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The Effects of the Righting Reflex on the Spine

Updated: Feb 7

The Effects of the Righting Reflex on the Spine

The majority of primitive reflexes are integrated into our brains as infants. These reflexes create the majority of the movements we make, such as rolling, sitting, crawling, standing, walking, reaching, and even talking. For the most part, once we learn these movements, we won’t need to learn them again. The movement patterns get integrated into the cerebellum section of the brain, and this integration frees up our nervous system to learn new motor patterns throughout our life. But one primitive reflex is different. The labyrinthine righting reflex or simply righting reflex, this reflex must always be engaged, and it is with us our entire life.

What is the Righting Reflex?

More than being a primitive reflex, the Righting reflex is a fundamental reflex. It helps keep our brain, eyes, and body in relative balance with each other, as well as keeping our head aligned with the horizon and maintaining the balance of the body. It involves a complex interaction between the vestibular system, the visual system, the proprioceptive system, and interoception senses.

  • The vestibular system The vestibular sense is headquartered within the inner ear. It coordinates eye movements, posture, equilibrium and detects the position of our head in space.

  • The visual system Housed in the eyes, the visual system also includes connecting pathways to the visual cortex and other parts of the brain.

  • The proprioceptive system The proprioceptor system provides sensory input from muscles and joints, especially in the top part of our neck, the upper cervical spine, where the highest concentration of proprioceptors is.

  • The interoception senses This sense helps us understand our body’s internal sensations, such as feeling hungry, thirsty, hot, or cold, and many other feelings we may have.

How Does the Righting Reflex Work?

The righting reflex is a 4-way conversation between the vestibular, proprioceptor, visual, and interoceptor senses. Intercommunication from the upper cervical spine, inner ears joints, muscles, and eyes all work together to interpret the body’s position in space. The brain interprets this information and tells the muscles of the body how to position the eyes and brain so that they stay parallel to gravity.

How Does the Righting Reflex Affect the Spine?

When the righting reflex is functioning optimally, it helps ensure that the spine remains in a balanced and aligned position. However, certain factors can disrupt this reflex and potentially lead to misalignments in the spine, especially in the upper cervical spine.

Let’s imagine for a moment that you’ve suffered a sudden jolt or impact, such as from a fall, accident, or sports injury. This kind of trauma can overwhelm the righting reflex, forcing the body to compensate for injury by adopting an abnormal posture or movement patterns, causing misalignments in the upper cervical spine.

The righting reflex’s purpose is to keep your head aligned with the horizon and body balanced. Once a subluxation occurs in the upper cervical spine, the head is out of alignment. The righting reflex will then compensate by shifting the spine to bring the head back to level. Quite often, misalignments below the upper cervical spine are secondary to the major misalignment in the atlas and axis vertebrae.

Other things that can interfere with the righting reflex and contribute to upper cervical misalignment include prolonged periods of poor posture, repetitive strain or motion, maintaining fixed positions for extended periods, or muscle imbalances. Muscle imbalances occur when certain muscles become overactive or tight while others become weak or inhibited.


How Can Upper Cervical Chiropractic Help?

It’s important to note that misalignments in the spine can have multiple causes, and the righting reflex is just one common factor that can potentially contribute to them. However, when the righting reflex is involved, a vertebral subluxation can affect the structural and functional integrity of the whole spinal column as well as disrupt brain-body communication. The goal of Upper Cervical Chiropractic is to correct subluxations in the upper cervical spine restoring optimal health. A correctly aligned spine allows for more precise brain-body communication, keeping the righting reflex and other neurological operations not only right but healthy.

If you’re interested in learning more about the righting reflex or upper cervical chiropractic care, Dr. Tim will be happy to answer your questions. Contact our team today by dropping by our office at 1800 E 3rd Ave #108 in Durango, calling us at 970 – 259 – 6803, or clicking the link below to schedule a free consultation.


Notice of Disclaimer: We are doctors of upper cervical chiropractic, but we are NOT necessarily YOUR doctors. All content and information on this website are for informational and educational purposes only, do not constitute medical advice, and reading or interacting with this site does not establish any form of the patient-doctor relationship. Although we strive to provide accurate information, the information presented here is not intended as a substitute for any kind of professional advice, and you should not rely solely on this information. Always consult a professional in your particular area of need before making medical decisions.

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