TMD and NUCCA – Is My Neck The Problem?

Did you know a minor injury more than a decade ago can cause TMD today?

Do you suffer from jaw pain, tightness, clicking or even difficulty chewing? You may have Temporomandibular Disorder (TMD), a chronic condition that affects the jaw.  TMD is a common disorder, it is estimated 10 million Americans are affected.1 Common symptoms of TMD include:

  • Pain or tenderness of your jaw
  • Aching facial pain
  • Pain in one or both of the temporomandibular joints
  • Aching pain in and around your ears
  • Locking of the joint, making it difficult to open and close your mouth2

Despite its prevalence, it can be difficult to effectively treat. Although they are many methods to address TMD, one that is often overlooked is an atlas misalignment.

How Does An Atlas Misalignment Happen?

The atlas (C1) is the first bone in your spine that sits right underneath your skull. What is interesting about the atlas is unlike the rest of the vertebrae in the spine, it has one less joint. The reason being is to allow our head to move freely. While that unrestricted movement is needed, it also leads to a greater likelihood for that bone to lose its position. This loss of position can happen due:

  • Accidents (Car and Bike Accidents, Slips and Falls)
  • Injuries (Birth Trauma, Sports Injuries, Concussions)
  • Repetitive Stress (Sitting At A Desk, Emotional Stress)

When the atlas bone misaligns not only does it affect the position of the head and neck but it also places pressure on the nervous system, particularly the brainstem. The brainstem plays a critical role in regulating all our basic body functions including:

  • Cardiac and Respiratory Rate
  • Muscle Tone
  • Body Posture
  • Alertness
  • Sleep Cycle

When the brainstem experiences the slightest amount of pressure, it can alter the brainstem’s function leading to dysfunction. Although symptoms may vary in those with an atlas misalignment, the one symptom they all demonstrate is postural distortion. Postural distortion is the body’s attempt to correct itself when taken out of the normal upright position due to a neurological interference at the brainstem. Postural distortion can be detected and measured by a trained NUCCA doctor that utilize special equipment and checks to determine if a postural distortion is present.

So how does NUCCA help with TMD?

NUCCA is a specialized form of chiropractic that focuses on the upper cervical region of the spine, also known as the upper neck. NUCCA focuses on aligning the head and neck to help restore optimal nerve function which in turn will lead to structural balance of the body. When a misalignment occurs at the atlas bone, it can change the way the head and neck are positioned. As a result, it can also change the position of the jaw. This subsequent misalignment in the jaw can lead to pain and dysfunction. By realigning the atlas to its proper position it can also realign the jaw as well.

If you or a loved one suffer from TMD and previous treatments have failed, an atlas misalignment might need to be addressed.

  1. TMJ Disorders, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Sept. 2017,
  2. “TMJ Disorders.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 28 Dec. 2018,


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