What the Heck is Upper Cervical Chiropractic?!

You’ve probably heard of chiropractic care, but you might not have heard of upper cervical specific chiropractic care. General chiropractic care focuses on, well… general parts and problems in the spine and body.  Where upper cervical chiropractic is a specialty that deals with, you guessed it, specific parts and problems in the spine and body.   


Specifically, upper cervical chiropractic care is for the difficult and chronic cases.  The “tough” patient, the person who doesn’t respond like everyone else, the one who’s doctor says “I just don’t understand your case and why you’re not getting any better.”  Sound familiar? 


You go to your general MD if you just want a general check-up for general or common health issues. But when you develop chronic or complex health problems that aren’t getting better with the help of a general doctor you get referred to a specialist (neurologist, cardiologist, nephrologist, etc).  An upper cervical specific chiropractor is a specialist in the field of chiropractic. 


All chiropractors graduate from school as general chiropractors, but if they want to become an upper cervical specialist they need to receive additional post-graduate training, which usually takes another year or two of study.


Why focus on just the upper neck?


When in comes to complex and chronic health problems that don’t respond well to the common treatments there’s usually a root cause involved that has been overlooked.  That root it typically the nervous system. The nervous system the MASTER system of the body because it controls and coordinates the function of everything else… muscles, organs, glands, joints, and the other systems (immune system, endocrine system, digestive system, etc). 


The upper neck area (C1 and C2 vertebrae) directly impacts the function of the nervous system, specifically the autonomic nervous system. Your autonomic nervous system controls all the stuff you can’t. You can move your body when you want to, but you can’t control stuff like your balance, digestion, immune system, hormone system, reproductive system, cardiovascular system, etc. 


Your autonomic nervous system can only function two ways, the fight-flight way (sympathetic) or the rest-digest way (parasympathetic).  Many people with chronic and complex health problems  are stuck in the fight-flight mode. You know what I’m talking about right?  Muscles are always tight, it’s hard to fall and/or stay asleep, your brain “won’t shut off”, you can’t think clearly, anxiety and depression, chronic fatigue, and constant body aches.  


If  you’re like most of our patients you’ve tried general chiropractic care, massage therapy, medication, and diet changes without much success (which isn’t to say those approaches don’t work, just not for the “tough” cases). Maybe you’ve found a way to manage your symptoms day-to-day, but you’re not really making any progress with your overall health and function.  


And, if you were to stop whatever you’re doing to manage your symptoms,  the disease or problem would just come right back (maybe even worse than before because you’ve been missing the underlying cause). 


What do upper cervical chiropractors do for their patients?


The purpose of upper cervical specific chiropractic care is to help the whole body work better by making sure the autonomic nervous system can function without any interference. Upper cervical chiropractors use special diagnostic tests to measure the autonomic nervous system and they use digital, 3-D x-rays to figure out if the top two bones in the upper neck are messing it up. 


If the doctor finds the C1 or C2 (atlas or axis) to be stuck (biomechanical lesion causing dysafferentation) they will make a very specific and very careful adjustment to correct the problem. Unlike general chiropractic care, an upper cervical doctor doesn’t need to adjust their patient on every visit. The doctor will measure the function of the autonomic nervous system on every visit and only make an adjustment if they can detect a problem with the diagnostic testing. Many patients go weeks or months without need to be adjusted again.  


What kind of results to patients get?


Once the patient’s autonomic nervous system is able to work normally for long periods of time their chronic symptoms or disease begins to go away… and stops coming back. Many patients are able to get off their medications and their quality of life improves dramatically. The process of recovery takes time and sometimes involves making small changes to diet and lifestyle, but it’s a small price to pay for the long term results and improved quality of life. After all, if you haven’t got your health, what do you really have?