Where did all the upper cervical chiropractors go?

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Many upper cervical chiropractic patients have powerful healing stories. In some cases, these patients have such a profound transformation that they cannot understand why they didn’t hear about upper cervical chiropractic care sooner. They want to know: where did all the upper cervical chiropractors go?

While there are many reasons why the upper cervical chiropractic care is hidden out in the open, perhaps the biggest reason is that there are too few upper cervical chiropractors to really influence public awareness. Patients have to try ten things before trying upper cervical care because, until very recently, the information about this unique form of chiropractic  has been very limited.

Let’s see why.

The three reasons you can’t find an upper cervical chiropractor in your neighborhood.

Reason #1: Not enough chiropractors in general.

Chiropractic care may the the #1 form of “alternative health care,” but on the whole, chiropractic care is often misunderstood and under-utilized by those who would most likely benefit from it. This means that we have fewer chiropractors than our society needs. According to most estimates there are 60,000 or less practicing chiropractors in the United States, compared to over 950,000 medical doctors, about 350,000 of which are primary care physicians.

Of those 60,000 or fewer chiropractors, less than 2,000 use a specific protocol for adjusting the upper cervical spine on a regular basis.

The fewer chiropractors we have, the fewer upper cervical chiropractors we will have. So as long as Americans only care about their spine when they hurt, then we will only have so many chiropractors.

Until our world understands that spinal motion and alignment are intimately linked with nervous system integrity and therefore the full expression of life, then chiropractors will only remain back pain doctors.

Think about it this way: if the only time you went to the dentist was when you needed to have a cavity filled or a tooth pulled, there would be fewer dentists.

Reason #2: Chiropractic education has a take-it-or-leave-it attitude about the upper cervical spine.

Not every chiropractic school teaches the importance of addressing the upper cervical spine with a specific protocol. Not every chiropractic student is exposed to the unique upper cervical perspective on caring for the spine. And of those schools that teach upper cervical care, it is taught as an extra elective in the curriculum—not as the foundation for spinal care.

With this take-it-or-leave it approach to upper cervical care, a lot of students just leave it.

Once a student becomes a successful practicing doctor, the likelihood that he or she will abandon her clinical protocols and adopt a new style of practice is rare. This is a business decisions as much as it is a clinical one. Upper cervical chiropractors often invest a lot of time, energy, and money in buying special tables and other equipment, and learning special x-ray protocols. Adopting an upper cervical adjusting protocol can potentially hurt a successful chiropractor’s practice if not done correctly.

Reason #3: Upper cervical care is difficult. And sometimes divisive.

The honest truth is that upper cervical work requires discipline and education, and travel for more education. This can be a hurdle that stops some doctors (especially young doctors) from participating. In our culture where almost half of all adults are on a prescription drugs, chiropractors are already swimming against the health care current with their drug-free, surgery-free profession. By practicing upper cervical chiropractic care exclusively, chiropractors often have to swim against that current even harder.

There is another aspect about upper cervical care being difficult that is hard to discuss with non-chiropractors: upper cervical doctors have disagreed with each other on the best way to care for the upper cervical spine. In the early phases of upper cervical care, these disagreements had both positive and negative consequences. On the positive side, pioneering doctors were able to question, test, and revise the procedures of their teachers and come up with very unique and effective ways for improving their patients’ lives through their care. All simply by adjusting the Atlas vertebrae. On the down side, these disagreements split the financial and political power of chiropractors who wanted to promote upper cervical protocols within the profession.

It is only recently that practitioners of different upper cervical techniques have begun to come together to promote upper cervical care as a unique discipline. They have also begun to study the effects of exclusively adjusting the upper cervical spine in cooperation with each other.

Thanks to a study linking NUCCA upper cervical chiropractic care and a decrease in high blood pressure, the upper cervical spine is very ripe for research. (Look for studies connecting the upper cervical spine to Migraine, IBS, Multiple Sclerosis and chronic cerebrospinal insufficiency in the near future.)

With this new cooperation of upper cervical chiropractors, and a new medical interest in the effects of upper cervical adjustments, perhaps a future with more upper cervical chiropractors is well on its way.

Want to see more upper cervical chiropractors in practice?

If you’d like to see more practicing upper cervical doctors, consider giving to our research at the Upper Cervical Research Foundation, or tell your primary care physician about this wonderful and gentle form of spinal care.

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.

7 Responses to Where did all the upper cervical chiropractors go?
  1. […] the full article from an upper cervical chiropractor in Auburn Hills, Michigan. 0 Comments – Leave a comment! « Previous […]

  2. Ben Kuhn, DC
    April 25, 2012 | 3:06 am

    Fantastic article, Dr. Ward (as always!). You nailed every point exactly!

  3. Dr Philip Schalow
    May 25, 2012 | 12:26 am

    You’re right again…but there seems to be a dark side to segmental spinal adjusting; instead of bringing completion to the vertebrate mechanism, it seems to split connections, which sets the conditions favorable for random peripheral reflexes to run the show instead of centralized control of the brain. Just noticing patterns in the wind…

  4. […] The honest truth is that upper cervical work requires discipline and education, and travel for more education. This can be a hurdle that stops some doctors (especially young doctors) from participating. In our culture where almost half of all adults are on a prescription drugs, chiropractors are already swimming against the health care current with their drug-free, surgery-free profession. By practicing upper cervical chiropractic care exclusively, chiropractors often have to swim against that current even harder. Want to see more upper cervical chiropractors in practice? If you’d like to see more practicing upper cervical doctors, consider giving to our research at the Upper Cervical Research Foundation, or tell your primary care physician about this wonderful and gentle form of spinal care. Read the full article from an upper cervical chiropractor in Auburn Hills, Michigan. […]

  5. Emily
    July 22, 2013 | 4:58 am

    I experienced upper cervical adjustment in March of this year, and it has totally changed the course of my life. I did not have any major health problems, but the change post adjustment, and the changes I am seeing in other recipients of this treatment have inspired me to pursue chiropractic school with the goal of providing upper cervical care. I am a massage therapist working with a chiropractor in solo practice. The more I learn and experience, the stronger my conviction that I am not really providing the best care/body work for people while I am not doing this work.

    • Zachary Ward, DC
      August 8, 2013 | 9:20 pm

      Thank you, Emily for sharing your experience. Massage therapy is different from UC care, that is for sure. But take heart. Until you reach the place where you can practice as a UC doc, you can still provide an excellent environment for your clients to heal through the work you do.

  6. […] Ward and Stockwell say that few chiropractors use upper cervical adjusting procedures, which are gentle, have been found safe, and do not require any rotation or twisting of the […]

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