If you said “my chiropractor,” you guessed right! When the vertebrae in your cervical spine – which is a fancy way of describing the bones in your neck – are out of alignment, the muscles in your neck and shoulders tighten up and make you feel stiff. This is especially true for the atlas, the first bone in your spine, which sits at the top of your neck, under your skull. When this bone tips out of place, the rest of your neck (and body) automatically compensates to straighten your head. Because everything in the spine is connected – your head to your neck to your shoulders to your back – that stiffness can crop up at the base of your neck, along the tops of the shoulders, and often into the upper back or between the shoulder blades.
Adjusting the spine with focused attention on the atlas is often the best way to increase the range of motion in your neck. In fact, one of the most common side effects of seeing a chiropractor is better movement! (Warning: other side effects include increased energy levels, more restful sleep, and better immune function.)
Just because you don’t feel any pain doesn’t mean you’re not out of alignment. If you’re beginning to feel like you’re not able to turn your head very far, or feel like things are tight or stiff in your upper body, get your neck checked. We’ll get your head on straight, and help you move more easily.