Getting Your Head on Straight: More than a Metaphor
May 31, 2016 08:05AM
Get your head on straight!” To most of us, this sounds like something parents tell their children in moments of desperation, but new research and modern imaging technologies are shedding light on the importance of proper alignment of the head and neck. Here are just a few reasons why it’s more than just a manner of speaking.
It’s about balance. Although it might not feel like it, the average human head weighs nine to 17 pounds—roughly the weight of a bowling ball. Balancing our heads on top of our spines is comparable to balancing a bowling ball on top of a stick, yet our brains gracefully perform this task without any conscious effort. Two primary mechanisms are involved in this balance. First, the brain has a desire to maintain the eyes level with the horizon, a phenomenon known as the “righting reflex”. Second, physics requires that the body stay underneath the center of gravity of the head so that we don’t fall over. If the head is slightly off balance, the brain can distort the spine in order to bring the rest of the body underneath it. Maintaining this distorted posture can be an underlying cause of chronic pain in the neck, shoulders, lower back or hips.
It’s about flow. A recent study published in the journal Neurology Research International highlights the importance of proper flow of blood and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) within the head and spinal cord, and how a misalignment between the base of the skull and the first bone in the neck (the upper cervical region) can impact that flow. Using fMRI imaging, doctors observed abnormal flow of CSF when upper cervical misalignments were present, and improvements in CSF flow following upper cervical treatment. The study also makes a connection between abnormal CSF flow and numerous neurological conditions.
It’s about optimal health. Hippocrates was right when he said, “Look well to the spine for the cause of disease.” The spinal cord enables the brain to monitor and control virtually every bodily function. Burdened by the weight of the head, the spine is especially vulnerable at the top of the neck, close to the brain stem.
We are all well aware of how a major spinal cord injury can dramatically impact a person’s life, but only recently are we learning that more subtle misalignments of the head are also impacting health in myriad ways. Patient results and the experiences of public figures like former quarterback Jim McMahon and talk show host Montel Williams are showing that patients with chronic musculoskeletal pain or neurological conditions often experience profound improvements from upper cervical treatment.
Dr. Andrew Persky, DC, is founder of LifeAligned Upper Cervical Treatment Center, in Warrington. For more information, call 215-491-4200 or visit LifeAlignedHealth.com.