Have you ever experienced a “crick” in your neck, or struggled with persistent neck pain or headaches? If so, I have good news for you: stabilizing and releasing crucial cervical vertebrae can help relieve neck pain and weakness. And it starts with simple exercises like the one I am going to show you this weekend.
The Neck Mobilization Enhancer targets the Atlas (C1) and the Axis (C2), which are the topmost vertebrae just below the base of your skull. The correct positioning of these vertebrae is critical to the overall function of your whole spine, and when they are misaligned or tight, all sorts of unpleasant symptoms can arise, some of which may surprise you.
Let’s get started!
The Atlas is named after the famous Greek god by the same name. The cervical Atlas holds up the skull the way Atlas was said to hold up the earth. Essentially, the base of the skull sits atop the round, ring-like Atlas.
The Axis and Atlas are unique. Their shape differs significantly from the other vertebrae; the ring-shaped Atlas does not have a body like the other vertebrae, so when viewed from behind, it looks quite flat. That’s because its primary job is lateral: along with the Axis, the Atlas is responsible for right and left head rotation.
The Axis is also distinctively shaped. It is held closely to the Atlas by the transverse ligament, forming the atlantoaxial joint. The Axis has a large body in contrast to the Atlas, and it is composed of various structures that act as attachment points for muscles.
The brainstem actually descends to the Axis, making this a very pivotal point for the neurological system and for the entire body. Thus, when the atlantoaxial joint is subluxated, or partially dislocated and misaligned, it can cause quite a variety of symptoms.
Symptoms Of A Subluxated Axis
Axial subluxation has been described as a kinked garden hose – the water simply can’t flow freely through the area because the kinks pinch it off. Like the water, the brain’s signals can’t “flow” through the crooked atlantoaxial joint and are cut off from the rest of the spine and body. So correcting the Atlas and Axis alignment brings whole-body benefits.
Here are some of the symptoms of a subluxated Axis.
- Postural problems such as an abnormally tilted head, pelvis, or shoulders
- Neck pain and/or stiffness
- Facial pain
- Shoulder pain, especially between the scapulae
- Headaches, including migraines, that may start at the base of the skull and radiate over the top of the head
- Tinnitus (ringing in the ears)
- Vertigo or dizziness
- Insomnia, which damages your bones
- Jaw pain
- Decreased range of motion in the head and neck (it becomes hard to tilt or turn your head to one side)
- Vagus nerve dysfunction, which can produce a host of symptoms from bowel disorders to heart problems. For more information on the Vagus nerve and how it affects your bones, if you haven’t yet, please read this article: Everything You Wanted To Know About The Vagus Nerve And How It Affects Your Bone Health.
- Brain fog
And yet it just takes a simple exercise to release and align these topmost cervical vertebrae to help overcome these symptoms. Here’s how to do it.
- Place your thumbs on the bony areas at the base of your skull, behind and slightly beneath your ears. This is the mastoid process.
- Move your thumbs slightly downward from this position, and you should feel two small, bony protrusions. These are the lateral masses of the Atlas.
- Keeping firm pressure on these bones with your thumbs, slowly turn your head to the right, pause, and then bring it back to the center. Do this about five times.
- Repeat this motion turning your head to the left.
You can practice the Neck Mobilization Enhancer as often as you like throughout the day. For additional neck exercises, try these other Weekend Challenges:
It’s remarkable how correcting the alignment and function of one area of the body can have an impact on so many other body systems. While the Densercise™ Epidensity Training System is targeted and focused on strengthening fracture-prone areas of the skeleton, it’s understood that exercise always has benefits that reach far beyond the area being targeted.
That is one reason why the Densercise™ system includes an Eating Guide. What you eat and when you eat it make a big difference in how effective your bone-building exercise sessions are. And of course, nutrition affects every body system just like exercise does.
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What are your thoughts about today’s exercise? Please share your thoughts with the community by leaving a comment below.
Have a great weekend!
Comments on this article are closed.
Great exercise – thank you!
Vivian, how can I receive these Weekend Challenge exercises? A friend of mine forwards some to me when she gets them.
The mindfulness of information and how it’s discussed and reacted to makes it all meaningful and a joy to incorporate into daily life. Thank you for the sustained focus on safety, as well as strengthening.
I have soreness in my left shoulder due to twisting it the wrong way. Any good exercises that you can show us?
I cannot find the lateral masses of the Atlas, help?!
I cannot feel the bony protrusions.
The ads to the right of your columns interfere with my printing of the exercise material by blocking out words/sentences. I need to look at these instructions while doing the exercise. Is there any way to print without these block-outs? Thank you. Your Weekend Challenge articles are very interesting and great info
The best thing for me is the “walking dog” position in yoga. I am 71 years old with cartilage deficiency in my cervical vertabrae. It works every single ! Pain is gone in no time + it fixes my back being a little rounded.
What is the “walking dog” position in yoga? Can you show a picture of it?
My brother is a chiropractor and when I had terrible neck pain and headaches last year he showed me this exercise. It really helped me and I also changed my sleeping position because I used to sleep on my stomach. Thanks for all the great information you give us, Vivian!
Oops. Sorry for the typos. It is late.
I am impressed to see discussion of atlas subluxation and correction in this venue. But I see risk.
Knowledge of atlas correction is primarily the specialty of NUCCA chiropractors. It is a very subtle correction involving a specialized X-ray to determine the position of the atlas ant atlas, something standard medical X-rays cannot accomplish. The treatment involves very subtle hand-pressure at a very precise angle or angles determined through the X-ray. In fact there are four classifications or kinds of subluxations of the skull on the atlas (C0-C1).
What I am saying here is that correction of atlas subluxation is not merely a matter of positioning the fingers on the processes at the sides of the atlas and rotating the head as instructed in this website. There is also a tilt-factor to the atlas (a rotation in a different plane than the horizontal one addressed in this article). This means that the correction advised in this article is incomplete at best and hazardous at worst.
One hazard is that, first of all, many people’s cervical muscles are so tight the bones of the atlas can’t be palpated or felt at all. This means the maneuver can’t actually be done correctly.
Second, a person whose head is “on crooked”, who has an atlas subluxation, can’t position their head or hands perfectly in line with gravity so that this adjustment can be done accurately for that reason either.
Third, some people can make their atlas subluxation much worse, which can cause headaches, fainting, or even stroke. Let me explain from experience. I treated a patient in my practice who had fallen and hit the back of her neck just below the skull, jamming the atlas against her vertebral arteries. Her MD mistakenly thought all she had was tight trapezius muscles. No way! When I touched her neck lightly she almost fainted. X-ray showed her atlas was jammed against her cerebral arteries. Even light touch could have caused her a stroke. So, what if she had tried to adjust her own atlas by holding her skull as instructed here and rotated it?….
I take lessons from the MotivationalDoc also it helps. Vivian your articles on your website has helped me get in better shape. Thank you