Proprioception, Your Sixth Sense

Proprioception refers to the sense or perception of your body position and movement. It’s your subconscious ability to know where your body is without touching or seeing it.  This sense is gained primarily from input from sensory nerves in tendons and the fibrous capsules of joints combined with input from your vestibular (balance) portion of the brain. 

So why is proprioception so important? This special ability allows our bodies to respond immediately to our environment. It is the process by which the body can fluctuate muscle contractions in immediate response to incoming information from external forces via stretch receptors in the muscles which keep track of the joint position in the body. The greatest example we see this is in sports where the body’s ability is impressively displayed. 

Proprioception works through the nervous system. In fact the greatest amounts of proprioceptive connections are in the spine, especially in the upper cervical (neck) area. This is because joint sense and position is so vital to normal function of the brain; we have the most receptors in the spinal column constantly giving the brain feedback of our position and motion. 

This is one of the reasons why at Platinum Chiropractic we do such a meticulous job of examining the upper cervical spine (neck). We use several objective measures to confirm this area is properly aligned and articulating (moving) normally to ensure appropriate feedback to the brain. When your spine is functioning normally, your brain gets proper information and stays healthy. This can also prevent injuries because the body is much more in tune and responds faster during a slip or fall.

This robot does not have proprioception, so it cannot react quickly to changes in the floor's surface to prevent itself from falling. If your nervous system is working well, you have a better chance of catching yourself before you fall and break a robot hip ;)

Neurodegenerative Disorders and Chiropractic Care

I recently attended a seminar focusing on neurodegenerative disorders in relation to brain trauma and de-generation. These disorders, such as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer's and Dementia, have comparable qualities that contribute to each of the disorders’ formation and corresponding decline of bodily functions. 

A study looking at the anatomical alignment of the Foramen Magnum (hole in the bottom of your skull), brain, brainstem, and the first two vertebrae in the neck that protect those structures, reveals important insight into the alignment and flow of spinal fluid to the brain. When structures deviate from their normal position, they create compensatory movement and abnormal pressures. Pressures on the spine create secondary conditions such as these neurodegenerative disorders. By bringing structures back to a normal position, and range of motion, it allows for the individual pieces to contribute to overall normal functions in the body, and spinal fluid flow in and out of the brain. 

"The role of the Cranio-cervical junction in cranio-spinal hydrodynamics and neurodegenerative conditions" by Michael F. Flanagan published in the neurology research international November 30, 2015; [epub].

"A new model of the atlas subluxation is emerging: a misalignment between the atlas and occiput could compromise the venous drainage of the brain (spinal vein, internal jugular vein), compromise the flow of cerebral spinal fluid, and/or compromise the arterial supply (anterior and posterior spinal arteries, and vertebral arteries) to the brain."

Basically, this graphic shows a sketch of how connected the brainstem, brain, spinal cord, and blood circulatory system are in relationship with the structures that house and protect them, such as the upper spine and skull. 

At Platinum Chiropractic we take a very specific look into this area with our specific objective measures and diagnostics such as X-ray, thermography, surface electromyography, and functional examination, which guide our doctors in providing the most specific care for each individual.

Chin Tucks: Good or Bad?

Did you know there is a special movement that only one part of your spine can bio-mechanically do? It is your skull and first cervical segment and the range of movement is called protraction and retraction (sliding forward and backwards without bending). You do this movement by sticking your chin out and tucking it in, as if your giving yourself a “double chin,” all without looking down or up.  Outside of the spine the only other places where such movement exists is the jaw and scapula’s (shoulder blades). All other motion such as flexion and extension (bending forward and backward), lateral flexion (side bending), and rotation can be accomplished with all other vertebrae (spinal segments).

As you know, the upper part of your neck is very important because that area protects your brain stem and other tissues vital to your health. Plus, your upper cervical spine leads the rest of your spine. That is why Neuro-Structural shifts in this region can be the cause of a myriad of secondary conditions such as leg pain. Not because they are directly involved, but because the compensation due to a shift causes downstream and upstream secondary effects and distorts the rest of the spine.  

When the spine shifts, it causes secondary conditions (symptoms).

When the spine shifts, it causes secondary conditions (symptoms).

This area is called the C0-C1 (occiput and C1) junction and the total movement forward and backward is about 25 degrees. The reason this matters is because almost everyone is missing this critical range of motion! Because of sitting, working on computers, looking down, texting, sticking out your chin so you don’t have chin rolls…. ;) we are in an epidemic of people who can’t pull their chin back. So this creates a cascade of issues to occur in the spine such as neck tightness, tension headaches, shoulder pain etc. 

Solution: At Platinum Chiropractic our solution includes specific adjustments to correct Neuro-Structural shifts and restore proper alignment and motion first. Then we teach specific neck exercises, advise on appropriate sleeping positions, along with other self care, in order to compliment the correction of Neuro-Structural shifts. One of the easiest and most important exercises to practice is tucking your chin in and pushing your head back over your shoulders. Do this when you stand, sit, even lifting weights. Try doing isometric (static) holds by retracting and pushing your head into your headrest of your car when you’re stopped at a red light (avoid looking up so you can maximize this range). It is a good way to release muscular tension as well as strengthening your neck.