Misalignments of the craniocervical junction (CCJ) can be particularly devastating due to the intimate relationship of this region with the brainstem. One area that is particularly affected by structural stress in this region is the reticular formation located in the caudal brainstem; the reticular formation controls posture and other autonomic functions. One sign that there may be a problem at the CCJ is a breakdown in posture.
Things to look for in your patients to see if they may have an upper cervical misalignment are:
- Head tilt
- Unleveled shoulders
- A short leg
- Persistent muscle tension that does not respond to treatment
Due to the complexity of the biomechanics at the CCJ, a specialized approach is required to address issues arising in this region. The NUCCA procedure allows for an in-depth analysis of the joint articulations at the CCJ and calculation of a specific adjusting vector that is used to realign the head and neck and reduce stress on the nervous system.
Vertebral Subluxation Complex (VSC)
The core principles of chiropractic focus on the vertebral subluxation complex (VSC) and its relationship to health. VSC is a spinal bone misalignment or malfunction that may cause interference with the nervous system. Nervous system interference reduces a person's ability to function properly and adapt to the environment; it can lower resistance and may ultimately lead to various symptoms or disease.
VSC involves multiple components:
Malfunction of the spine means that the normal motion and position of the spinal bones (vertebrae) have been altered. As a result, some areas of the spine become "fixed," and other areas become overly "mobile." Postural signs such as scoliosis, head tilt, shoulder imbalance, hip rotation, or one leg being shorter than the other often accompany this first component of VSC. This stage of VSC is the precursor to other more serious components. Science calls this kinesiopathology.
Nerve interference may be the most important component to VSC. Misalignments can cause nerve interference by creating pressure or traction on the nerves or their coverings as they pass through the small passageways between vertebral bones. In addition to altered joint function, interference can also be caused by localized inflammation or toxicity. Whatever the mechanism, nerve interference can affect all areas of the body including muscle, bone, skin, blood vessels, glands, internal organs, and even our thought processes. Science calls this neuropathology.
Muscle imbalance is a common component of VSC. The body acts to protect the nervous system and spine through the muscular process of "guarding." Misalignment may cause patterns of muscle spasm and/or weakness that can further compromise the nervous system. Science calls this myopathology.
Soft tissue dysfunction and local damage to the ligaments, discs, and other supportive tissues can occur around the spine. The lack of proper joint function, either from long-standing misalignments or traumatic injury, may cause local malnutrition, scar tissue development, and changes in the joint position. This can lead to disc degeneration, joint disease, and the compromise of nervous tissue. Science calls this histopathology.
Bone and body changes may occur in the later stages of VSC. In an effort to stabilize an injured or malfunctioning joint, the body may form calcium deposits (bone) or spurs. Ultimately spinal joints may begin to fuse, reducing your chiropractor's ability to help you restore normal function to your spine. Science calls this pathophysiology.