Upper Cervical Spine, Migraines, and Balance

Most of us have relied on the GPS in our smartphone or vehicle to tell us where we are and where we’re going. GPS has become standard equipment in our devices and vehicles. But that isn’t unique to smartphones and cars. Our bodies come equipped with GPS, too! There are sensory receptors called proprioceptors in your joints, skin and muscles that give you awareness of where your body is in space, which is called proprioception. This is what allows you to close your eyes and be able to touch your finger to your nose without looking in a mirror, and it is crucial for your body’s ability to balance.

These receptors are all throughout the body, but there are more proprioceptors in the top of your neck, at the base of your skull, than most other places in your body. They tell your neck how to hold your head to keep your head (and eyes) level. 

In 2018 there was a paper published in the Journal of Oral & Facial Pain and Headache titled “Impaired Standing Balance in Individuals with Cervicogenic Headache and Migraine”. The study tested three groups of participants for standing balance and sway: 24 people with cervicogenic headaches (a neck problem that turns into a headache), 24 with Migraines, and 24 that had no symptoms. The participants were tested on either a firm or soft surface, with their eyes open or closed, and in a wide stance (feet shoulder width apart) or a narrow stance (feet together). The results showed that the migraine and cervicogenic headache groups had a much larger sway pattern than the group without symptoms.  This shows a possible relationship or link between Cervicogenic headaches and migraines, and balance. This could mean that the neck proprioception is off in the people with head and neck pain, which can create problems with standing balance and coordinating movement.

Chiropractors call the head and neck the upper cervical spine. For some people, cervicogenic headaches, migraines, balance issues, and proprioception problems, might all be connected in the upper cervical spine. At Arete Chiropractic, we are Upper Cervical Chiropractic specialists who work with the top two cervical vertebra gently and with a specific correction to bring balance between the head and the neck.

Check out this live Facebook video by Dr. Evans where he discusses the above paper as well as a 2014 paper published in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience titled "Neck Proprioception Shapes Body Orientation and Perception of Motion".

Is your head on straight?

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