Have you been dealing with the discomfort of pain turning your head?
Even if it isn’t really stopping you from doing the things that you want, it’s still annoying and uncomfortable. Or maybe it is affecting you in more ways than you think!
Does the pain increase when you lean forwards to pick things up off the floor?
Does your neck click of grab when you turn your head, changing lanes in traffic?
Do your muscles tighten, causing pain to radiate up into your skull, creating a headache?
Or are you finding it uncomfortable being able to find a comfortable position to sleep? With the pain turning your head side-to-side, you can’t really find a comfortable place at all.
If you have the most common type of pain turning your head, it probably feels like there’s this knot in your lower neck or upper back that is causing pain between your shoulder blades. And it is this pulling that is restricting your ability to turn your head without pain … and if you could just get it to release everything would feel great again!
If you’ve tried stretching, massaging, exercising or other forms of therapy but the pain turning your head is still there, it could be a sign of a different, more involved problem. Something that is vitally important for your wellbeing and that significantly impacts your quality of life.
It’s where your neck affects your nervous system at the base of your head.
So if you want to be as healthy as possible, and if you’re looking for a natural solution to help with the pain turning your head, a unique approach called upper cervical care may be able to help you called upper cervical care.
What no one has ever told you about Pain turning your Head
Did you know that over 50% of the total movement in your ability to turn your head happens between just two vertebrae in your neck?
Let’s start at the top. The C1 or atlas vertebra is the top vertebra in your neck. Its job is to support the weight of your skull (3-5 Kg) and to allow for a nodding movement, up and down. The C2 or axis vertebra is the second vertebra in your neck. Its job is to serve as a pivot point for your atlas and your skull. All the other vertebrae in your neck have interlocking joints that limit their total movement. But the skull-C1-C2 complex, also known as the craniocervical junction, does not.
It is where the majority of all your head and neck movements come from, including your ability to turn your head. The trade for this amount of flexibility is that your upper neck is not as strong as the rest of your spine. Not to say that the area is unstable - it’s just fine - but what it does mean is that if you suffer an injury to any part of your body, this is the proverbial “weak link in the chain.”
So that is an important distinction to make, and it is not the mega types of injuries that I’m talking about here such as an atlantoaxial dislocation. What I am talking about is the small, but still very significant things that shift the alignment of your neck by a few millimetres, but then where it gets trapped in that incorrect axis of motion.
More on the latter, but let’s look at a few more things about why you get pain turning your head.
If you feel the back of your neck at the top just beneath your skull, you will probably be able to feel a large, bony bump sticking out in the midline. This is the spinous process of your C2 vertebra. The reason this particular spinous process is so large is that it is the major anchor point for all the muscles that connect your upper back, shoulder and neck to your head.
Rectus capitis posterior major - connects your C2 to the base of your skull, and is very important for your brain’s ability to keep your head balanced and upright
Obliquus capitis inferior - connects your C2 to your C1, and is very important in facilitating head rotation and also your brain’s ability to keep your head balanced and upright
Rotatores, semispinalis and multifidus - connect your C2 to the entire rest of your spine, all the way down to your tailbone, and which effectively represent the “core” stabilisation muscles of your back
- Erectorspinae - also connect your C2 to the entire rest of your spine, and which allow you to torch to and flex your back
- Splenius - connect your C2 to your skull, but this time to allow you to move your neck and head in all directions
- Trapezius - connects your C2 to the entire rest of your spine and shoulders as a ballast that keeps the entire system balanced.
Here’s the important part you may never have realised before. If you have a problem that affects your C2 vertebra and your ability to turn your head, it is not just a neck problem. It is a problem that has the potential to affect your muscles, posture, and create pain, injuries or other problems in all parts of your body.
What is the Role of your Upper Neck in Pain Turning Your Head?
Not only are your C1 and C2 vertebrae important for your ability to turn your head, they are also important for the normal function of your nervous system. Your brainstem, which includes all the vital life centres for your body - circulation, respiration, digestion, etc - actually descends into your neck to the level of the C1 and C2 vertebrae. Under normal circumstances, the arrangement of the ligaments that connect the atlas and axis to your brainstem assist to stabilise it so that even if you move your neck or suffer an injury it won’t affect the way that your body works.
But what would happen if something affected the position or movement of the C1 and C2 vertebrae themselves? Remember that they are the weak links in the chain, and so if they shift - even by a couple of millimetres - it can have a significant effect on your nervous system.
Instead of the vertebrae protecting your brainstem, they now effectively act as a source or irritation, producing a physical pull or tethering pressure on your life centre. This process, hypothesised by a number of authorities in the field of spinal mechanics has numerous names associated with it: adverse mechanical tension of the spinal cord, increased mecha noneuro sensitivity, the denticulate-ligament, cord-distortion hypothesis, and/or the “medullary lock.”
In a nutshell, these hypotheses all describe the same phenomenon whereby an injury affecting the normal motion of the C1 and C2 vertebra physically affect the function of your brain and nervous system in negative ways. Now, your brain is not stupid. Even if there is a problem with the alignment of your neck that it cannot solve on its own, it will make intelligent compensations that will minimise the negative effects on its ability to function properly.
So what will it do?
It will change the posture and tone of your muscles starting with the upper neck - including C2 - which in turn will change the tone of your muscles all the way down your back And what can happen when you have tight muscles that get stretched just a little bit too far? Exactly! They are painful and pull. And that may be the very reason why you experience pulling or pain when you turn your head … and it may also be the reason why the different therapies and stretches you’ve tried haven’t quite fixed the problem.
It’s because the restriction and pain turning your head is because that is the change your brain has deliberately made in order to protect itself from something else just that little bit deeper going on. So to focus solely on the pain turning your head may only be the symptom. And if you want to address the underlying cause, it may require that you look at things also a little bit differently.
Can Upper Cervical Care Help your Pain turning your Head?
Often, people who suffer pain turning their heads put up with the discomfort for a long time because “it’s just annoying, and it isn’t stopping me from doing anything.” It isn’t until something else happens that they start to wonder if there is a connection.
Headaches or migraines
- Neck sprain, where your shoulder locks up and you can’t turn your head for a week.
- Shoulder sprain, where you injure your rotator cuff and the pain pulls into your neck.
- A new whiplash injury (including sports tackle) that exacerbates the symptoms
- Neuralgia into the ribs or into the hands.
- Acute low back pain such as a disc or “pinching” sensation.
The question then is, what should you do?
Especially if you have other symptoms beyond the pain turning your head, it’s important that you have a proper look and the alignment and movement of the bones in your neck. Here is where the work that we do at Atlas Health may be able to help you. It is an approach called Upper cervical care. Upper cervical care is a post-doctorate division of chiropractic healthcare that was developed in the USA and that focuses on the alignment of the C1 and C2 vertebrae without neck cracking or spinal manipulation.
I will say that again because many people see the word “chiropractic” and presume that I’m talking about the general image of chiropractic that they see in their mind: neck twisting, cracking, popping, etc. Nothing could be further from the truth. The purpose of care is to correct misalignments of these vertebrae, which can affect the function of the nervous system and the health of the entire body without general manipulation. Upper cervical care is a precise approach that starts with a detailed history, specific neurological and structural tests to properly diagnose the condition of your neck and spine, and then a personalised care plan that will assist your body to heal, strengthen and stabilise with the least necessary intervention to achieve the best possible long-term outcome.
Have you Tried Upper Cervical Care to Help your Pain turning Your Head?
Pain, when you turn your head, is never normal. It is a sign that something has gone wrong with the mechanical integrity of your neck’s ability to move. Sure, you can always ignore the problem. However, that will only cause it to get worse, ultimately able to rear its head as something even nastier down the track.
As a general guideline, if you experience pain turning your head that does not resolve itself 100% within 3-7 days, you are fooling yourself that the problem will get right on its own. Even if you don’t seek our services for your care, I want to emphasise that if I could offer the world one piece of advice about how to be healthier, that would be it. Things like pain turning your head are usually early signs of potentially bigger problems, and if you take the right actions now you may be able to save yourself from all kinds of trouble down the track.
- Headaches or migraines
- Dizziness or vertigo
- Radiating pain into the hands or legs
- Or other musculoskeletal or neurological conditions
(So don’t let your brain fool you if you have that intuitive sense that something isn’t quite right!)
Pain, when you turn your head s, isn’t something that you can always treat directly and expect to go away. If the pain is the result of abnormal movement or abnormal function in other parts of your body, it requires a different approach - to address the underlying cause - if you truly desire a resolution. If you are looking for a natural solution and don’t simply want to rely on just treating the symptoms, Upper cervical care may be able to help you.
If you or a loved one are looking for a natural option that may be able to help your pain between the shoulder blades without drugs or surgery if possible, please contact our office at (843) 225 5855 to speak with one of our staff to find out if Upper cervical care is right for you.