80% of the population will experience back pain and it is the leading cause of missed work. Back pain has been linked to a past history of injury or trauma to the head, neck, or back, and it appears that the injury need not be directly to the low back for it to effect the low back. The reason being is that the spine, and the body for that matter, works as one continuous unit. When we injure ourselves the force is transferred through to all parts of our body and the most unstable parts can be injured indirectly. One of the most common areas to be injured indirectly is the uppermost area of the spine called the upper cervical spine. It consists of the top two bones in your neck.
Why is this area so prone to injury? These two bones are the most moveable and unstable bones in the spine. They have the job of balancing and holding our head on. This is a tough job because our head weighs about 12-14 pounds. The only thing holding it on is muscles and ligaments, whereas the rest of the spinal bones are connected by interlocking segments called facets and by intervertebral discs that act like a flexible glue between building blocks.
How can the upper neck affect my low back?When the upper neck is injured, either directly or indirectly, it can damage the tissue supporting those bones causing scar tissue and adhesions. Scar tissue is the same whether from a cut on your arm or from a sprain or other injury. When you sprain your ankle the same scars form inside your ankle as they do on your arm to heal a cut. These adhesions and scars cause the bones to move improperly and because the spine is one continuous unit it affects the entire spine. The bones below the injured upper cervical spine compensate for the improper movement causing aches and pains well below it sometimes, often in the low back.