How does the Upper Cervical Spine influence balance?

Balance and the Spine

In our office we see many patients whose symptoms include balance issues. Sometimes this presents as vertigo, sometimes general dizziness, other times they are generally unsteady on their feet and find it hard to walk and coordinate their movements, or it could be a combination of all these things. When we analyse these people using our specialist system we often find similar features at the upper cervical spine impacting some of the structures responsible for balance. There are two major areas that the upper cervical spine can influence that may cause these symptoms to manifest.

Suboccipital Muscles and Balance

The Suboccipital muscles are a set of small muscles located at the back of the neck responsible for stabilising the upper cervical vertebrae underneath the occipital bone. There are four pairs of muscles; Rectus Capitus Posterior Major, Rectus Capitus Posterior Minor, Obliquus Capitis Superior, and Obliquus Capitis Inferior. These muscles attach C1 and C2 to each other and to the occiput. As well as acting as stabilisers for these bones the Suboccipitals have another function. 

Upper Cervical Spine influences balance

Proprioception describes the brain’s ability to perceive where the body is within space. The suboccipital muscles have a very high concentration of nerve receptors called proprioceptors, that are responsible for the proprioceptive sense. Signals from these receptors are sent to the brain when triggered by stretching and contracting of the suboccipital muscles, telling the brain about the position of head and neck. 


When there is a misalignment of the upper cervical vertebrae it causes these muscles to be stretched in abnormal ways. Therefore the proprioceptors send the wrong signals to the brain about the position of the head and neck. This can confuse the brain as to the position of the head and the body. This faulty pattern of signals can give rise to faulty processing in the brain and begin to produce these feelings of dizziness. In our office we specialise in correcting these upper cervical misalignments, when we correct the position of the vertebrae the brain gets the correct signals and the feelings of dizziness and unsteadiness reduce.

Cerebellar Blood Flow and Balance

The Cerebellum is the part of the brain responsible for a number of functions including motor skills, such as balance, coordination, and postural control. The Cerebellum is supplied with blood via the vertebral artery system.


The vertebral arteries run up either side of the neck through each of the cervical vertebrae before joining together as the basilar artery and entering the base of the skull. Due to the location of these arteries they can be influenced by upper cervical vertebra position. Pressure or stretching of the vertebral arteries can influence the blood flow going into the brain, including that which supplies the cerebellum. 

Subocciptials4 in blood flow to the cerebellum can alter its function and has potential to change the way balance and coordination is controlled and could therefore cause the feeling of unsteadiness many of our patients experience. We find that when we restore proper positioning to the upper cervical vertebrae we see a reduction in our patient’s symptoms. Cerebellar blood flow could be one mechanism that explains why we see these changes. 


If you are experiencing dizziness, vertigo, or balance issues and want to know if we can help then why not book a complimentary discovery call with us!


For more information on the importance of the upper cervical spine please check our Blog!

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1 Comment

  1. Mary Taylor on March 17, 2022 at 3:54 pm

    I have never used chiropractic. I am 71 years old and up til one year ago was physically fit.
    9 years ago I attempted to lift avery heavy basket on my head and it wrenched my neck badly also putting strain on my jaw muscles.
    A year ago I started to have neck pain, unsteadiness, brain fog and panic attacks seemingly out of nowhere.
    These symptoms have continued.
    I have a normal brain scan and a normal supine MRI of my cervical spine.
    I feel very worried about the brain fog and the dizziness and bad anxiety. Could upper cervical chiropractic help me? Thanks

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