By Kathleen Lewis, D.C.
There are many factors involved in creating neck and back pain. Some of these include:
- Abnormal posture
- Changes in connective tissue (fascia)
- Tight muscles
- Compensation patterns
- Abnormal stress across the discs between the vertebrae
- Pressure on spinal nerves
- Pressure on the dura mater (the layer of connective tissue around the brain and spinal cord)
- Abnormal blood flow
- Local release of pain chemicals
Is there a single underlying cause that connects all of these factors?
The muscles that connect the atlas (C1) and axis (C2) to the skull are the underlying cause of all of the above-mentioned causes of neck and back pain. These powerful short suboccipital muscles act as sensory organs as well as muscles. In addition to allowing controlled movement of the head, they keep the head stable. This allow your eyes to remain level, which is important for vision, balance and posture. These muscles can tighten up as a result of birth trauma, injuries or accidents such as whiplash, when the brain perceives stress, or for many other reasons. When these muscles are very contracted, there are major effects on the neck and back that lead to pain. The head can be pushed forward, which increases the stress on the spinal column 10 pounds for every inch. Notice when you walk down the street how many people have a forward head. Have you ever lifted a 10-pound bowling ball? The average human head weighs 10-12 pounds. Imagine how much extra pressure that 10-pound forward head puts on the muscles, nerves, bones, discs, fascia, blood vessels, spinal cord and dura mater. Now picture yourself bent forward to look at your mobile phone. If your head is forward 60 degrees, you are increasing the strain on your neck and back by 60 pounds! That is like having six bowling balls on your neck!
When these suboccipital muscles are in spasm, compensation patterns can develop. What are some of these patterns?
- The atlas vertebra may become tilted or rotated, affecting the position of all the vertebrae below it.
- One shoulder or hip might become higher than the other.
- Your hips may rotate.
- You might develop a hump at the base of the neck or a swayback.
- The increased stress on the back can create abnormal forces across your spinal, hip and knee joints.
- The nerves leaving the spine may be compressed.
- Blood flow to and from the brain can be blocked.
- Distortion patterns may occur in the fascia.
- The dura mater, which attaches to these suboccipital muscles, may be impinged or stressed, creating microtears or blockage of the fluid bathing the spine and brain—the cerebrospinal fluid.
You can see that any one of these compensation patterns from suboccipital muscle spasm can be the source of neck or back pain. The AtlasPROfilax® treatment gets into the deepest layer of the suboccipital muscles, releases the muscles and reduces the stress that leads to compensation patterns and neck and back pain. The result can be:
- Better posture
- Decreased muscle tension
- Improved spinal alignment
- Less pressure in the joints
- Improved nerve and blood flow
- Reduction of fascial distortion
- Better cerebrospinal fluid flow
…all leading to relief of pain!