The Atlas Orthogonal chiropractic technique, often abbreviated AO, is a specialty within the field of chiropractic that focuses on the upper cervical region. Even more specifically, practitioners of the Atlas Orthogonal technique concentrate on the Atlas vertebrae – the very first bone in the neck. Their goal is to make the Atlas bone orthogonal (or exactly perpendicular) to the skull. This is where the approach gets its name.
The premise behind AO is that the first bone – the atlas – is central to the alignment of the remainder of the column. Imagine a marching band where the first member is out of position. All the other band members position themselves relative to the first member. When the first member is out of place, the entire band is out of formation. This is a crude analogy to explain the critical role played by the atlas in directing the alignment of the other vertebrae.
And, it’s not hard to imagine how the atlas may be out of alignment. The rather light atlas (it weighs about 2 ounces) supports the weight of the human head (which weighs about 9 to 17 pounds). Imagine the head as a golf ball and the atlas as the top of a golf tee. The small tee is best able to support the weight of the golf ball on top when it is straight up and down. The atlas can become misaligned as a result of chronic poor standing or sitting posture, an awkward sleeping position or improper lifting. These are all examples of gradual processes. The atlas can also be jarred out of alignment by an auto accident, bad fall, or a blow to the head.
When the atlas is out-of-alignment (non-orthogonal), the body will compensate in other ways to keep the heavy head centered over your feet. The other spinal vertebrae and the muscles in your neck, torso and lower back will alter their normal position and function in response (just like the marching band reacting to the position of the first member). Now you’ve created a situation where there may be excessive pressure on certain nerves, muscle spasms and tissue inflammation which can cause pain and dysfunction in other areas of the body.
Hopefully you are starting to see why the Atlas Orthogonist focuses so intently on the atlas. A problem with the atlas alignment can manifest in many other distant places and cause a multitude of problems.
So how does the AO chiropractor restore the proper position of the atlas? By carefully evaluating each patient’s precise atlas position and then programming an instrument to deliver a precise percussive wave to reposition the atlas. First, an AO-trained chiropractor will take very detailed x-rays that can map the exact position of your atlas. The tilt and rotation of your atlas are as unique to you as your own fingerprints. Second, an instrument programmed with your exact settings will deliver a painless vibration to the affected area. There is no twisting or cracking. Since the adjustment is custom-programmed for you it can be simultaneously very gentle and very effective. Some patients that have had traditional chiropractic will often walk away from their first AO treatment thinking that nothing has be accomplished because an AO adjustment is barely felt by the patient.
Montel Williams is an excellent example of how a seemingly unrelated problem can be helped DRAMATICALLY! See Montel Williams on youtube
Here’s an example of a recent success in the office:
After having used the new technique…I am totally impressed. I suffered from chronic neck pain and lower back pain. Along with migraines. At times this has been very debilitating and painful. Since starting this new treatment, I have noticed that my pain has decreased considerably in my neck and back. Migraines have diminished in numbers without the biting severe pain that I would experience. Medications are minimal. I finally feel like I am making some progress and will soon feel much better. Something I’ve longed for, for years!! –Patricia Foster (signature on file)
This article is just a brief introduction to the Atlas Orthogonal technique. When you visit our office, you’ll be able to get answers to all your questions. And after an exam, we’ll be able to talk with you in detail about whether you can benefit from atlas adjustment that has helped tens of thousands regain their spinal health.