Aptly named for the mythological man who held the world up on his back, the Atlas vertebrae is located at the very top of your spine, where the cranium and spine connect. More than just the symbolic foundation for support, Atlas itself is perhaps the most important vertebrae of the body. It’s home to a complex bundle of nerves and critical vertebral arteries, and it’s the point responsible for bearing the entire weight of the cranium.
In the myth, Atlas must be careful to hold the world still and strong at all times, lest it come crashing down. He did so by balancing it perfectly on his back. Atlas the vertebrae suffers the same situation – it must hold the head strong and still, otherwise problems with balance and alignment are certain to develop, affecting the entirety of the spine below.
Understanding the balancing act
Atlas’ role in maintaining balance comes from how it proportions the weight of the head. The vertebrae itself is wider than other cervical vertebrae, creating a center of gravity that can be reinforced through proper posture. It evenly distributes the weight of the head (as much as 10-12lb), to centralize that weight and draw support from the natural curvature of the spine.
If the center of gravity shifts to one side or another, Atlas will begin to tilt in that direction as well. This not only creates instability in the cervical spine, it can exponentially increase the amount of mass the spine is tasked with redistributing. Spinal translation is sure to follow, which induces everything from poor posture to overcompensation leading to injury.
What causes the shift?
Disruption to Atlas’ balancing act can come from any number of catalysts. And, it can occur as the result of both chronic and acute conditions. Some of the contributors include:
- Cervical soft tissue damage, such as occurs with whiplash;
- Subluxation of cervical vertebrae below Atlas, resulting in upward instability;
- Poor posture creating overcompensation to one side of the body;
- Static posture that puts a strain on the cervical spine;
- Trauma to the spine resulting in bulging or slipped discs.
Manifestations of problems may even come secondary to Atlas. For example, kyphosis may be a recognized condition a chiropractic patient is dealing with. This condition comes with its own symptoms, but could be a catalyst for a shift in Atlas, thus extrapolating spinal issues through a shift in the vertebra.
The effects of an unbalanced Atlas
Spinal troubles rooted in an unbalanced Atlas are prolific. They range from simple neck pain and soreness, to complete postural disarray resulting in overcompensation and chronic pain. Because Atlas swings the balance of the entire spine, along with its support for the cranium, problems can be both localized and referred, further complicating a person’s wellness.
Resolving problems with Atlas requires the comprehensive approach of Chiropractic BioPhysics (CBP). Only CBP quantitatively assesses the position of the spine against the ideal, to determine the actual degree to which Atlas has shifted out of place. Moreover, the incremental adjustment plan CBP offers each patient makes it possible to undo the widespread damage that Atlas’ shift may have caused.
Ideal Spine proves time and again the power of CBP as a total-spine assessment and treatment modality. When it comes to Atlas, be believe there’s no better approach to helping patients hold up the weight of their own world.
Chiropractic BioPhysics® corrective care trained Chiropractors are located throughout the United States and in several international locations. CBP providers have helped thousands of people throughout the world realign their spine back to health, and eliminate a source of chronic back pain, chronic neck pain, chronic headaches and migraines, fibromyalgia, and a wide range of other health conditions. If you are serious about your health and the health of your loved ones, contact a CBP trained provider today to see if you qualify for care. The exam and consultation are often FREE. See www.CBPpatient.com for providers in your area.