Your Body: The Importance Of The Atlas

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Everything Passes Through Here

All nerve signals must travel through the highly-mobile and structurally vulnerable region where your head and neck meet.

The very top bone in your spine is called the atlas vertebra. The atlas is donut-shaped and different from other spinal bones because it is much smaller and does not have the interlocking joints found in the rest of the spinal column.

This high-degree of mobility is needed so you can move your head fully from side to side, up and down, and all around to see, hear, smell, and taste what is going on as easily as possible without moving your whole body. Interlocking pieces on the atlas would restrict this range of motion, but because of this great mobility, the atlas vertebra is more susceptible to stress and trauma.

You are also particularly vulnerable right here because it is through your atlas that your brainstem descends into your spine to become your spinal cord. The brainstem is that very sensitive and delicate part of your brain that regulates many basic life processes such as: breathing, heart rate, blood pressure, and levels of consciousness. Your balance with gravity is also coordinated here via the Vestibulospinal reflex. In fact, this critical nerve center is the conduit through which all messages between your brain and your body must pass.

Knowing the upper neck is more vulnerable to stress and so critical for whole body function, special care and consideration should be given to adjusting the head and neck. A gentle approach with measurable improvement on each visit is the gold standard for care in this office.

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