In some cases, high blood pressure may be due to an Atlas misalignment – a condition that chiropractic adjustment can help. Although research is limited, preliminary studies suggest that a misaligned Atlas vertebra may constrict blood flow in the arteries at the base of the skull, which increases blood pressure.
If you suffer from hypertension (high blood pressure), your doctor may recommend spinal manipulation as an alternative treatment to help regulate your blood pressure. But first it may help to understand the potential connection between your blood pressure and the top cervical vertebra of your neck.
What is blood pressure?
Blood pressure includes the force of the movement of blood against the walls of the arteries – the large blood vessels that carry blood from your heart to the tissues and organs throughout your body. This is the diastolic value, or bottom number of a blood pressure reading. Systolic pressure, or the top number of a blood pressure reading, is the pressure the heart muscle exerts to pump oxygenated blood out to the body by way of the arteries.
What is the Atlas vertebra?
The Atlas, or C-1, vertebra is located high in the neck at the top of the spine. Besides being the bone that helps hold up your head, the Atlas vertebra is a key component of the spine. Misalignment of this vertebra can cause dysfunctions in different body systems, including the circulatory system. Sometimes injury to the Atlas vertebra causes abnormal pressure on the brain stem, which controls function of the cardiovascular system. Consequently, realignment of this vertebra can lead to a drop in both systolic and diastolic blood pressure.
Why is high blood pressure dangerous for your health?
While it's natural for your blood pressure to rise when you are more active, high blood pressure over an extended period of time can damage your arteries. Your heart compensates by pumping harder to move blood through the damaged arteries – an action that can damage the arteries more. Eventually, your heart may wear out, leading to coronary heart disease, heart attack, stroke, or even kidney disease.
High blood pressure also causes blood flowing through the arteries to push harder against the artery wall. As a result, the smooth muscle in the arterial wall must work harder to manage the pressure. Like the other muscles in your body, working even these tiny muscles harder enlarges them, which then makes the artery wall thicker. This leaves less space for blood to flow through, increasing the pressure more.
How can spinal manipulation help?
While misalignment of the Atlas doesn't cause pain, it may contract, or narrow, the arteries. Narrow arteries are at increased risk of becoming blocked. High blood pressure also can cause a weakened artery to burst. Depending on to what part of the body the affected artery supplies blood, you could have a heart attack or suffer a stroke. In addition, any vertebra that isn't in its normal position can cause joint, breathing, cognitive, or circulation problems in the body.
The same as for other spinal subluxations, treatment requires manually manipulating the vertebra back into proper alignment. Although regular X-ray imaging doesn't detect misalignment of the Atlas, examination and assessment by a chiropractor who is specially trained in the Atlas correction technique can identify the problem.
How to know whether to talk to your doctor about spinal manipulation as treatment for high blood pressure?
If you have a history of high blood pressure for which you need to take more than one medication to regulate, or if you suffer hypertension and have had a previous neck injury, Atlas vertebra realignment is a treatment alternative you may want to discuss with your doctor. For more information, contact a medical provider like Vanderloo Chiropractic.