Meet Your Nodding Joint

Body Mapping
woman greeting someone

As far as your posture is concerned, the most crucial and primary relationship is the relationship between your head and spine.

Your head weighs between 10-12 lbs. That’s not insignificant.

Find something that is 10-12 lbs. A medicine or bowling ball will work. A full gallon water jug will also work well, although it will just be over 8 lbs.

Hold your object in front of you so it touches your chest. Experience its weight. Now, extend your arms so that your object is away from your body. Experience its weight. If I asked you to hold your object for 10 minutes, where would you want to hold it? My guess is close in near your body would be your preference.

Your head consists of two parts (1) your skull and (2) your lower jaw. The skull balances delicately on the top vertebra of your spine right between your ears. Yes, that high up! The lower jaw is suspended from the skull.

The joint between the skull and spine allows you to nod your head up and down—to look down at your computer keyboard or up at that spider on the top of the wall. I like to call it my nodding joint or alternatively my looking-up-looking-down joint.

Take your pointer fingers and stick them in your ears so they are pointing toward each other. Imagine a rod connecting your two fingers. Allow your head to gently pivot around that rod so you look up and down a bit. That is where your head is designed to nod from. Yes, that high up!

side view of skull indicating location of the atlanto occipital joint

The joint between the head and spine is this high up and this far forward!

Now take your hand and place it at the base of your neck in the back. The seventh cervical vertebra is a little larger and sticks out a bit more so you can usually find it easily. This is where you might be unknowingly nodding your head from.

side view of skull indicating the base of the neck (C7)

Unfortunately, this is where you may be unknowingly looking down from.

Imagine you’re holding your smartphone in front of you at about waist level. Look down from that seventh cervical vertebra so that you’re dropping the head and neck to look down. Now bring the phone up a bit higher, to about chest level, and try looking down from higher up where you now know the joint actually is—between the ears. It should be a much lighter feeling.

The difference between looking down from higher up at the actual joint, high up between the ears, and from the base of the neck is similar to the difference between holding your object close to your chest and then extending it out in front of you. When you can leave the weight balanced more on top of its supportive spine instead of letting it drop in front of its support, it will be lighter and cause less strain on your body.

Take some time to explore where you are habitually looking down from.

Picture credits:  Woman shaking someone’s hand : Image by rawpixel from Pixabay

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  • Barbara Thompson February 4, 2014, 8:17 am

    Thanks, Lauren. This is excellent information and visuals!

  • Sarah Irene Dye February 4, 2014, 11:16 am

    You explain things in a way that is so clear and easy to follow! I’m enjoying these blog posts. I’ve been thinking a lot about your last post, especially when I’m trying to reduce fatigue by reminding my body to be in a healthy position. Thanks, Lauren!

    • laurenhill69 February 5, 2014, 3:52 pm

      Thanks for the feedback Sarah. My goal with this blog is to try to keep things simple and clear. I find with many things in life it is somehow easier to complicate than to cut the clutter and make it simple.

  • laurenhill69 June 17, 2014, 9:28 am

    Glad you are finding a new twist on an age old topic interesting.

  • Mike Holland November 20, 2015, 2:21 pm

    This was a very interesting article. Thanks! However, just a minor point of correction: Water weighs a little more than 8 pounds per gallon, thus you can’t put 10-12 pounds of water in a one gallon jug.

    • Lauren Hill November 20, 2015, 4:26 pm

      Hi Mike and thanks for that piece of information.


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