There are many benefits to seeking upper cervical chiropractic care.
What is Upper Cervical Chiropractic?
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the US “ranks 37th in overall health, below some Third World countries”, but it “consumes nearly 75% of all the pharmaceutical drugs manufactured”. The general philosophy of upper cervical chiropractors is that the body can heal itself and it is “the world’s greatest ‘drug store’ (that) knows how much insulin to secrete, antihistamine to produce, cholesterol to make”. The brain and body need to communicate with each other, and the human body is believed to be self-healing. Prevention of disease is also important. Upper cervical (UC) practitioners focus on the upper cervical spine and the top two bones of the neck. The brain stem controls the body’s functions and is a conduit between the body and brain. The upper two bones of the neck, the axis and atlas, do not have intervertebral discs, and they can move freely in six directions. Other spinal bones can only move in two directions. UC doctors believe that because these upper two bones can move more freely, they are more likely to become misaligned. The misalignment leads to irritation or interference with the brain stem; therefore communication with the body is disrupted. The rest of the body has to compensate and becomes imbalanced; this is called subluxation. UC chiropractors receive “post-graduate training in upper cervical care” after they graduate from chiropractic college. The training includes “studies in the anatomy, neurology, biomechanics, radiology, instrumentation and corrective procedures specific to the upper cervical spine”. In fact, there are only about 1200 UC-qualified doctors.1
Upper cervical chiropractic doctors use techniques that differ from general chiropractic adjustments, physical therapy, or medicine, and that are meant to clear interference with the nervous system with “a natural, precise and gentle procedure, without twisting or jerking the spine”. UC doctors use X-rays and mathematical measurements as well as spinal analysis and objective instrumentation, before and after treatments, to make sure that subluxations are corrected. There are “no drugs, therapies, or manipulations” involved in UC chiropractic care. The idea is to make a correction so that the body can heal itself, with a focus on prevention rather than disease treatment.2
Blair Adjustments and Atlas Orthogonal
At Blair Upper Cervical Chiropractic Society, the patient’s first visit includes an examination, consultation, and precise x-rays of the neck. The C1 vertebra and C2 vertebra are checked for misalignment, and a correction is customized to the patient. Later visits may not require a correction, as it is hoped that the original correction will hold. The need for future procedures is determined by “leg checks, range of motion, and a neck scan with a heat reading instrument”. X-rays are performed with the use of a head clamp for precision. Blair Upper Cervical Adjustments are done on a “side posture table” that is low to the ground so that the doctor can make precise, quick, and gentle corrections. After the visit, patients need to rest for up to 20 minutes so that the body can “regain control of the position of the corrected vertebra”.3 Atlas Orthogonal is an upper cervical technique that uses a “percussion instrument” instead of a hand adjustment. It is generally used by “straight” chiropractors who adhere to the “teachings of B. J. Palmer”.4 The Atlas Orthogonal is a “precise sound wave adjusting treatment” that is “painless” and is meant to realign the spine, head and neck and restore the balance to the nervous system. After the 3-dimensional x-ray, patients receive the “precise percussion sound wave” to accurately correct the upper cervical region.5
An upper cervical chiropractor can become a member of the National Upper Cervical Chiropractic Association (NUCCA). Part of the mission of NUCCA is to reduce the effects of the “Atlas Subluxation Complex (ASC)” and to maximize health. There is a NUCCA Certification Program. Chiropractors must develop proficiency in x-ray positioning and analysis, patient evaluation, biomechanics, and adjusting. Seminars and conferences are offered by NUCCA. There are three different levels of certification offered. The NUCCA website also has a member directory to help patients find certified doctors. According to this association, anyone can benefit from NUCCA, whether or not they are currently in pain, in order to prevent symptoms, as well as resolve issues. The NUCCA procedure can be performed as early as right after birth. Children “generally respond more quickly to adjustments and usually require fewer adjustments”. What makes the upper cervical procedures different from other techniques is that they are not “a short, quick thrust to a localized area”; in contrast, UC chiropractors believe that they “influence the entire spinal column’s postural balance by returning the heavy head to a more balanced position on top of the narrow neck”. The reason such a small adjustment with light pressure is thought to work is because of “leverage”. The patient only feels a “slight pressure behind the ear”, but there is “adequate force being put into the neck”. With these upper cervical adjustments, patients may only need to be seen semi-annually, after the alignment is achieved. Often, recommendations are given after treatment to help patients maintain alignment. Things said to contribute to misalignment are “thoughts, traumas, and toxins”, which are stressors.6
Recent News on Blood Pressure
Recently, a study that was published in the Journal of Human Hypertension, demonstrated that upper cervical chiropractic could reduce high blood pressure significantly. In the study, 50 patients (divided into two different groups) participated. One group had a sham procedure while the other had the adjustment. Those receiving the adjustment had an average drop of 8 mm Hg in diastolic and 14 mm Hg drop in systolic blood pressure. The results were more than doubled from what was expected. The procedure was about as effective as “two blood-pressure medications given in combination” with “no side effects”. Patients on medication were not involved in the study. NUCCA developed the procedure used in study.7 The reduction in blood pressure “persisted at 8 weeks”. Other studies also support the idea that “changes in the cerebral circulation that is related to the position of the Atlas vertebra can affect BP”. This study provided some evidence that using non-surgical interventions for Atlas vertebra alignment can lead to a long-term effect on blood pressure. Non-surgical options for treating blood pressure lead to less side effects and other issues associated with traditional medical treatments.8
As Seen on TV
The blood pressure study was featured on “Good Morning America” to tout the idea that there may be a chiropractic alternative for some people who wish to lower their blood pressure without medications. Dr. George Bakris discussed his double-blind study on the program; however, the show noted that there are few chiropractors qualified to do this type of C1 adjustment.9 Upper cervical chiropractic was also featured on “The Doctors”, with Dr. Patrick Kerr, who treated a woman who had fallen off a horse, which resulted in stiffness and headaches. He used an instrument adjustment, after which the woman’s pain was resolved and her range-of-motion was improved.10 Montel Williams, who suffers from multiple sclerosis (MS), provided a recent testimonial about Atlas Orthogonal. He said that has less pain, he walks differently, and he has even regained strength in his left leg, as a result of his treatments with Dr. Kerr.11
1, 2 http://www.uppercervicalcare.com/
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