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The Atlas is the first vertebra of the spine. The head or cranium is positioned on top of the Atlas. When the alignment is correct, the term Orthogonal is used, which means at right angles or neutral. This area is also referred to as the cranio-cervical junction. This junction is an important gateway between the brain and the spinal column.
When the Atlas mis-aligns several things happen. It causes the head to tilt. The body instinctively tries to correct this so that the eyes are always level. Because the spinal column is flexible, the vertebra then re-adjust slightly all the way down your back, posture becomes altered, spinal nerves get irritated, and pain or internal problems can result anywhere in the body.
Cranio-Cervical Syndrome occurs as a result of injury to the structures that connect the head to the neck. Mis-alignment can cause abnormal tension on the spinal cord, spinal nerves, and blood vessels. This interferes with normal brain function, normal spinal nerve function, and can cause several different types of pain patterns throughout the body.
Football player Jim McMahon suffered from Cranio-Cervical Syndrome, and received relief from an atlas adjustment. Please watch the video below.
Recent, ongoing research studies are showing that trauma to the head and neck, causing a mis-aligned Atlas, can affect the cerebro-spinal fluid (CSF) flow in the brain. There is a possibility that this abnormal pooling of the CSF can result in neuro-degenerative conditions like multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, Lou Gehrig’s disease or ALS, and Alzheimer’s disease. 1,2
Some Common Causes of Atlas mis-alignment
- Car accidents which cause your neck to snap backward, forward, or side to side.
- Concussions from sports injuries.
- Impact from contact sports, like hockey and football.
- Birth Trauma. The Atlas can misalign when the head and neck pass through the birth canal.
- Bumping your head, or an object falling on your head.
- Horseback riding accidents.
- Skiing accidents.
- Sleeping on a pillow that’s too high, causing your neck to flex forward.
Symptoms of Cranio-Cervical Syndrome
Ringing in ears
Loss of color vision
Loss of coordination
Loss of concentration
Numbness and tingling in hands and feet
Loss of balance
What to expect on your visit
We perform a thorough orthopedic, neurological, and chiropractic evaluation, as well as x-rays. If further diagnostic testing is required, we send our patients to an Upright MRI facility in West Los Angeles in which you are seated in an open, comfortable unit. The upright MRI is more sensitive in detecting mis-aligned vertebrae, changes in your brain and cerebro-spinal fluid, and herniated discs.
If the exam indicates that the Altas is mis-aligned, the treatment protocol is to correct the problem with a combination of gentle procedures.
Usually with trauma or with a long term problem, neck muscles are tight and in spasm. This has to be relieved, otherwise the tight muscles will pull the vertebra back out of place. We accomplish this with massage, ultrasound or electric muscle stimulation.
Then, the Atlas will be gently corrected either using a hand held percussion device, or manual spinal correction. No forceful neck twisting is necessary. It’s essential that you return in two days for follow up care. Depending on the severity of the problem and the length of time the atlas has been mis-aligned, patients may need up to 3 weeks of treatment.
- Damadian MD, Raymond, Rosa DC, Scott: “The Cranio-Cervical Syndrome (CCS): The Vulnerability of the Human Neck and it’s impact on Cerebrospinal Flow: 2013 Symposium
- Raymond V. Damadian, David Chu: “The Possible Role of Cranio-Cervical Trauma and Abnormal CSF Hydrodynamics in the Genesis of Multiple Sclerosis”. 2011 Paper.