4 reasons I’m an upper cervical chiropractor


I appreciate all ways of adjusting the spine, which can be safe, effective, and life-changing. But I also have my reasons for practicing in a way that very few others embrace.

1. I’m addicted to seeing visible changes in posture.

There is a quote by a medical doctor, Dr. Rene Cailliet at the University of Southern California, that says:

The entire body can be aligned by first aligning the head.

As an upper cervical chiropractor who uses posture as a a before and after tool to help me to decide whether to give an adjustment or not, I understand what the doctor is talking about.

Hip tilt and twist, spasm in the lower back muscles, leaning of the spine, and shoulders that aren’t level can all change and resolve after a careful, measured adjustment to the upper cervical spine. Many of these changes are instantaneous.

Posture changes after adjustments to the top of neck.

In a world where some believe that change in posture is only possible after months of sweating through muscle retraining, or spending thousands of dollars on traction, it is nice to see it after one chiropractic adjustment.

2. I like giving everyone an adjustment that is unique to them.

You can adjust the upper neck based on lack of motion alone. If it’s stuck on the right, adjust the right. If it’s stuck on the left, adjust the left.

But there is another school of thought that says that the head and the neck are in such unique balance to each other, that chiropractors should not just guess on a direction based on the motion of the joint. Instead we should measure the misalingment taking the measurements of all the bones at the top of the neck into account, which are unique for every individual.

With the NUCCA system for the care of the upper neck and spine, that is exactly how we do it, with very detailed x-rays and measurements.

The goal is to give everyone a unique adjustment that is unique to their specific anatomy.

3. I believe that less is more and enjoy practicing that way.

In the early days of chiropractic care there was a lot of experimentation with adjusting procedures. Some advocated adjusting every single vertebrae in the back. Others adjusted the same series of vertebrae in every single patient.  As the art and science of adjusting developed, gradually there grew in interest in discovering how much could be accomplished with one adjustment.

That lead to the discovery of the unique relationship between the top of the neck and its influence on the rest of the spine and body.

Today, upper cervical chiropractors try to get the most positive change in the body in the least invasive way, with the least number of adjustments possible. Many of the people that we serve appreciate this less is more approach when they see what kind of healing changes that are often possible, often in fewer chiropractic visits.

To put it another way: there is no sense in using a crowbar to open a door when you have the key.

4. There are 24 vertebrae, but only two are named Atlas and Axis.

Of all the many bones in the spine, there are only two that anatomy experts have given special names. They are the first and second neck bones, or vertebrae. They are known as C1 and C2, or Atlas and Axis.

Atlas is a good name for the first neck bone, because like Atlas of ancient mythology, it holds up the weight of the world, which in your case, is your heavy head and all the important brains inside.

Axis is a perfect name for the second neck bone, because it has a unique shape which allows the the Atlas bone to pivot around it with almost 160 degrees or more of motion. In anatomy we call it a trochoid joint, and it is the only joint of its kind in the human body.

Together, Atlas and Axis provide us with some of the largest and dynamic joint movement in the spine, all while holding up the weight of the head. Mechanically speaking, it makes sense that this area is less stable, and more likely to be affected by a minor injury.

As spinal bones Atlas and Axis do more than just provide motion and balance the head. They also provide protection to the nervous system which is housed inside the spinal column. At the level of first neck bone, there are nerve system controls that influence a lot of body systems, including our heart rate and breathing.

It is a pretty important place to work in the spine, and is worthy of a special name.

Written by Dr. Ward

Father. Foodie. And dedicated upper cervical chiropractor. Find me practicing gentle upper cervical care in Oakland County, Michigan. Have a question or comment? I'm at your service. Reach me at my Auburn Hills chiropractic practice: (248) 598-4002. Or on Google +, Facebook, or Twitter.

4 Responses to 4 reasons I’m an upper cervical chiropractor
  1. Philip Schalow
    July 13, 2011 | 11:17 pm

    Excellent reasons. One I would add is that the upper cervical correction severely reduces the need to do anything else to get the postural reflexes going. That means your mom won’t need to remind you to sit up straight. Think of all the energy that will save her (and you!)…

  2. […] for central Iowa. Since that time, your host has moved to Oakland County, in Southeast Michigan, to practice upper cervical chiropractic near family. And the local focus of the site has changed a long with it. But we did some great […]

  3. Boyd Brumback
    September 18, 2011 | 2:04 am

    Great article, I really like your writting style. Fantasy Football Start’em Sit’em

  4. Virginia Klein
    December 28, 2011 | 8:07 am

    Hey Dr Ward,
    Thanks for the info, A monumental health care crisis is taking place throughout the world, but it isn’t what you might suspect. It isn’t a lack of public healthcare, insurance coverage or prescription drugs. The real healthcare crisis is the failure to emphasize the prevention of disease over the treatment of disease.  Until we change our focus, we will forever be chasing diseases rather than maintaining health.