Atlas….what is that? Remember those old books that had pages and pages of maps in them? That’s an atlas…but not the one we’re talking about. In Greek mythology, Atlas was the god of endurance and astronomy and was condemned to hold up the sky for eternity. You’re probably familiar with an image like this:
Brain Stem and Spinal Cord Helmet
Your atlas is the top bone in your spine – also called C1. The atlas is so named because of its job – to mechanically support your head on top of your spine. What’s amazing is that your atlas weighs about 60 grams (2 oz.) and has to support your head that weighs 4-7kg! That’s not really the most important thing about your atlas though. Its MOST important job is to protect your brain stem and spinal cord as they exit your head. The MOST important part of your spine and nerve system we ever check is your upper neck. The highest concentration of nerves in your spinal cord are protected by your atlas. The nerves in your spinal cord are just as sensitive as the nerves in your head that are protected by a nice thick helmet called your skull.
One of the ways we assess the alignment of your atlas is by x-ray. Being able to view the bone position and joint health (or damage) gives us details about long term stresses to your spine. Posture, balance and the digital nerve scan (EMG) tells us about more recent stresses to your nerve system such as: awkward sleeping positions, poor work postures, relationship or work stresses and chemical stresses (dietary, drugs, coffee, etc.). We see significant changes to these scans before and after someone gets their nerve system (and especially their atlas) cleared of subluxation.
Want a few more facts? Check this out:
1. The C1/C2 joint is able to rotate approximately 40° which is about 50% of your neck’s total rotation
2. There is very little sideways bending of your neck that occurs at C1/C2, it’s only about about 5-10°
3. Unlike all the other vertebrae, C1 does not have a vertebral body, it is just a thin ring of bone
4. Only 2% of spinal cord injuries occur at C1 and C2