As an Atlas Chiropractor, I want to share with you some valuable information that I believe is the key to your success with Upper Cervical Care. In this article, I'm going to address a few FAQ-type things I am commonly asked. I am also going to share with you our office protocols in how we address each of these questions.
At some point in your Upper Cervical Care, I promise you, this question is going to cross your mind. Either you are going to ask these questions, or someone is going to ask them for you:
- “Why am I still coming in when I feel better and you aren’t adjusting me?”
- “Why am I coming for a 5-minute checkup when you don’t adjust me?”
- “Why do I still have to come in so frequently?”
- “Why don’t I just come back when I feel like I’m out of adjustment?”
- "What happens when my adjustment slips?"
These are all common and legitimate questions. Understandably, the answers are easy to understand when you don’t feel well, and much harder when you do! Allow me to walk you through the process of why we recommend the care protocols that we do.
#1 - "Why Am I Still Coming In When I Feel Better and You Aren’t Adjusting Me?"
In brief, the purpose of an adjustment is to properly align the vertebrae in your upper neck, which allows your nervous system to work more optimally. When your adjustment is stable (i.e., in place or “holding”), your health is moving forwards. However, when your adjustment slips (misaligns), you start to go backward again.
The ultimate goal of an atlas chiropractor is to adjust you only once so that you will make an uninterrupted march straight back to optimal health. In our modern world with phones and computers, a “hole in one” adjustment is exceptionally rare!
The healing process usually requires several corrections as your body heals. The kicker is that it is impossible to predict for any person exactly how long their individual adjustment will hold in place. For some people, their first adjustment holds for 2 months: for others, only 2 days.
The only way to know how long your own adjustment holds is to check. In other words, we must perform tests that measure the health of your nervous system to see if you are actually improving.
#2 - “Why am I coming for a 5-minute checkup when you don’t adjust me?”
General practitioners use blood tests to measure body chemistry. Cardiologists use ECG to measure heart health. As an atlas chiropractor, I use thermography (and soon a tool called Heart Rate Variability, or HRV) to measure the health of your nervous system.
Unlike many health practitioners, who reassess your health condition every 3-12 months, we perform these tests every single time that you come into the office to measure your health progress on a day-to-day basis. Paraspinal Thermography Using the Tytron Instrument - By analyzing these lines, I can read the activity of your nervous system.
As simple as these tests are, there is not a DIY version or mobile app that you can use at home. If it was possible, I would teach you how to take your own measurements, show you how to send the data via email, and then I could read your results in the comfort of my own home.
That would save you the trouble of coming into the office, and I would only need to contact you when your measurements show that you need an adjustment. Until such time, the only solution is to take these measurements for you in person.
Although the test takes only a few seconds to complete, it has taken me 15 years to be able to interpret your results that quickly. I fully appreciate the inconvenience of setting aside 30-60 minutes from your schedule for a 5-minute appointment. However, at the same time, I know that the effort will pay off for you in the long run. The investment is worth it! I’m going to share with you a “secret." Right here, this is the true key to how Upper Cervical care works:
The way that Upper Cervical Care works is Not in Adjusting: it’s in Not Adjusting.
What this means is that the majority of the time when you come for a checkup I will not be adjusting you. And that is a sign of your progress! (In fact, if an atlas chiropractor needs to adjust you every time that you come in, something is seriously wrong).
I realize that this is very different from most chiropractic clinics, but this is one of the major ways that an atlas chiropractor is so different from a general chiropractor. My goal is to allow your own body to do the majority of the healing work - for you to get stronger - so that you not need my services every few weeks for the rest of your life.
If you understand this principle - that when your body is doing the work, I don’t have to! - your happiest days will be when I tell you that I don’t need to adjust you. That is the reason you need to do the tests: it is to know the difference. And especially when you are feeling well, it is to safeguard your health so that you do not fall into the “pain cycle,” which I will describe shortly.
#3 - “Why Do I Have to Come in So Frequently to the Atlas Chiropractor?”
The best protocol to discover exactly how long your own adjustment can hold is to keep an exceptionally close eye on your healing progress in the beginning. That means checking your nervous system to be certain that it is or is not working optimally.
The way that we start is by doing a checkup for you twice a week. In this way, we will be certain that your health is moving forwards. Then, if/when the problem re-appears, we are able to adjust you again before you start going backward. What we look for is when your adjustment is stable for three straight weeks.
When you reach this milestone, then we know you are ready to extend these checkups to once per week; then once per fortnight; and then once per month and beyond. By following this protocol, we will discover how long your body is able to hold your adjustments, and then tailor your care program based on what you actually need.
Although this protocol is easy to understand when you aren’t feeling well, it hard to remember when you feel better. For example, I haven’t adjusted you for a month, you’re going to wonder why I’m still advising you have a checkup once per week.
To use an analogy, it is for the same reason that an engineer who designs an elevator to carry 1000Kg makes sure that it can actually carry 3000Kg. The reason that engineers over-do things like this is to safeguard against any probable catastrophe.
Similarly, by “over-engineering” your care program, I am safeguarding your recovery. I want to ensure that you do not lose any momentum during the healing process if your adjustment slips by even a few days! I also want to ensure that your body heals strong so that you will not suffer a relapse in the future, which would mean starting the process all over again. In other words, we do what it takes to ensure that you will keep the progress you make.
#4 - “Why don’t I just come back when I feel like I’m out of adjustment? Won’t I know when I need an adjustment?”
Maybe. Maybe not. As your health improves, many people describe increased body awareness. In other words, they develop a better sense of when there is something wrong with their nervous system and that they need to take action.
In reality, this sense was always there! However, during the course of their decade-long free-fall, they stopped listening to the subtle signs their body was attempting to communicate. The rule of thumb is that you take the first digit of your age, and then allow your body that may days to self-correct the problem (assuming it is not severe or a medical emergency).
For example, if you are 40 years old, give your body 4 days to self-correct any issue you are experiencing. However, if that does not happen, you are deluding yourself to believe that the problem will go away on its own. It won’t! Even if your symptoms do go away, it is because your brain stopped processing the information … and now you are back on your way into the pain cycle.
Your symptoms are there to guide you if you know how to listen. However, there are times also when you cannot go by feel alone. Even people with extraordinary body awareness do not sense everything. Much like you cannot feel plaque between your teeth, you also cannot feel certain problems with your nerves: specifically, the nerves that coordinate the activities of your internal organs that have no pain receptors at all!
This is the purpose of preventative, maintenance, or wellness care with an atlas chiropractor. Although the dental analogy holds well, there is one key difference: unlike your teeth, your spine is designed to move. As a result, it is subject to additional stresses that require more regular maintenance.
In my opinion, the minimum entry point to maintenance is a monthly checkup, but I prefer it when you only need a checkup once every 3 months, 6 months, or year! Very few people ever reach that level on account of the joys and challenges of our modern world. However, that remains the ultimate goal.
The healthier your diet, the more regular your exercise, the better your sleep, and the better you manage your stress, the better your adjustment will hold, the better your nervous system will work, and the better your life will be.
#5 - What Happens When My Adjustment Slips?
The way that people behave keeps them stuck in the Pain Cycle.
To summarise thus far, we custom-tailor your care program based on your needs; and when we discover what your nervous system is capable of doing on its own, we take quantum leaps forwards in a way that will allow you to improve and maintain your health far above-and-beyond the point when you first sought care.
Unfortunately, many people are caught in the “pain cycle.” The loss of your health is not an event. It is a free-fall from 13,000 feet (4000m) that occurs over months, years, or decades. In free-fall, you feel “just fine” until you crash painfully and dramatically to planet earth.
Once there, you make extraordinary efforts with your atlas chiropractor, general chiropractor, physiotherapist, nutritionist, and personal trainer to get back to feeling well again.
Somewhere along the way, however, you drift back into the old habit - or your adjustment slips - and because you still “feel fine” you don’t do anything about it … that is, until you come crashing back to earth again. This is the pain cycle that you must break if you want to me as well as you can be. If you rebuild your free-fall buffer back to 13,000 feet, wouldn’t that allow you to be so much better than just above the pain line, where any little misstep causes you to crash down again?
Why settle for just “feeling fine” if you can be so much more than that? We believe it is possible to break the pain cycle and to build your health buffer stronger than ever before. And as we said before, an essential part of the process requires that your spine is properly aligned and that your nervous system is working at full capacity.
What this requires is the discovery: ie, if your adjustment slips when you are 1,000 feet above the crash point, we catch it quickly before you experience any issues again, adjust you, and then watch as you start going up to 2,000 feet (and so forth).
Does this investment require time and money? You’re darn right it does, and in the same breath, we know this: the cost of the pain cycle in terms of time and money - ie, putting Humpty Dumpty back together again every time he falls down - is way longer, way harder, and way, way more expensive.
To conclude and to answer the original question, “Why am I still coming in when I feel better and you aren’t adjusting me?” it is because my goal for you is to excel in your health and your life. I do not want to see you running from one crisis to the next for years on end.
I want to see you live your life to the fullest! The choice is always yours. You can lay guessing games with your health, bury your head in the sand, and hope for the best. Or you can know the truth, make wise decisions, and take constructive action that will ensure the best. I hope you do!
About the Author - The Atlas Chiropractor for Brisbane
Dr. Jeffrey Hannah is the only Advanced Blair Certified Atlas Chiropractor in Australia. He has been in private practice in North Lakes (north Brisbane) for 10 years. He specializing in the relationship between the upper neck and the nervous system, helping people who have a wide range of health disorders and have been to many other health practitioners without success.
He is also a university lecturer and teaches Upper Cervical care domestically and internationally. For more information about how an atlas chiropractor may be able to help you, please contact us at 07 3188 9329.