Neck Pain

Boise Peak Chiropractic

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Have you been dealing with the discomfort of pain turning your head?

Does the pain increase when you lean forwards>

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 causes 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 significant 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

The trade for this amount of flexibility

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 movement 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 atlanto-axial dislocation. What I am talking about are 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 later, 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 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 because 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 multififus - 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 to you torch 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?

Your brainstem, which includes all the vital life centres

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 mechanoneurosensitivity, 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?

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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?

Advanced HIO Knee Chest upper cervical care

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 your 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 Advanced HIO Knee Chest upper cervical care.

Advanced HIO Knee Chest 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 work “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 least necessary intervention to achieve the best-possible long-term outcome.

Have you Tried Upper Cervical Care to Help your Pain turning Your Head?

Even if you don’t seek our services for your care

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 once 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.


Find out more

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Armstrong B, McNair P, Taylor D. Head and neck position sense. Sports Med. 2008;38(2):101-17.

Braaf MM, Rosner S. Trauma of cervical spine as cause of chronic headache. J Trauma Acute Care Surg. May 1975;15(5):441-446).

Ivanenko YP, Grasso R, Lacquaniti F. Effect of gaze on postural responses to neck proprioceptive and vestibular stimulation in humans [published correction appears in J Physiol (Lond) 1999 Sep 15;519 Pt 3:923]. J Physiol. 1999;519 Pt 1(Pt 1):301–314. doi:10.1111/j.1469-7793.1999.0301o.x.

Mingels S, Dankaerts W, Granitzer M. Is There Support for the Paradigm 'Spinal Posture as a Trigger for Episodic Headache'? A Comprehensive Review. Curr Pain Headache Rep. 2019 Mar 4;23(3):17. doi: 10.1007/s11916-019-0756-2.

Taylor DN. A theoretical basis for maintenance spinal manipulative therapy for the chiropractic profession. J of Chiropr Humanities (2011) 18, 74–85. /

Teng CC, Chai H, Lai DM, Wang SF. Cervicocephalic kinesthetic sensibility in young and middle-aged adults with or without a history of mild neck pain. Man Ther. 2007 Feb;12(1):22-8. Epub 2006 Jun 14.

Whittingham W, Ellis WB, Molyneux TP. The effect of manipulation (toggle recoil technique) for headaches with upper cervical joint dysfunction: a pilot study. J Manipulative Physiol Ther. 1994;17(6):369-75.

Wong JJ, Shearer HM, Mior S, et al. Are manual therapies, passive physical modalities, or acupuncture effective for the management of patients with whiplash-associated disorders or neck pain and associated disorders? An update of the Bone and Joint Decade Task Force on Neck Pain and Its Associated Disorders by the OPTIMa collaboration. Spine J. 2016 Dec;16(12):1598-1630. doi: 10.1016/j.spinee.2015.08.024. Epub 2015 Dec 17.

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What patients think about us...

Donna McCue

Donna McCue

I absolutely recommend Peak for your upper cervical needs. I was not aware this specific type of care even existed so I was extremely excited to go. I am very ...
2024.01.26 — in the last week
Sutton's Iris

Sutton's Iris

After trying chiropractic treatments and months of physical therapy that produced little to no results we had about given up on the medical field. Fortunately Connie found Peak Chiropractic! After ...
2023.12.28 — a month ago
Pam Strain

Pam Strain

Doctors Jon and Kyara at Peak Chiropractic are amazing. I had never been to an upper cervical chiropractor before--didn't even know it existed! They are so kind and caring and ...
2023.12.19 — a month ago
William Sanders

William Sanders

Peak Chiropractic is an amazing place. Jon and Kierra are very knowledgeable and friendly! They take the time to explain everything and make sure you’re well taken care of. ...
2023.12.04 — a month ago
Hunter Wigington

Hunter Wigington

Dr. Jonathan & Dr. Kyara are the best at what they do. They are meticulous & thorough in what they do, & it shows that they really care about their patients’ health & wellness. ...
2023.10.07 — 3 months ago