The Atlas Orthogonal chiropractic technique is useful for a variety of chiropractic conditions.
What is the Atlas Orthogonal Chiropractic Technique?
The Atlas Orthogonal chiropractic technique is considered one of the upper cervical chiropractic treatments. It was created by chiropractor Roy Sweat. The Atlas Orthogonal Technique “uses a percussion instrument” to adjust the “subluxation of the atlas vertebra”. Based on BJ Palmer’s teachings, who was responsible for advocating the “Hole-In-One version of spinal adjustment”, the Atlas Orthogonal technique is generally used by “straight chiropractors”. The atlas vertebra is at the top of the spine, in the cervical area.1 The “Hole-In-One” technique adjusts the atlas vertebra, and it gets its name from the implication “that a perfect adjustment in the upper cervical region of the neck would cause everything else to ‘fall into place’”.2 There are other upper cervical treatments, such as the NUCCA protocol (National Upper Cervical Chiropractic Association), developed by Dr. Ralph Gregory and Dr. John Grostic (the Grostic Technique). NUCCA is also concerned with the atlas subluxation complex (ASC).3
The “Neck Secret”
There are many Atlas chiropractic centers in the United States. According to Dr. Donald Liebell, the Atlas Orthogonal procedure, which moves the “Atlas Vertebra (top bone of the neck) into better position” can alleviate many conditions “by relieving nerve compression in the neck”. The procedure itself is “safe and painless”. By adjusting the atlas vertebra, the goal is to center the weight of the head on the neck by reducing the “structural/mechanical imbalance, which is causing nerve compression, body imbalance and wear and tear”. When there is misalignment, it is said that nerve impulses are blocked or altered, and repositioning can allow the “body’s natural healing process” to begin. The procedure actually uses “calculations from digital mathematical x-ray analysis” so that the chiropractor can know the “exact position of the atlas vertebra”. The formula calculated tells the practitioner how much the atlas has shifted from a normal and balanced position so that corrections can be performed. The Atlas Orthogonal instrument is calibrated to the individual patient, and it “applies a precisely directed, split-second sound vibration on a tiny spot on the side of your neck (just below the ear)”. The repositioning is gentle. It is Dr. Roy Sweat who invented the “Atlas Percussion ‘sound wave’ adjusting instrument in 1970”.4
Atlas Orthogonal vs. Other Upper Cervical Procedures
The main difference between NUCCA and Atlas Orthogonal is that NUCCA practitioners use their hands and Atlas Orthogonal uses the instrument.5 Another upper cervical adjustment that uses an instrument is the Blair technique.6 There is also a Kale “Brain Stem” method for upper cervical correction, which is performed on “the specialized ‘knee-chest’ table (the patient’s position is with knees on the floor and chest on the treatment table).”7 With Atlas Orthogonal (AO), the Sweat Percussion instrument is used after “3 main X-rays” are “taken with the patient’s head clamped”. The AO procedure itself is so gentle, the patient may not even realize it occurred. After treatment, therefore, before and after positioning is compared.8 How the AO instrument works is that inside there is a solenoid that “creates a magnetically activated impact on the end of the stylus”, with very little force (“as little as 3 pounds”). It is a painless and precise adjustment that is performed within the body’s “normal range of motion”, as the head support allows the doctor to position the neck and head “to reverse the misalignment correctly, without spinal ‘manipulation’”. As a result, an AO adjustment is said to reduce nerve irritation and reactivate the “normal transmission of nerve messages sent from the brain to affected parts of the body”. After the procedure, patients may feel a reduction in nerve pressure, and there are “different cycles of repair”. Patients might report feeling relaxed or tired, although some might “experience some muscle stiffness in a different area of their body, while others may feel light-headed or occasionally a headache at first”. These are considered signs that healing has started. It could take weeks for chronic pain to decrease. Ultimately, it is hoped that the atlas ends up “’holding’ a good position”. With the right treatment, patients should feel some relief within 90 days.9
Atlas Orthogonal has been featured on television on “The Doctors”, NBC News”, and “CBS News”. Talk show host Montel Williams has touted the effectiveness of AO as “the most amazing thing that has ever happened to me”. He has said that he has experienced relief from MS neuralgic pain. After AO, he is “walking differently” and his “pain is less”. He has also said, “I have already regained strength in my left leg”. Former football player Michael Strahan used to have headaches, but they have been relieved since receiving AO treatments. Actress Eva LaRue had been in an accident where she was hit in the head, leading to shoulder and neck pain. She described AO as “a miracle”. She said, “I’d been living with a certain amount of pain every day for about ten years and suddenly I walked out of the office with not a speck of pain”. AO has been praised by chiropractors as well as some medical doctors. Dr. Stanley H. Block, MD, approved of Atlas Orthogonal, saying, “I whole-heartedly endorse this diagnostic and treatment method”, which should be considered for patients with headaches and neck pain. Another medical doctor, Betty Gessel, an internist, said, “I am astonished with the help I have gotten with Atlas Orthogonal”.10
Uses for AO
The Atlas Orthogonal treatment is used for a variety of conditions, include multiple sclerosis, arthritis, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, migraines and headaches, stress, chronic pain, asthma, athletic and auto accident injuries, herniated discs, back and neck pain, scoliosis, carpal tunnel syndrome, arm and leg numbness, seizures, sinus problems and allergies, dizziness, sciatica, Bell’s Palsy and trigeminal neuralgia, and Horner’s syndrome.11 Subluxations, or misalignments, “are often deceiving”. Some chiropractors, such as Brian D. Jenkins, believe that even though symptoms may show up in the legs, shoulders, arms, or lower back, the pain is really caused by the neck (cervical) region. When the atlas is misaligned, the head tilts and the body tries to straighten the head, but that leads to stress in the spine, pelvis, hips, knees, ankles and shoulders.12 The Atlas Orthogonal adjustment has been used for over 40 years. Dr. Jared Kohler is another practitioner of the AO method. He trained with Dr. Roy Sweat, Dr. Daniel Lewis, and Dr. Matt Sweat, and “is one of only 3 Board Certified Atlas Orthogonal Chiropractors in the Seattle area”. According to his website, “When the atlas is subluxated…it places stress on the spinal cord/brain stem and many other nerves” and this results in “pain and poor health”. Trauma, which creates misalignment, can be caused by falls, slips, car acccidents, sport injuries, and blows to the head. Micro-traumas, including poor posture and sleeping habits and incorrect carrying and lifting, may also trigger misalignment. These traumas are said to cause dysfunction in the nervous system. Legs may also have different lengths, or at least appear to be different, due to the misalignment. Patients might also have scoliosis, decreased curves in their neck, or other changes in alignment. AO is meant to correct the subluxation, to resolve dysfunction and pain, and fixing the subluxation is considered of “vital importance to overall health”.13
Find out more about Atlas Orthogonal and chiropractic.