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As we go about our daily routines, we undoubtedly encounter multiple traumatic events. Some of these go unnoticed, like a small bump of the head, and some can be life changing. As we experience these events there is a life changing incident that has the potential to result in a lifetime of pain and suffering. This incident occurs when the relationship between the head and the neck are thrown of it’s balanced, perfect center of gravity. The result is direct insult to your brainstem!
The human head weighs anywhere from 10-14lbs and rests on a 2oz. bone on the surface the size of your two thumbnails. The connection between atlanto- occipital joint (the head, atlas, and rest of the neck) is very prone to injury. Typical vertebras, which include most of the lower cervicals, thoracics, and the lumbar vertebras, come equiped with large stabilizing mechanisms. These joints have discs, multiple ligaments, 5 layers of large and small muscle groups, and the lumbars even have sharpey’s fibers which are known to be some of the strongest biological material to date. The point being that these vertebral segments were designed as a support structure and where not inteded to lose position.
The atlanto occipital joint (atlas and head) was intended for a very different purpose. This joint was designed for mobility so we can look in most directions when we are be threatened or when survival dictates. This joint contains no discs and is merely lubricated by an extremely large polymerized sugar molecule known as synovial fluid. The amount of friction between these joints has the same amount of friction as two ice cubes sliding accross each other surface to surface (Sweat RW. Minimum Force vs. Moderate Force in the Occipital-Atlanto-Axial Subluxation Complex. Am Chiropr, February 1988:22-24). Furthermore, unlike the other lower segments mentioned above that have several ligaments and muscles for stabilization, the atlas only posesses 6 small, main ligaments,and a triangle composed three small muscles that are charged with it’s stabilization.
It is no doubt that this joint is quite unstable, but with out it we would be locked in a world that could only see straight ahead. The potential for injury of this joint is the price we pay for the luxury of a larger gamut of motion. As we bump our head or experience that whiplash in a car accident it is possible for this joint to shift positions which in turn will move the head to an abnormal center of gravity thus locking your neck and head in an abnormal (eccentric) range of motion. The righting reflex (see righting reflex section) will then take over, and the result is the potential for abnormal symptoms and dysfunction throughout the body. It is important that we are cautious throughout or lives to take care of this area and maintain a nervous system that is free of irritation.