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Atlas: Carrying the Weight of the World

Bronze statue of Atlas

Atlas is a character from Greek mythology who supported the world on his shoulders.

In anatomy, the name “atlas” is given to the first bone in the spinal column because it supports the skull, your personal world, on its shoulders.

The atlas is shaped like no other bone in the spinal column.  Looking from above it appears as a giant ring, through which the bottom part of the brain stem runs as it morphs into the spinal cord.  Over ten billion nerve tracks pass through the brainstem at this level on their way to or from the brain to the rest of the body.

The head, normally weighing between eight and ten pounds, must have a strong base as it balances on the slender cervical (neck) portion of the spinal column.  The atlas has broad, cup shaped pads (superior facets) in which the skull rests via short protrusions (occipital condyles).  On these joints the skull can only rock back and forth very slightly in the “yes” motion.  The skull and atlas rotate as a unit around an axle (dens) which protrudes upwards from the neck bone immediately below (the “no” motion).  This bone is aptly named the axis.  By nature the superior facets of the atlas and the occipital condyles of the skull fit together like mirror images.  It is when these mirror images are no longer aligned exactly that the nervous system is affected.  This interference can affect any tissue that receives input from the nervous system causing it to malfunction and be prone to disease.

Because of its position under the skull and on top of a slender column of bone and muscle, the atlas is extremely vulnerable to trauma.

A difficult delivery, a fall on the playground, an auto accident, even a bump on the head at the right time in the right (wrong?) direction can disturb its position.

Many diseases and disorders are related to a misalignment of the atlas, either primarily or secondarily.  Without proper innervation a tissue is less capable of carrying out its tasks, predisposing it to injury and less capable of protecting itself from germs and toxins.

The chiropractic adjustment starts the atlas moving back into its proper position, relieving nerve interference and allowing the body to heal itself.  The atlas connects your brain to your body and your body to health.

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