SIDS, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, back sleepersThe Upper Neck and SIDS

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) is the leading cause of death among infants 1 month to 1 year old, and claims the lives of about 2,500 babies each year in the United States. Even so, the risk of SIDS can be greatly reduced. First and foremost, infants younger than 1 year old should be placed on their backs to sleep — never face-down on their stomachs.

In addition to sleeping position, trauma during birth leading to upper neck misalignments is also an important factor to consider.  Dr. Craig and Tracy Wehrenberg, upper cervical chiropractors from upstate New York, have listed over 100 research papers, which point to the brainstem area as being highly implicated in sudden infant death syndrome.   The brainstem connects with a spinal cord in the upper neck. When a misalignment has occurred in the upper neck, brainstem dysfunction takes place leading to changes in blood, cerebral spinal fluid and nerve flow.

The Wehrenberg’s suggest that an upper neck misalignment can be caused by the birthing process where forces are applied to the occiput-atlas area as the baby passes through the birth canal, and also forces are applied by “certain obstetrical situations …including, but not limited, a very fast delivery, premature delivery, breech delivery and caesarean delivery.” Instruments used in the birth delivery such as forceps and vacuum extractors may also apply extreme forces and place a new born at risk of injury. These can place stretching forces on the upper spinal cord and brainstem, which if injured, can have catastrophic repercussions for the infant. The result is more than likely a misalignment of the occiput on the atlas vertebra, which can and does result in compromise of critical neurological and vascular structures in the upper cervical spine, especially near the skull base.

Additional research has linked the upper neck to changes in heart rate. One study showed how pressure to the upper neck could lead to a lowering of the heart rate, which is consistent with the mechanism involved in SIDS.

What Should You Do?

The Wehrenbergs suggest screening each child for atlas misalignments shortly after birth, and especially those experiencing sleep apnea events and other breathing or heart beat irregularities.

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Dr. Tymothy Flory, Dr. James Weiss and Dr. Jameson Wong of Atlas Spinal Care in Upland, California are Upper Cervical Specialists trained by the National Upper Cervical Chiropractic Association (NUCCA). Their upper cervical clinic also serves Claremont, La Verne, San Dimas, Glendora and surrounding areas. They are uniquely trained to correct problems in the upper cervical spine (upper neck). This vital area is intimately connected to the central nervous system and problems in this area have been shown to be an underlying cause of a variety of different health problems. More information can be found on their website at http://www.atlasspinalcare.com/.