Upper Cervical Chiropractic Treatment

upper cervical chiropractic treatment

Did you know that there are subspecialties in the field of chiropractic care? As a person goes to school to become a Doctor of Chiropractic, he or she will run across numerous subspecialties. About 3,500 practitioners have decided to specialize in upper cervical care. What is upper cervical chiropractic treatment? What benefits can you receive from this form of care? Why is it different than the traditional chiropractic treatment? These are the questions that we will answer to help you have a better understanding of this important chiropractic subspecialty.

Table of Contents

What Makes Upper Cervical Chiropractic Treatment Unique?

To understand why you should give this form of chiropractic care a try, it is important to understand what makes it so unique. We are going to address four different ways that upper cervical chiropractic treatment differs from other forms of chiropractic.

  1. Focus – Upper cervical chiropractic treatment focuses on the top two bones in the spine known as the atlas (C1) and the axis (C2). These bones, located at the base of the skull, balance the head, protect the brainstem, and support blood flow to the brain.  

  2. Precision – It uses diagnostic imaging to pinpoint misalignments of the C1 and C2 down to hundredths of a degree. While such a slight misalignment may not make much of a difference in another part of the spine, the unique shape and function of the atlas and axis mean that fractions of a millimeter can have full body effects.

  3. Low force – Because adjustments are so precise, there is no need to jerk and twist the spine until you hear a popping or cracking sound. Adjustments are low force and performed by hand, by adjusting instrument, or with the use of a specialized chiropractic table.

  4. Long-lasting – Precise and gentle adjustments last longer. Since the body naturally moves back into place, it doesn’t immediately start fighting against the adjustment. The corrections are performed “under the radar” so the body has the time it needs to heal. As the soft tissue surround the C1 and C2 stabilizes, the adjustments should hold longer and longer. Therefore, you should be able to spread out appointments and eventually just get occasional adjustments.

What Is Upper Cervical Chiropractic Treatment?

Upper cervical chiropractic treatment starts with detailed patient history. Why is this the case? The practitioner is trying to ascertain how you may have suffered an upper cervical misalignment and what aftereffects you have been experiencing as a result.

Next comes the examination. There are a number of different ways an upper cervical practitioner can discern if you have a misalignment. One major way is called a supine leg check. This involves laying down on your back and allowing the doctor to check the length of your legs. When the legs are different lengths, the issue often goes back to the top two bones in the neck.

Once it is determined that there is a reason to proceed, you will undergo some form of diagnostic imaging, such as 3-D x-rays of the neck or thermography. The misalignment will be calculated using the imaging results. This allows the doctor to form a personalized adjustment for each patient.

Finally, you will receive a gentle adjustment. Sometimes this occurs on the second visit, either to give the practitioner time to do the calculations or because not all insurance companies will cover the examination and the first adjustments on the same visit (assuming your insurance covers chiropractic at all).

What Are the Benefits of Upper Cervical Chiropractic Treatment?

To answer this question, you need to understand what can happen when an upper cervical misalignment exists and is working under the surface. First of all, changes take place in the spine and the soft tissue that surrounds it. The body makes these changes in order to keep the head properly balanced.

As a result, the spine can become stuck in a stressed position where normal wear and tear on the discs between the vertebrae is increased. This, in turn, can result in the early onset of arthritis in the spine. It can also lead to nerve irritation. The pain, numbness, and tingling can spread down the arms and legs. Pain in the neck and back are also possible.

Then there are the effects that come from reduced blood flow to the brain, pressure on the brainstem, and inhibited cerebrospinal fluid drainage. These are factors in a number of different neurological conditions such as migraines and multiple sclerosis. They may also be factors in conditions such as Parkinson’s disease, fibromyalgia, Meniere’s disease, and other chronic syndromes.

If you have ever suffered a head or neck injury, or if you may have injured your neck through repetitive strain, an upper cervical misalignment is possibly at the root of many of your health problems. Therefore, it is vital to have this location of the spine checked by a specialist.

In short, upper cervical chiropractic treatment involves the detection and gentle correction of misalignments in the C1 and C2 vertebrae. Since the effects of these misalignments can be many and varied, it is impossible to know the full benefits a patient will receive until the misalignments are corrected. A practitioner may offer you a no-obligation consultation wherein you can discuss your health problems and history to see if this seems like a viable therapy for you. This will allow you to make an informed decision.

To help you find an upper cervical chiropractor in your area, you can use the search feature on this site to locate our preferred doctors. Schedule a consultation today to learn if upper cervical care can help you to improve your overall health and wellbeing.


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The content and materials provided in this web site are for informational and educational purposes only and are not intended to supplement or comprise a medical diagnosis or other professional opinion, or to be used in lieu of a consultation with a physician or competent health care professional for medical diagnosis and/or treatment. All content and materials including research papers, case studies and testimonials summarizing patients' responses to care are intended for educational purposes only and do not imply a guarantee of benefit. Individual results may vary, depending upon several factors including age of the patient, severity of the condition, severity of the spinal injury, and duration of time the condition has been present.