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  • Writer's pictureJerry Kennedy


In consulting with patients experiencing the effects of Atlas Displacement Complex, including neck pain, it is not uncommon for them to experience the effects of abnormal mechanics of the joints in the neck. One of the common side effects of Atlas Displacement and instability of the cervical spine is what is known as crepitus, or the clicking, popping, and cracking sound and sensation occurring with normal neck movements.

Often patients will describe a scenario where they turn their head and heard and felt a “clunk” or “pop” in the neck and they experience sharp neck pain. Under normal mechanical circumstances this should not occur with gentle movements. When the upper cervical spine has lost its structural alignment and stability, the mechanics of the joints or “knuckles” of the neck become compromised and as such experience abnormal stresses and strains. As a result of these stresses and strains the supportive connective tissue structures including ligaments, joint capsules, tendons, and myofascial compartments develop adhesions and scarring holding the joints of the neck in abnormal positions. This local irritation is often the cause of both chronic and acute neck pain. Over time the contour of the cartilage and discs between the joints of the segments in the neck become irregular, similar to potholes developing in road surfaces that are not maintained.

In the same way that driving on a road littered with potholes produces a bumpy ride, moving the weight of the head around and on misaligned joints produces gravel-like sensations or sounds. Avoiding these movements of the neck is similar to swerving to avoid the potholes in the road; it is a temporary and inefficient solution at best. A reasonable person would appreciate that resurfacing the road is the best option for safe and comfortable passage. In the same way, a restoration of balance, mechanics, and alignment of the neck is the optimal way to eliminate the crepitus that occurs with instability and to find natural relief for neck pain.

A comprehensive NeuroStructural evaluation will reveal which joints of the neck are producing the abnormal sensations and mechanics, and will provide the blueprint for safe and conservative correction. Through image-guided adjusting procedures, structural rehabilitation, and mechanical reeducation, Colorado Springs chiropractor Dr. John Stenberg assist patients in resolving the instability associated with abnormal structural alignment while simultaneously providing natural relief for neck pain. This process is similar to resurfacing the road littered with potholes and provides a long-term strategy rather than a quick fix or Band-Aid.

As the alignment and mechanics of the neck improves, the cartilage and other soft tissue structures supporting the segments of the cervical spine will remodel to support normal movement, weight distribution, and the pain free range of motion. The added preventative benefits of this process include slowing or preventing the onset of Degenerative Disc Disease (DDD), spinal arthritis (DJD), and the poor posture and appearance associated with Anterior Head Syndrome. Not only are these structural conditions causes of chronic neck pain, but they also produce functional limitations with range of motion, balance and stability, and predispose you to greater risk of injury in the instance that you experience trauma to the head and neck such as whiplash, sports injuries, or jolts to the head neck.

The upper cervical spine is the upper neck region and has unique characteristics that implicate Atlas Displacement in conditions such as neck pain, neck grinding, or neck stiffness. The upper cervical spine is the most mobile area of the neck and as such susceptible to injury when forces overcome its inherent stabilizing mechanisms. Factors that predispose a person to Atlas Displacement and its nagging secondary effects include:

  • Past concussions

  • History of car accident

  • Weak neck and shoulder muscles

  • Sports injuries

  • Falls (off of a bike or horse, down the stairs, slips on ice, etc.)

At first, structural displacements that occur as a product of these injuries to the upper cervical area are no big deal. However, if left uncorrected over time they are likely to cause the onset of secondary conditions (a.k.a. symptoms) including:

  • Chronic neck pain

  • Headaches (tension and migraine)

  • Neck stiffness

  • TMJ dysfunction (TMJD)

  • Eustachian Tube Dysfunction (EDS)

And more…

Structural problems require structural solutions, and attempts at secondary condition management (symptom eradication) are unlikely to be long-lasting if the underlying Atlas Displacement is left uncorrected.

If you experience crepitus (clicks, pops, and cracks with head and neck movements) you may have undetected Atlas Displacement Complex and spinal instability. Early detection is essential for optimal recovery. Reserve a Complimentary Consultation with Colorado Springs chiropractor Dr. John Stenberg to determine if you have this condition and if NeuroStructural Chiropractic will provide a solution for you.

Using precision measurements and advanced adjusting procedures, the Blair Upper Cervical chiropractic approach provides a safe and effective option for correcting Atlas Displacement (upper cervical subluxation) without twisting, popping, or cracking the neck. Dr. John Stenberg is the only Doctor in Colorado Springs trained in the Blair Upper Cervical approach which is a key component of the comprehensive NeuroStructural Chiropractic solution.

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