Migraine headaches - C1 vertebra

Posted in Head Pain Disorders on May 6, 2020

Migraine headaches - C1 vertebra

Is it a migraine headache? Or is it your C1 vertebra?

Many people have found relief from migraines and chronic headaches with treatment focused on the top bone in the neck called the atlas or C1 vertebra.

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One of the simplest but also most challenging questions that people ask their migraine doctor Brisbane is, “Why do I have migraines or headaches in the first place?

If you have been to a Brisbane migraine and headache clinic or other migraine specialists, you have probably had all kinds of tests to identify the cause of your migraine headaches:


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  • CT Scans
  • MRIs
  • Food Intolerance Tests


Unfortunately, if you are like so many people, your tests all come back as “normal.” The Brisbane headache clinic may then attribute your condition to stress or genetics.

You are told to avoid stressful situations and to take medication to treat the symptoms. While the drugs may stop the migraine from blowing out, they don’t really change the grogginess that you feel … like a reverse hangover.

If you are the type of person who prefers a natural approach and does not want to take drugs for the rest of your life, you may desire a different approach. And if you are also the type of person who wants to correct the cause of your condition and not just treat the symptoms, then here is where you may need to take a different approach.

Here is where a different type of “headache clinic” or “migraine clinic” may be able to help you.

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Atlas - A different type of “migraine headache clinic”

When it comes to migraines and headaches, one of the most important but overlooked factors is the specific alignment or the top vertebra in your neck. The C1 vertebra (aka “atlas” because it supports the 4Kg weight of your head) is physically tethered to the protective tissue that protects your spinal cord and brainstem, which is the master control center of your nerve system.

This connective tissue is called the meninges and is comprised of three layers: the dura, arachnoid, and pia mater. The meninges contain a dense matrix network of blood vessels, veins, lymph channels, and nerves that regulate the normal function of your brain.

If the meninges are inflamed, it may cause a variety of health problems including migraines, chronic headaches, vertigo, dizziness, neuralgia, and other pain and nerve system disorders. 

If you can imagine the sensation of a hangover, that is one example of what it feels like when the meninges are aggravated due to a chemical irritant.

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However, it is also possible to irritate the meninges due to a physical irritant.

One common, albeit seldom diagnosed possibility, is that you may have a physical injury to the alignment of your C1 vertebra. Your atlas is constructed to move approximately 10-20mm. However, if the ligaments that support its alignment are ever injured from a head, neck, or whiplash injury, it can cause the center of gravity of your skull to shift resulting in a permanent misalignment of even 2mm.

As small as that sounds, bear in mind that such misalignment may represent a 10-20% displacement from your normal! And even if that may not be enough to be dangerous or unstable, it may certainly be enough to cause problems including a physical pulling force that aggravates the meninges and may well contribute towards your migraines or headaches.


Can it still be a C1 problem if my scans are “normal?”

When many people have tests done at a Brisbane migraine clinic, they have CT or MRI scans looking for major signs of pathology like tumors, bleeds, or infections. However, nerve irritation may occur on a scale so small that it cannot be detected on an MRI scan. The result is that for so many people, their results come back as “normal.”

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The problem is that as wonderful as MRI or CT scans are, they don’t show everything that is going on with the alignment of your C1 vertebra. It is only if the injury is around 5-10mm big that a headache clinic commonly considers the damage to be significant enough to cause problems.

However, it has been our experience in 15 years of practice that even the tiny misalignments of 1-2mm, if they are in just the wrong direction, can cause just as nasty problems as the larger injuries.

It is the reason why at Atlas Health we do our own types of testing. When we identify that a person has a problem with the C1 vertebra, we take a series of 3D x-rays in order to identify the exact direction, degree, and size of any misalignment that could be affecting their nervous system and health.

Because the atlas can misalign in 360 possible degrees of motion, it is essential to find where the problem may be so that any treatment can be specifically designed just for you.

For more information about the types of testing we do, you can go to atlashealth.com.au migraine.


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Atlas Health - Hope, healing and greater wellbeing

At Atlas Health, we are a different type of Brisbane headache and migraine clinic. We work best with people with chronic health problems, including people who have been to all the usual migraine specialist Brisbane but have not found the solutions they have been looking for. Our mission is to provide hope, healing and longterm solutions to help people enjoy the quality of life that they desire.

In other words, to stop being a servant to their migraines or headaches and to take back control of their lives.

If you feel that you’ve exhausted every option when it comes to finding relief, even if you’ve been to all the headache and migraine clinic Brisbane and other headache specialists, we’d like to encourage you to try something different.

Especially if you have never heard of the C1 vertebra or atlas before when it comes to migraines, it may be the missing piece of the puzzle you have been looking for.

If you would like more information, we would like to hear from you

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At Atlas Health located in North Lakes (north Brisbane), we offer a complimentary 15-minute over-the-phone consultation with one of our Blair upper cervical chiropractic doctors to discuss your condition and so that you can ask any questions you may have to decide if care may be right for you.

Our principal, Dr. Jeffrey Hannah, is an advanced certified Blair chiropractic practitioner, international lecturer, author, and recognized leader in the field of upper cervical (aka atlas) specific chiropractic.

If you would like to arrange a personal consultation, you can call us direct at 07 3188 9329

Alternatively, you can click the Contact Us, and one of our staff at Atlas Health will return your email as soon as possible.

We trust that this article has given you additional information and a different possible direction that may be able to help you find the answers you are looking for so that you can start enjoying life again.

We hope to hear from you soon.

Atlas Health Australia - “Hope, healing, and wellbeing from above-down, inside-out.”



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