In Part I, I introduced the concept of the Reflex Survival Totem Pole (devised by Paul Chek) and explained the first three systems on the Totem Pole. These systems being breathing, the jaw and vision.

Totem Pole  After vision, comes the vestibular system which includes hearing and balance. Living in the wild would have required fantastic hearing to hear predators approaching and great balance to be able to run away from predators and chase and hunt prey over uneven and sometimes unpredictable terrain. Balance would have been crucial in order to prevent injuries. If you climb a tree to avoid a predator you would need good balance to avoid falling. Falling from a height may have meant breaking a bone, which in those days would have lead to certain death.

Then follows the upper cervical spine (upper neck). The upper cervical spine is the information gateway between the head and the body. The upper cervical spine has a close relationship with the head and has a great influence over the structures below it.

The head always wants to maintain the position of the eyes and ears level with the horizon and an optimal bite (occlusion). Therefore, if there is an imbalance with vision, the bite or hearing, the brain will sacrifice the systems below to ensure the head is on straight (prioritising the higher systems on the Totem Pole).

As the upper cervical spine is the connection between the head and body, it will be the position of the first cervical vertebra (C1 or Atlas) that is sacrificed. It does this by ‘subluxing’ or rotating and side-flexing from its ideal position and is known as an Atlas Subluxation Complex (ASC).

The upper cervical spine is vulnerable to subluxation as the joints have fewer muscles and ligaments attaching to them compared to other vertebrae and are the only vertebrae not to have interlocking bony facets.

Alteration of the position of the Atlas causes alterations to nerve supply above and below the Atlas which affects the position of the head, spine, pelvis and limbs (see Pelvic Girdle and Slave Joints below). 

Below the upper cervical, are the internal organs (also known as viscera). When viscera are damaged, inflamed or diseased, a nerve signal (afferent nerve impulse) is sent via ‘sympathetic nerves’ to the spinal cord and on to the brain to let it know there’s a problem. Conversely, if skin, muscle, bone or ligaments are damaged they send an afferent nerve impulse via ‘spinal nerve roots’ to the spinal cord and on to the brain.

Nerve impulses from sympathetic nerves and spinal nerve roots converge and are received by the grey matter of the spinal cord. The afferent nerve impulses then ascend via a common interneuron to the cortex of the brain. Therefore, the brain doesn’t know whether the signal came from the viscera or from a muscle or bone.

The brain then sends a response (efferent nerve impulse) along the same pathway from where the afferent signal came from to the same level or levels of the spine.  The signal in most instances will affect the muscles innervated by nerves from that particular level of the spinal chord. The muscles can go into spasm, which is what occurs in appendicitis and heart attacks or the muscles can be inhibited, i.e. relax. This is known as viscero-motor reflex. 

So let’s say someone has an inflamed colon. The colon is innervated by nerves coming from the T9 to L3 levels of the spine. In effect, if someone has constipation or inflammation of the colon, all muscles innervated by nerves from T9 to L3 are likely to be relaxed and unable to contract. The whole of the abdominal muscles are innervated by these levels. This would leave the body unable to stabilise the pelvis, spine, rib cage and therefore the arms and legs.

This means that movement will not be optimal and the risk of injury with movement will be greatly increased. Considering that everyone I have run a food sensitivity test on is eating foods they are sensitive to, which causes inflammation, how common do you think viscero-motor reflex is?

Stay tuned for Part III, when I will be discussing the final three systems of The Totem Pole when a good understanding of how the system works will start to come together. It will probably help you understand why many other modalities struggle to achieve long term success.