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Can Upper Cervical Care change abnormal spine curves?

Can abnormal spine curves be treated by a neck adjustment?

Have you ever wondered why abnormal spine curves happen?

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 A    Is it bad posture?

 B    Is it genetics (e.g., “my grandmother had an abnormal spine curve, and it just runs in the family”)

 C    Is it just getting older?

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Most of the time, I would make the case for “D. None of the above,” Granted, each one does have a case, but only as a relatively small percent.

If you are concerned about an abnormal spine curve, you have probably already started doing some Google searches and come across something called “idiopathic scoliosis.” Now, I will talk a little later in this article how much I loathe the word “scoliosis” because it is used so incorrectly in a way that scares people. For the moment though, I want to focus on the word “idiopathic.” 

Idiopathic means “cause unknown.” In other words, the traditional viewpoint for why the major of abnormal spine curves happen is NOT because of a tumor or a broken bone or bad posture or genetics or getting older. From a medical perspective, the reason for so many abnormal spine curves is “unknown.”

Well, that doesn’t help! … Or does it?

You see, if you can rule out pathology, genetics, and age as the cause of an abnormal spine curve, what it leaves you with is some type of functional disorder involving the spine. And where the spine goes, often there is an underlying issue affecting the function of the nervous system.

So in this article, I want to raise the possibility that abnormal spine curves may be the result of a problem affecting the function of your brainstem or spinal cord … and how that problem may actually be originating in your upper beck.

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Why abnormal spine curves affect my health?

“Structure dictates function.”

This maxim is a fundamental principle in biology. The shape of a thing affects its function. When we consider the spine, it is contracted and developed with a series of normal curves that allow for support and flexibility. The most flexible is of the spine so happens to be your upper neck: the atlas (C1 vertebra) and the axis (C2 vertebrae).

These two vertebrae account for 50% of the total movement in your neck! The tradeoff for this amount of flexibility is that they are also most susceptible to injury. More on that later.

For now, let’s simply consider the purpose of your spine. It is to protect your brain, your brainstem, and spinal cord which are the master command, control, and communication systems of your body.

We often think of the heart as being the most important organ in the body. Indeed, without a heart, you can only survive around 5 seconds. However, do consider that there are devices used during surgery that all for a person to survive even if their heart is stopped. But what about your brain?

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You cannot survive even a second without life-energy flowing from your brain to the rest of your body … That is why death is legally and officially defined when a person is “brain dead.”

And a brain isn’t exactly something that can be stopped and then restarted unless you consider your teens and 20s … but that’s another story. 

The actual point I’d like to make is that it is your spine that protects your nervous system, keeping it enclosed directly in bone. No other organ has that type of protection around it: not even the heart! 

So can you imagine what might happen is that structure starts to close off or put abnormal pressure on the very thing that it is designed to protect?

It is the reason that abnormal spine curves (depending on the extent of the curve) are associated with almost every type of health condition known to mankind:

 

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  •  Cardiovascular problems
  •  Digestive issues
  •  Musculoskeletal pain
  •  Etc.

What is the most common abnormal spine curves symptom?

Now, everyone is different. Even people with abnormal spine curves can experience different symptoms. Many people actually feel nothing at all, but when they look in the mirror they can clearly see that they are not exactly standing straight (even though it feels like it).

Nevertheless, the most common symptom that people with abnormal spine curves experience are neuromusculoskeletal conditions:

 

  •  Headaches or migraines
  •  Neck or shoulder pain
  •  Back pain
  •  Radiating pain into the hands or the legs such as sciatica
  •  Hip, knee and foot pain

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The reason is that in your brain’s attempt to balance your body so that the stress isn’t focused in just one spot (because that can lead to degenerative arthritis) it engages your entire body to compensate.

 

  •  Your head and neck tip to one side
  •  Your shoulder drops on one side
  •  Your hip drops and your body leans to one side
  •   Etc

 

While these compensations work for a while, they require your muscles to work in ways that they are not designed. Inevitably, your muscles will fatigue. And when they do - depending on where the fatigue happens that is when you get aches, pains, strains, spasms, and tightness in that area … but then it shifts somewhere else … then somewhere else, and so forth.

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Why? It is because whatever the underlying reason for the abnormal spine curves is still there!

Difference between abnormal spine curves and text neck.

So why are abnormal spine curves different from things like “bad posture” including text neck?

It is the difference between CAUSE and EFFECT.

Let’s start with something like a text neck, where you might slump your head, neck, and body like a caveman (no disrespect meant to all the cavemen out there). If you do this long enough, yes you will begin to see postural changes that affect the structure of your body.

A Sunshine Coast chiropractor has identified that teenagers can develop abnormal growth of the back of the skull due to abnormal tension, which can be attributed to excessive phone, tablet, and computer use.

(Note: I have met this Sunshine Coast chiropractor personally, and he and I both agree that there is most going on that just “bad posture,” and that the real culprit may well be what I am going to describe for you next).

Now, here is where the difference begins. If it is just a matter of “text neck,” then it would mean that when people start exercising a deliberately working on their muscles to “wake up the weak ones,” then those abnormal spine curves should go away? It makes sense, right?

… But what if that doesn’t happen? What if, despite doing all the right stretches and exercises - and using a computer and a phone with the correct posture - you still have abnormal spine curves? 

What THAT would mean is that there is something else besides just “laziness or slouching or bad posture” that is driving the process. SOMETHING ELSE is creating the abnormal spine curves.

So what could that something be?

Well, let’s go back to looking at the structure of your spine - emphasizing your upper neck - and how that can affect your posture and abnormal spine curves. Let’s say that your bones are all normal BUT that something has affected the way that a certain bone moves.

That is, you experienced some kind of physical injury in the past that caused a misalignment of one of the bones in your neck by a couple of millimeters, and that your body was not able to fix the problem on its own.

Now, a couple of millimeters may not sound like much. However, if you consider that the normal size and range of movement between the bones in your neck is a total of 10mm, we are talking about a 20% disruption! What will happen then is that your brain will need to make certain compensations to the rest of your spine?

The system does NOT break down overnight! In fact, many people with abnormal spine curves do not actually experience any symptoms at all.

The reason is that there are 3 categories of nerves present in your spine:

 

    1    Sympathetic efferent nerves, which control the function of blood vessels, your organs, and other things that you typically don’t feel

    2    Motor efferent nerves, which allow you to move

    3    Sensory afferent nerves, which allow you to feel

 

You’ll notice that you can only FEEL the last ones! So 2/3 fo the types of nerves in your spine do not carry information about things that you can feel. So can you have a problem affecting the FUNCTION of your body but still not feel it, and as a result you are not actually healthy? It happens every day!

Imagine that the dashboard lights on your car are broken. So even if you are out of fuel and even if your engine and your transmission are about to blow up, you may not know it until it happens. Why? Because the sensor gauge simply isn’t registering the actual problem.

So, if you have even a 2mm misalignment - especially if it involves either your C1 or C2 vertebrae - it can affect the structure, alignment, and posture of your entire spine. Why are the atlas and axis so important. It is because where your head goes, your body goes!

(If you have ever driven a motorcycle or have ever done target shooting of any kind, you will understand EXACTLY what I’m talking about!)

Your brain will engage muscles and do whatever it takes to keep itself level. It is a process called the “head righting reflex." And that is even if it means sacrificing the rest of the body to do it. Why? It’s because as far as your brain is concerned, it more important to keep your brain working to keep you alive and functional than it is to have an abnormal spine curve.

But also as I said earlier, this compensatory mechanism can only work for so long until problems can start to creep in.

… Remember way back in the beginning I mentioned the word “idiopathic,” which means cause unknown? Well, do you think it is possible it is because the abnormal spine curve specialists could be looking at things the wrong way? Or that there’s something important that they aren’t considering?

I also want to mention a pet-hate of mine, which is improper use of the word “scoliosis.” Technically, scoliosis is any sideways abnormal spine curve even a couple of degrees. However, I am firm of the opinion that the word should NOT be used until the curve is at least 20 degrees.

Why? It’s because research has shown when you tell a person that “they have scoliosis” - even if they have only a mild abnormal spine curve - they grow up to have markedly poorer body image and health.

You might as well tell someone that they have “cancer” because they have an abnormal benign fat deposit in their body. Yes, I’m being facetious, but the principle I emphasize is that words matter.

It is not to downplay the impact that abnormal spine curves have on your health - they do! But at the same time, I do not want to terrify you by saying you have scoliosis or “hunchback” when you definitely do not. There is a big difference, and words matter!

At this point, I want to introduce you to a different approach and way of looking at abnormal spine curves that may offer you a potential solution. It is looking at the alignment of your atlas and axis.

We already mentioned that your C1 and C2 vertebrae are most susceptible to injury in your spine, and where your head goes your body goes (the righting reflex). Now, there can be any number of potential injuries that can cause a 2-5mm misalignment of these vertebrae, some of which you may not even recall. (Because so many abnormal spine curves originate in childhood, I will consider some of the common things that happen when you are very young):

 

  • Falling or bumping your head when you’re learning to walk or running around as a kid or falling of a playground
  • Getting a tackle or concussion playing sports
  • Getting in a car accident (even if there wasn’t any pain!)
  • Traumatic birth where the neck gets cranked on (e.g., breech, forceps, vacuum, cord around the neck, or prolonged delivery, etc)

There is an old expression: As the twig is bent, so grows the tree! So again, if the structure is misaligned in youth, it doesn’t matter what stretch or exercise you do if the key is to get the structure lined up again. 

Can chiropractic offer abnormal spine curves treatment?

When it comes to abnormal spine curves, here is where a chiropractor may be able to help. However, I want to share with you a few principles to help you find the right type of chiropractor.

First are foremost, you want to work with someone who does physical, neurological and structural testing FIRST before starting care. Chiropractic can get a bad wrap because so many practitioners don’t take the time first to properly identify what you have going on, or what an appropriate plan will be.

Simply pushing or popping things in your back is NOT chiropractic as far as I’m concerned. That’s just general spinal manipulation.

So the key is to find out what your normal body structure is first- because unless you know normal, it is IMPOSSIBLE to know what “abnormal” is. 

The second part then is to find an approach that resonates and works for you. There are dozens of different methods in chiropractic, kind of like how there are a different brands of shoes, cars, etc.

Many times people don’t realize this, and so when they Google something like “North Lakes chiropractor” they just randomly get an email address and phone number without really know what they’re getting. Indeed, the reason that all these different styles exist is that different methods work for different people.

So it is important to find something that resonates with you, and that you give it a fair go.

What is the best chiropractic technique for abnormal spine curves?

In my opinion, there is no one right way to do anything! Now, I do believe there are plenty of wrong ways to do things .. .and things happen by accident in good ways too. When it comes to fixing abnormal spine posture, there are a few different methods out there that have good track records including things called chiropractic biophysics (CBP), Pettibon chiropractor, and also approaches known as Atlas Orthogonal (AO), NUCCA and QSM3.

There is also the approach that we use called the Blair method that is a personalized and detailed approach that helps to align the vertebrae in your neck to help restore normal function for your nervous system and to help reduce physical ailment in the body including abnormal spine posture. 

There are a few key differences in the Blair technique that I’d like to share with you.

 

    4    We used special 3D x-rays, which look at the individual alignment of the joints in your neck to make sure that any adjustment we perform is truly custom-tailored for you. What we find in our Brisbane atlas chiropractor office is that the majority of people actually have ANTERIOR or FORWARDS misalignments in the neck. And to my knowledge, we are one of the only practices that correct these types of misalignments not only in Brisbane but in all Australia.

    5    There is ZERO spinal manipulation, twisting or cracking the neck. When we are precise, we don’t need to force or “crack” your neck into position.

    6    We use neurological testing on every office visit to determine if/when you need an adjustment OR if you are healing, and your body will just need time.

    7    We don’t force your adjustments or even your posture. You see, some people are not actually designed to be straight. And so if you “fix” the abnormal spine curve TOO MUCH, it can actually start to cause problems too!

    8    Our goal is not to adjust you hundreds of times to fix your posture. Our goal is to adjust AS LITTLE AS POSSIBLE FOR THE LONGEST LASTING TIME so that your own body will be able to make the necessary changes. In other words, the less treatment the better!

I have a rare book that was published in 1938, which illustrates changes in abnormal spine curves for 100 people ONLY adjusting the top two bones in the neck. If you’ve like to have a look in the office, I’d be happy to share it with you.

Chiropractic abnormal spine curves specialist near me?

Now, I must emphasise also that what we do in our practice - Atlas Health Chiropractor North Lakes - is not a treatment focused solely on fixing abnormal spine curves. We are not, quote “chiropractic” or “abnormal spine curve specialists” if such a thing even exists.

Many times if/when you have degenerative arthritis, it may not be possible to fix things 100%. In addition, because everyone’s bone structure is different, we don’t want to promise you something that may not even be possible!

So that is who we aren’t.

Who we are what we have to offer is the ability to correct the alignment of the top bones in your neck in order to take the pressure off of the brainstem and nervous system, which could be impacting the health and function of your body. And then, but allowing your body to work naturally the way that it is meant, we allow it to do it what deems is appropriate.

So it is not always a linear process, but indeed, many people we do work with demonstrate significant improvements with abnormal spine curves after getting their upper neck realigned.

I personally believe that there are many things that are necessary to help correct abnormal spine curves - and an atlas alignment or axis adjustment may only be a part of it. And I also believe that in order to get the best possible results, it is imperative for the top bones in your neck to be properly aligned. Through my own research and personal experiences, I absolutely believe this to be true,

So, can we help you?

What I’d like to invite you at this point to do if this makes sense and would like more information if to reach out to us to have a chat. We would be happy to schedule a 15-minute consultation at no charge where one of our Doctors of Chiropractic would be able to have a chat where you can discuss your personal condition, answer any question you may have, and let you know if we believe that we can help you.

You can reach us via email on the “Contact Us” link at the top of the page, or call us during normal business hours at 07 3188 9329.

Our practice - Atlas Health Australia - is the premier (and still only) upper cervical specific health center in Brisbane.

Our practice is a North Lakes chiropractor clinic providing care not only for the local communities of Mango Hill, Narangba, Dakabin, Burgengary, and North Harbour, but also the greater Brisbane area including Everton Park, West End, Chapel Hill, The Gap, Shorncliffe and Albany Creek. 

We look forward to hearing from you and would be honored to help in any way possible. 

Take care of your neck and start enjoying life again!

 

References

 

Guyot MA, Agnani O, Peyrodie L, Samantha D, Donze C, Catanzariti JF. Cervicocephalic relocation test to evaluate cervical proprioception in adolescent idiopathic scoliosis.

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Hong SW, Lee JK, Kang JH. Relationship among Cervical Spine Degeneration, Head and Neck postures, and Myofascial Pain in Masticatory and Cervical Muscles in Elderly with Temporomandibular Disorder. Arch Gerontol Geriatr. 2019 Mar-Apr;81:119-128. doi: 10.1016/j.archger.2018.12.004. Epub 2018 Dec 7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30554035

Johnston V, Jull G, Souvlis T, Jimmieson NL. Neck movement and muscle activity characteristics in female office workers with neck pain. Spine (Phila Pa 1976). 2008 Mar 1;33(5):555-63. doi: 10.1097/BRS.0b013e3181657d0d. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18317202 

Kim BB, Lee JH, Jeong HJ, Cynn HS. Effects of suboccipital release with craniocervical flexion exercise on craniocervical alignment and extrinsic cervical muscle activity in subjects with forwarding head posture. J Electromyogr Kinesiol. 2016 Oct;30:31-7. doi: 10.1016/j.jelekin.2016.05.007. Epub 2016 May 24. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27261928

Kocur P, Wilski M, Goliwąs M, Lewandowski J, Łochyński D. Influence of Forward Head Posture on Myotonometric Measurements of Superficial Neck Muscle Tone, Elasticity, and Stiffness in Asymptomatic Individuals With Sedentary Jobs. J Manipulative Physiol Ther. 2019 Mar - Apr;42(3):195-202. doi: 10.1016/j.jmpt.2019.02.005. Epub 2019 May 20. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/31122786

Kocur P, Wilski M, Lewandowski J, Łochyński D. Female Office Workers With Moderate Neck Pain Have Increased Anterior Positioning of the Cervical Spine and Stiffness of Upper Trapezius Myofascial Tissue in Sitting Posture. PM R. 2019 May;11(5):476-482. doi: 10.1016/j.pmrj.2018.07.002. Epub 2019 Jan 14. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/31034771

Tang R, Ye IB, Cheung ZB, Kim JS, Cho SK. Age-Related Changes in Cervical Sagittal Alignment: A Radiographic Analysis. Spine (Phila Pa 1976). 2019 Jun 27. doi: 10.1097/BRS.0000000000003082. . https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/31261278

Vaghela NP, Parekh SK, Padsala D, Patel D. Effect of backpack loading on cervical and sagittal shoulder posture in standing and after dynamic activity in school going children. J Family Med Prim Care. 2019 Mar;8(3):1076-1081. doi: 10.4103/jfmpc.jfmpc_367_18. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/31041254

Wang L, Liu X. Cervical sagittal alignment in adolescent idiopathic scoliosis patients (Lenke type 1-6). J Orthop Sci. 2017 Mar;22(2):254-259. doi: 10.1016/j.jos.2016.12.006. Epub 2016 Dec 23. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28025024

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