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What’s the Brain Stem?

You may have heard of the brain stem, but do you know what it’s in charge of? What its basic function is? The purpose it serves for your body?

The brain stem and cervical spine

The brain stem (in red) extends down into your cervical spine.

The brain stem acts as a bridge between the lower most part of your brain (cerebrum) and your spinal cord; it carries messages through your nerves to your brain and messages from your brain through your nerves back to your body parts. The brain stem is also made up of several different structures that control some of the most basic functions that keep you alive – your breathing, your heart rate and your blood pressure.

The brain stem also coordinates such things as eye movements, movement of the jaw, tongue and larynx, your facial expressions, and sensations and movements of your neck and head; the brain stem accomplishes that through the cranial nerves that pass through it. Basically, all nerve communication between the brain and the spinal cord passes through the brain stem, so you can certainly understand its importance!

Any type of injury to the brain stem could be devastating. More serious injuries can result in a prolonged coma or what is also known as a “persistent vegetative state.”

You may know someone who has had a stroke that affected the brain stem. Depending on its severity, this type of stroke could be fatal because of the major functions that the brain stem controls, or it could affect the person’s vision, speech, body movements, and sensation of pain.

Chiropractors are trained to locate and correct nerve interference in the upper (cervical) spine that may interfere with the nerve communication between the spinal cord and the brain stem. The first two vertebrae of the cervical spine (atlas and axis) house the lowest part of the brain stem, which coordinates all communication between the brain and the body. Keeping this area free from any type of nerve interference is, therefore, critical.

Please be sure to maintain your regular chiropractic schedule so we can make sure that this area of your spine is properly adjusted, to allow your body to function optimally.