinal cord - and to the fluids going to and from them - is believed to be why Upper Cervical Chiropractic Care has been demonstrated effective such a wide variety of conditions: because the atlas and axis have a profound influence on the system that controls the coordinated function of your whole body.
If to correct this particular type of misalignment it was a simple matter of doing "X" stretch and "Y" exercise, problems would heal on their own. When that doesn't happen, this is where the need for an adjustment to restore the vertebra's - namely the atlas - alignment back into the body's normal control is required.
And the only thing that allows that to happen is an Upper Cervical adjustment. If your head sitting and moving properly on your shoulders? Have you had an injury - no blood or broken bones - but you've been experiencing a few issues since that isn't seeming to get better. If you have a misalignment of your Atlas (C1) or Axis (C2) vertebra in your upper neck, it may affect the tension on your brainstem and may affect the circulation of fluids moving to-and-from your brain.