The Atlas Orthogonal Procedure
An Atlas Orthogonal Specialist has specialized, post-graduate training in the structure, function and biomechanics of the upper cervical spine. The A. O. Technique (Atlas Orthogonal) is a safe, effective and gentle program utilizing precision treatment without drugs, surgery or spinal manipulation.
After a thorough history and examination, Dr. Schuster will seek out the misalignment of the Atlas (the top vertebrae in the cervical spine) by careful X-ray analysis, palpation (physical examination) of the nerves in the upper neck and measuring the length of the patient's legs. A misalignment in this area can cause the body structure to become unbalanced and result in muscle contractions that result in one leg appearing to be shorter than the other.
Atlas Orthogonal is a chiropractic procedure that treats head and neck pain without the use of manual manipulation and the "popping and cracking" that is usually associated with chiropractic. Atlas Orthogonal, or AO, is a specialized field within chiropractic. Within this specialty there are less than 250 board certified doctors in the United States.
Atlas Orthogonal has been clinically proven in the treatment of:
- Neck Pain
- Herniated "Slipped" Disc
- Arm Pain & Numbness
- Shoulder Tension
- Hypertension *1
- Whiplash *2
*1 G. Bakris et al. Atlas vertebra realignment and achievement of arterial pressure goal in hypertensive patients: a pilot study, J Human Hypertension (2007) 21, 347-352.
*2 J. Carleton et al. Resolution of Cervical Complications Secondary to Motor Vehicle Accidents by the Application of Stereotactic Cervical Alignment (SCALE) Methods Statistical Review of 54 Patients. J Whiplash & Related Dis 2006: (5)1:15-24.
What Is The Atlas And Why Is It So Important To Me?
The atlas is the bone at the top of the spine. It supports the weight of the skull, which on average weighs between 9 and 14 lbs.; the weight of a bowling ball. It connects your skull to the rest of your spine and allows a passage for the spinal cord pass through. The vertebral arteries pass through the sides of the Atlas and supply the back 1/3 of the brain with blood. Above and below the atlas are the first and second cervical nerves. These nerves continue out from the back part of the upper neck and supply the back part of the skull, head, and neck.
When all is in alignment, the skull is supported with little to no stress to the joints and discs below. There is no nerve irritation, and there is normal blood flow through the vertebral arteries to the brain and brainstem.
What Happens When I Have An Atlas Misalignment?
When the spine which is out of alignment or out of balance it is unstable. Living with an unstable spine secondary to trauma or injury will place abnormal pressure on the joints, ligaments, tendons, and nerves. Some of the most common disorders seen are:
|3. Disc herniation
|5. Pain in the shoulder and/or shoulder blades
|6. Arm pain and/or paresthesia (numbness or tingling)
|7. Facet syndrome
|8. Thoracic outlet syndrome
What is all this talk about the curve in the neck?
Your neck is a one curve system. The cervical curve in is designed to absorb the maxim amount of force while still allowing the most range of motion.
When the atlas is out of alignment, you essentially have two (sometimes three) curves in a one curve system.
If left untreated, excessive stress and strain is placed on the joints, discs, nerves, and muscles. This sets the stage for early degeneration, arthritis, disc herniation, among many other spinal disorders; many of which are irreversible. The most common cause of an Atlas misalignment and neck instability is trauma.
|Abnormal loss of curve with slight
reversal. (This particular x-ray is
from a rear end car crash)
Trauma comes in two categories:
- Traumatic; such as an automobile crash, a fall, or sports injury
- Postural; such as bad work ergonomics or poor posture
When misalignment of the Atlas occurs, the head begins to tilt. The body then reacts to this by automatically trying to straighten the head while keeping it centered over the feet. This instinctive search for a return to body balance causes a great deal of stress on the spine, the spinal cord, and the vertebral arteries.
Stress on the spine will not only cause pain, but will also lead to instability. An unstable spine is more susceptible to injury. Common injuries are disc herniation, muscle pulls, stretching of ligaments, and whiplash. Injuries that are not treated or inappropriately treated will cause early degeneration and chronic pain.
Stress on the spinal cord is a more serious problem because the injury is now affecting the nerves. Nerve irritation at the top part of the neck causes headaches and facial pain. Nerve irritation in the rest of the spine causes generalized back pain and can also cause shooting pain down the arms and legs. If the nerve irritation is left untreated chronic pain, nerve damage, and muscle weakness will develop.
Stress on the vertebral arteries can cause serious symptoms as well. The vertebral arteries supply blood to the back 1/3 of the brain and spinal cord. The important structures are the brainstem and cerebellum. The slightest change in blood flow to the brain can cause a wide variety of symptoms. The most common symptoms are migraine, vertigo, balance problems, hypertension, and general fatigue.
How Does A Doctor Know If An Atlas Misalignment in Present?
To properly establish if an Atlas misalignment is present, the doctor must perform a thorough evaluation. This consists of a detailed history, neurological and orthopedic examination, and X-rays.
The history will help the doctor understand your condition. The key elements that are discovered are what caused your condition, how long has it been present, and how does it affect your life.
Neurological examination will show the doctor the extent of nerve irritation present. This will consist of a cranial nerve evaluation, sensory evaluation, and muscle strength evaluation.
The orthopedic examination evaluates the joints in your spine. If a misalignment is present, the doctor will find joint instability, a loss of range of motion, and a postural imbalance.
Specialized X-Ray analysis is the foundation of the Atlas Orthogonal procedure. This will show your how your Atlas has misaligned and what must be done for correction.
What Must Be Done To Correct An Atlas Misalignment?
How your misalignment is corrected is where Atlas Orthogonal differs from conventional chiropractic. No forceful manipulation, cracking or popping is used. The analysis of your X-Rays identifies how your Atlas has misaligned down to the degree and millimeter. More importantly, it also identifies how it must be moved back in place to your relieve symptoms.
This correction is done with the use of a table mounted instrument. The treatment is so gentle that most patients say they don't feel anything at all. Once a correction is made, a post X-Ray is taken to verify that your Atlas has returned to its normal position.
How Long Does It Take?
Because of the precise nature of the Atlas Orthogonal procedure, less treatments is usually required. A rule of thumb for most conditions is: The length of time to correct a condition depends on how severe and how long it has been present. Most people will notice an improvement within 24 hours of the first treatment.
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