What does “upper cervical” mean? It means the upper part of the neck very close to the brain stem. It is the most important part of the spine for a very simple reason: you MUST be balanced from the TOP down.
The head weighs in at 12-15+ pounds and “sits” upon a 2-ounce bone called the atlas. The atlas is the first cervical vertebrae (bone). It was so-named after the Atlas of Greek Mythology, the primordial Titan who holds up the globe.
In order to understand WHY the upper cervical spine is so important, you must understand the functions of your spine. The spine has three main functions: One (1) is support. You are able to stand and walk as a result of this most important and central support structure of the body. Two (2) is protection. The spine protects the spinal cord, which is part of the Central Nervous System (CNS). The CNS controls and coordinates ALL of the functions of the body. Three (3) is movement. Each of the 24 movable bones of the spine contributes to the ability of your body to move with greater efficiency.
In the upper neck, there is a necessary trade-off. The upper neck allows a great deal more mobility for turning your neck and looking up and down. However, the design of the upper neck allows for less stability. Stability means that ability of your spine to resist injury or damage. In this area of your spine, the stability is based primarily on ligaments and muscles and less on the joints surfaces. Therefore, even (seemingly) minor injuries to the head, chin, face, skull or neck area can severely affect this crucial balancing act.
Recognizing the importance of the upper cervical spine is crucial for a good percentage of chiropractic cases. Without consideration for the balance in this area, the rest of the spine will suffer instability and imbalance. In practice, it is quite common to see lower back symptoms improve markedly by FIRST balancing the upper neck area. If you have failed to respond to chiropractic care in the past or simply getting lackluster results, a better understanding of your upper neck as well as receiving specific upper cervical care may make a HUGE difference in your eventual outcome.