Quest for Health
As you probably know, I’m on a quest for wellness. I didn’t realize that one step in the right direction could be such a gentle nudge on a bone at the top of my spine.
This part of my quest started after searching for answers after my daughter experienced a crunch of a neck trauma two years ago when she took a fall while cheerleading. She had the regular x-rays and an emergency room visit and was told she just needed to wait out the stiffness.
Fast forward two years, and she was struggling at school and having many migraines and daily headaches. A guidance counselor noticed a big change in her grades between middle and high school, which was the summer she fell. Coincidently I was working with a student who was trained as a chiropractic assistant and had suffered her own head injury. As we chatted about head injuries, she mentioned that seeing a upper cervical chiropractor might be a good idea for my daughter.
I searched online to find a NUCCA practitioner and found Dr. Christopher Dawson in Portsmouth NH. There are only 400 practitioners in the country, so we are fortunate to be so close.
We went and found out all about the atlas bone at the top of your spine and how important the alignment of that bone is. Your brain stem runs through the middle of it and your head is balanced on top of it. If this bone is out of alignment it can cause friction on the nerves, blood flow and brainstem and can cause all sorts of pain and symptoms in the body.
A Gentle Approach
After a quick examination and some X-rays it was found that my daughter did indeed have a misalignment of her atlas cervical bone, (the one that sits at the top of your spine and holds your head up). Within the hour, she was successfully and painlessly adjusted and has been pain and migraine free since.
An upper cervical chiropractor is not a regular chiropractor (which I’m a little scared of) but they are a specialized sub group…. As explained on webmd
The subtle adjustment is practiced by the very small subgroup of chiropractors certified in National Upper Cervical Chiropractic (NUCCA) techniques. The procedure employs precise measurements to determine a patient’s Atlas vertebra alignment. If realignment is deemed necessary, the chiropractor uses his or her hands to gently manipulate the vertebra. “We are not doctors. We are spinal engineers,” Dickholtz says. “We use mathematics, geometry, and physics to learn how to slide everything back into place.”
It’s an epidemic.
It turns out my my head isn’t on straight either. I’m not the only one though.
So think back, how many falls have you had?
How many times have you tripped or jarred your body while stepping off a curb?
Most of the time you are going to brush these off as non events. If you are like me however, you might suffer from a series of symptoms that might be indicative of a misalignment of the atlas bone.
A couple of the falls and bumps that I’ve experienced
- I got hit by a car at 11, I flew backwards and hit the pavement with my back and head. I recovered
- At about 7, I fell off a wall and landed smack in the middle of my forehead. I recovered
- As an adult I was embarrassed when I toppled off my bike while at a standstill. I jammed my head sideways against a car door on the way down. I got over it.
- Then, two years ago I was hit again by a car. This time I was on my bike. We were the only two people on the road on a beautiful September morning. An ambulance ride. After that I ended up in the cath lab for a second go around.
- A few weeks ago I slipped on a rug and fell at my friends house.
Is this particularly clumsy? Do any of these make you cringe? Do you have your own memories? You may want to rethink that brush off? They are the lifetime of falls that involve a little neck trauma each time.
Suspicious that I may still suffer from those traumas I decided to make my own appointment with Dr. Dawson. I have a few rare diagnoses and finding an underlying cause is elusive. I’m thinking that a misalignment could be something that could throw the body off balance and over the long term could cause damage and misfiring of various systems in the body, including hormone, nervous and immune functions.
In the examination Dr Dawson could tell one of my legs was shorter than the other and according to his scales that measure the weight distribution across each side of your body, I was favoring my left side by 11 lbs. X-rays showed that my head was not on straight at all, by 8 degrees. An 8 degree offset from normal is about the worst that he sees. He said he only sees one or two new patients a month with such a discrepancy.
Part of the brainstem extends through the atlas bone, and a misalignment can cause inflammation and pressure on this portion of your brain. Messages from the body don’t get through to the brain as easily and vice versa. The angle also causes your body to misalign, one side of the body compensates and holds more weight as the muscles on the other side contract and give you a functional shorter leg.
An easy painless adjustment with a small machine that put pressure on the bone and moved it back into alignment was all it took. There was no pain, and no “crack yer bones” type adjustment. Afterwards, I stepped immediately back on the scales and my body weight was already even on each side of my body. My legs had evened out. I lay in a darkened room on an anti gravity chair for about 20 minutes just to alleviate the weight off the bone and to let my body adjust. Then I was on my way.
The body after an adjustment enters a period of self-healing so there are some side effects to watch for, but I didn’t experience anything too crazy. I walked slightly differently, but by the end of the day all the pain I had been feeling, which I attributed to the inflammation in my descending aorta, was gone and hasn’t returned this week. The adjustment was checked after 4 days and in my case it had held, my body didn’t reegress back to the misalignment. This is the case for about 50 % of the patients he sees.
I am so hopeful that this is going to help with the management of the inflammation that is behind the issues I have with my vasculitis of the aorta. I know that Dr. Dawson is going to be a part of my self-care from now on.
If you are curious and have some issues you’d like to resolve I hope this helps.
For a full list of nucca (national upper cervical chiropractic association) go to
For a scientific perspective you can read on WebMD about a study that showed patients experienced on average a 14 pt drop in blood pressure after receiving an adjustment.