Upper Cervical Spinal Care: A Gentle Approach

Neurological Effects of Upper Cervical Correction

Anatomy and Physiology of the Craniocervical Junction

The craniocervical junction, comprising the atlas (C1) and axis (C2) vertebrae, is a critical region for neurological function. This area supports the skull, facilitates head movement, and houses the brainstem, the conduit for neural pathways between the brain and the rest of the body. Many healthcare providers across the broad healthcare landscape understand and respect the importance of this area of the spine.

There is no shortage of skeptics of this type of Chiropractic care. This is mainly because chiropractors’ marketing messages to the general public include social media videos that feature high-impact manipulative adjustments made to the spine. To make matters worse, many of these same Chiropractors have a microphone attached to their patient so that the viewer can hear the ‘popping, cracking, or snapping’ sound made during a spinal adjustment.

Let’s be crystal clear: there is no evidence that shows a cavitation (audible sound during a spinal manipulation) has any effect on neurological function. In fact, that noise is coming from a joint, most often the facet joint. We’re actually hearing a release of nitrogen gas that has built up in the joint space. Evidence shows that gas will slowly permeate back into the facet joint within about 30 minutes. Again, this has no noted effect on the nervous system.

Mechanisms of Neurological Impact

  1. Alignment and Neurological Flow: The upper cervical spine plays a pivotal role in maintaining the alignment of the head and neck. Misalignment in this region can lead to mechanical pressure on the brainstem and surrounding neural structures, potentially disrupting the flow of neurological signals between the brain and the body.
  2. Cerebrospinal Fluid (CSF) Dynamics: Proper alignment of the upper cervical vertebrae ensures optimal circulation of cerebrospinal fluid. Misalignments of the upper cervical spine can obstruct CSF flow, potentially leading to increased intracranial pressure and impaired brain function. This is one of the proposed mechanisms of headaches.
  3. Blood Flow to the Brain: The vertebral arteries, which pass through the transverse foramina of the cervical vertebrae, supply a significant portion of blood to the brain. Misalignments can impede blood flow, affecting oxygen and nutrient delivery to brain tissue.
  4. Nervous System Regulation: The upper cervical spine is closely associated with the autonomic nervous system. Proper alignment can reduce irritation or compression of the vagus nerve and other autonomic pathways, promoting balanced autonomic function and reducing stress responses.

Effects of Upper Cervical Correction

  1. Reduction of Neural Interference: By gently correcting misalignments without twisting or forceful manipulations, upper cervical spinal care can alleviate pressure on the brainstem and spinal cord, enhancing neural communication and reducing symptoms like pain, headaches, and vertigo.
  2. Improved CSF and Blood Flow: Restoring proper alignment can enhance the flow of CSF and blood to the brain, which can improve cognitive function, reduce headaches, and promote overall neurological health.
  3. Balance of Autonomic Functions: Upper cervical corrections can help normalize autonomic nervous system function, potentially improving conditions related to autonomic dysregulation, such as migraines, hypertension, and digestive issues.

Safety and Precision

Upper cervical chiropractic care is distinguished amongst the Chiropractic profession by its precision and gentleness. The technique involves:

  • Specific Imaging: Utilizing advanced imaging (e.g., CBCT, X-rays, MRI) to precisely identify misalignments.
  • Gentle Corrections: Applying specific, gentle adjustments to realign the craniocervical junction without the need for twisting, cracking, or popping.
  • Post-Correction Monitoring: Regular follow-ups and re-evaluations to ensure sustained alignment and neurological improvements. Often, this includes digital infrared paraspinal thermography.


Upper cervical corrections can have profound neurological effects by enhancing neural communication, improving cerebrospinal fluid and blood flow, and normalizing autonomic functions. This approach is scientifically substantiated and emphasizes patient safety through gentle, precise adjustments. By focusing on these mechanisms, you can effectively convey the benefits of upper cervical care to patients and colleagues alike.

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