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Can Upper Cervical Chiropractic Help Lower Back Pain?

"I’ve tried everything for my lower back pain but nothing’s worked.” Have you considered that your lower back pain could be related to a problem in your upper neck? Like many people, you will likely agree that all parts of the body are connected. And that you can have pain in one area of your body - like lower back pain - but that the actual problem is coming from somewhere else. So let’s ask again: have you looked at your upper neck to see if a problem there might be related to your lower back pain?

It is estimated that 80% of the human population will experience at least one significant episode of lower back pain in their lifetime. Oftentimes, the diagnostic tests and treatment focus on X-rays, CTs, and MRIs of the lower back, including muscles, ligaments, disc bulges, joint swelling, arthritis, or slippages (known as spondylolisthesis)

However, you may not be aware that there is actually little correlation between the amount of damage that a person has in their lower back and lower back pain. Granted, if you have a disc bulge that can be seen to physically squeeze on one of the nerves that exit your spine, potentially causing lower back pain and/or sciatica, that’s pretty obvious.

For many people, however, their lower back may not actually be the problem. What if your lower back pain isn’t coming from your lower back? The hallmark sign that you may need to consider something different is if you have all the lower back treatment you can think of, but none of it is really working. And you don’t want to simply live on painkillers for the rest of your life. The more you think about it, the more you will likely agree that painkillers for lower back pain are good to treat the symptoms, but may not fix the underlying cause of the problem. 

And if this is the case - if you have been dealing with the trials of lower back pain for a long time - it may be the right time to consider something different. In this article, I want to share with you the connection between your lower back and - of all places in your body - how the top two bones in your neck might be the key to finding the solution that you are looking for.

How is the neck possibly connected to lower back pain?

“What if where the problem isn’t where the problem is? When it comes to understanding how the neck may be responsible for lower back pain, I want you to think of a piece of string anchored on two ends: A and B. Let’s say that you pull on the string from A. Where will the tension be transmitted? Exactly! If you pull the string from A, the tension will be transmitted down the length of the string to B. It is simple physics. So when it comes to lower back pain, I want you to know to imagine this same arrangement, but now we are talking about your spinal cord.

Your spinal cord is essentially a piece of string anchored at the top of your spine - to the rim of your skull, the C1, and the C2 vertebrae at the top - and then down at your tailbone or sacrum. So what do you suppose would happen to the length or stretching of your spinal cord if you had a problem at the very top of your neck producing tension, pulling on that string? Where would that tension be transmitted? Exactly! It would be transmitted down to the bottom at the tailbone, lower back, and potentially even transmit further down into the nerves that go to the lower back, legs, and feet 

Body imbalance and lower back pain

Consider also that the nerves in the lower back associated with lower back pain are only the messengers. They send the signals all the way up to the brain and brainstem where this information is interpreted. In other words, signals of “pain” may not necessarily be due to a problem at the site where the pain is felt, but instead can be a “processing error” in the higher centers of the brain.

And let’s look at one more thing known as the visual righting reflex. In brief, in order for your brain to function visual and balance information properly, your eyes need to be level with the horizon. If you experience an injury that shifts your center of gravity in your upper neck - and it may be an exceptionally common issue where even a few millimeters of shift can produce far-reaching consequences - your brain will use your muscles and your posture to compensate.

What this looks like is where your posture shifts:

  • Forward head posture
  • One shoulder dropped lower than the other
  • One hip dropped lower than the other as well 

These types of body imbalances are not just a matter of “poor posture” but actually reflex the brain’s intelligent adaptations in order to facilitate the body’s function as well as possible. … But what do you suppose would happen if these adaptations are not properly addressed? Think of it as the tires on your car. Because of wear patterns, it is recommended that you periodically rotate your tires. If not, they will prematurely wear through.

So what do you suppose happens to your muscles, ligaments, and joints - namely the ones in your lower back - if your body is locked in a posture of asymmetrical tension?

  • Do you think it is possible to cause lower back pain?
  • Do you think it is possible to cause chronic soreness and achy muscles?
  • Do you think it is possible to cause damage to the joint ligaments and even acute lower back pain?
  • Do you think it is possible that it can even create enough pressure over a long period of time to cause disc bulging or even arthritis? 

Now, this may not always be the reason for lower back pain. Everyone’s circumstances are different! Nevertheless, I’m sure that you now have a clear appreciation of how a problem with your neck may actually be an underlying predisposing factor for lower back pain.

How is Blair chiropractic different from standard chiropractic?
If you’ve found the information in this article just makes sense - and it also rings true for your particular case if you’ve been looking for answers for your lower back pain, but just haven’t quite found it - here is where a different approach known as Blair upper cervical chiropractic may be able to help you. The Blair technique is a unique method of chiropractic developed and researched in the USA that focuses on the alignment of the top bones in your neck: the atlas (C1) and the axis (C2).

Rather than focusing or treating the symptoms where the lower back pain is, the purpose of a Blair adjustment is to restore the normal alignment and motion through the upper neck in order to reduce tension on the central nervous system (i.e., spinal cord). Much like relieving tension on the string, the principle is that by restoring normal then to the body that the body will be able to do what it is meant to do: i.e., heal itself!

Granted, we have to play by the rules of nature. And when people have significant enough damage including degenerative arthritis, disc damage, etc unless you have a cure for time, gravity, and the continual stresses of daily life, we probably aren’t going to be able to fix everything to a “like new” condition. That said, if we are able to reduce the pressure on your lower back, it gives your body a much better chance of being able to function at the highest possible level. And often, this includes an improvement with lower back pain.

How does the Blair method work for lower back pain?

The Blair method does not actually use spinal manipulation, so there is no twisting, cracking, or popping the neck or the lower back. The procedure involves a series of specific 3D x-rays, posture, and nerve system scans that help to identify the exact direction and degree of misalignment in your body based on your own bone structure. Because everyone is built differently on both the outside and the inside, this level of specificity allows us to design an adjustment that is truly custom-built for you. Dr. Youngblood is the senior upper cervical chiropractic doctor at CharlestonUC, serving the greater Charleston region. Dr. Hannah is an advanced certified instructor, international lecturer, and author for upper cervical chiropractic.

Contact Us If you would like more information on the Blair method and to find out if care may be right for you, we would like to extend the following invitation for you. Let’s have a chat. We realize that you are likely very busy these days between home, family, and work. For that reason, we’d simply like to invite you to have a conversation where all you need is 15-minutes and your phone.

We would like to offer you a 15-minute complimentary (free) phone call to speak with Dr. Hannah, our upper cervical chiropractic doctor, where you can discuss the nature of your condition, ask any questions you may have, and do that you can decide if you would like to proceed with an in-depth examination to find out how upper cervical care may be able to help you, and if you believe that care is right for you.