Low back pain is estimated to affect nearly 31 million Americans at any given time, making it one of the most prevalent conditions affecting adults today. Low back pain can be caused by many things, including poor posture, improper support from shows, injury, etc. For many adults it causes missed days at work, the gym, and missed opportunities to achieve physical goals. With many of us spending much more time at home with makeshift work stations, our ergonomics are not the same as they once were and may be leading to discomfort and back pain. Regular chiropractic care, specifically upper cervical chiropractic care, is a great way to prevent this pain and get back to moving and living.
What many people are not familiar with is how adjusting the upper cervical spine can help relieve lower back pain. Our heads weigh ~11 pounds and all that weight is supported by the cervical spine. When we lean our heads forward, the muscles that stretch all the way down our backs pull our heads back in order to keep our heads up straight, similar to reins on a horse. In today’s technology-advanced world a majority of the day is spent bent over looking at a screen causing strain on those muscles keeping our heads up, and this is what we call an anterior head carriage. When this posture is held overtime the curve in our necks start to decrease and straightening of the cervical spinal curve occurs, in some severe cases a reversal of the curve altogether. This is known as “Text Neck” and it puts a lot of pressure on the muscles in our back and the front of our neck to hold our heads up straight. Imagine holding a 10 pound bowling ball in your hand, it is a lot easier to hold it when your arm is close to your side, but the further you extend your arm from your body, the harder the muscles have to work to keep holding the bowling ball up. In this analogy the bowling ball is our head, and the arm is the muscles in the neck and back working to hold it up. This is where upper cervical chiropractic care comes in and corrects the alignment of the atlas (C1 vertebrae) to bring back the curve in our neck and relieve the muscles of that tension. Once the atlas is properly adjusted, the muscles all the way down the back can relax and we see pain relief throughout the entire spine!
Another way we can see it is from a mechanism in our body called the righting reflex. The righting reflex is our brains way of keeping our eyes on the horizon, and finding a posture that accomplishes this. When this reflex is occurring, our heads may be tilted to one side or the other to keep our eyes on the horizon, creating a tilt in the atlas and making the rest of the body having to adapt to this head tilt. A way chiropractors check for this reflex is by seeing if the patient has a head tilt, high shoulders and hips, and if the patient has lower back pain. When the atlas is adjusted and correctly aligned with the head, it can relieve that pain and the low back will relax.
Although common, low back pain should not be normalized. Specific chiropractic care and upper cervical care can make changes to get you back to health, hope, and healing!