• What Makes the Atlas Vertebra Special?

    on Feb 13th, 2018

Bearing the weight of your head, the Atlas vertebra and its alignment are critical to the health of your entire spine, yet many people are wary of conventional chiropractic adjustments to the neck. Dr. John Pinto of Advanced Wellness of Westfield describes the gentle, pop-free Atlas orthogonal adjustment technique.

What Makes the Atlas Vertebra Special?

In Greek mythology, the Titan Atlas was condemned to bear the weight of the sky on his shoulders. Likewise, the Atlas vertebra bears the entire weight of your head. At about 10 pounds, that’s a substantial load for a single bone, and not only is carrying your head an important task, all communications between the brain and body pass through the spinal cord, which passes through the middle of the Atlas vertebra. The vertebral arteries also intertwine through the Atlas, making it a prime piece of your skeletal real estate.

As such a critical juncture in your body, the alignment of the Atlas vertebra is crucial to the overall efficiency of your musculoskeletal system. It has a domino effect on the other vertebrae, positive or negative, depending on its balance. As a chiropractor, I recognize how important the Atlas is to spinal health, so using the Atlas orthogonal adjustment technique is a common procedure at Advanced Wellness of Westfield. Here’s why.

The Atlas vertebra and posture

Perhaps there’s no place where the negative domino effect of the Atlas vertebra is more obvious than with posture. When your skull and the Atlas aren’t in even alignment, the weight of your head isn’t centered in a balanced way over the axis of your spine.

This shifts the center of gravity of your body, and now all the bones of your spine share part of the re-balancing that’s needed to compensate for the Atlas misalignment. This is on top of the normal range of functions these bones have. There’s no longer a straight and perpendicular distribution of mass through your body. Stress loads are no longer balanced, and you may be bearing your body’s weight unevenly between the left and right sides.

Spinal building blocks

Unlike building a house, from foundation to roof, your spine’s foundation is at the top, at the Atlas vertebra. Consider a patient with lower back pain. They may come to see me for relief, and wonder why I work on their neck, when their pain is near the buttocks.

In many cases, the disruption that’s causing the pain in their lower back is due to the unbalanced posture resulting from Atlas misalignment. I could work exclusively on the lower back, performing adjustments to balance alignment in the lumbar region. However, even if that’s successful, without correcting the Atlas vertebra issue, the same stresses remain on the spine, and lower back pain is likely to return.

The importance of force

Even experienced chiropractic patients can be uneasy about neck adjustments, yet they wonder if the gentle nature of the Atlas orthogonal tool is effective. Understanding the nature of force, as defined in terms of physics, explains how such a gentle technique delivers precise and effective results.

Force, in physics, equals mass times acceleration. In conventional chiropractic adjustments, a large mass – me, the chiropractor – moving rather slowly can create the force of about 40 pounds necessary to adjust the Atlas vertebra. However, my hands are a certain size, and the direction of applied force is wide. This results in the typical sensations of a conventional adjustment that often produce the cracking sounds of nitrogen bubbles being released. These are welcomed by some patients but dreaded by others.

Atlas orthogonal technique

The Atlas orthogonal tool uses a small weight that’s spring-loaded and accelerated much faster than my hands during a typical adjustment. A small weight at great acceleration can impart the same force as a large weight with slower acceleration. Additionally, the Atlas orthogonal tool delivers force along a narrow and well-controlled angle, so its force is delivered much more efficiently than by conventional techniques. That’s why patients say the procedure “tickles,” and no nitrogen crack or pop results.

With an effective and gentle way to restore Atlas alignment, I can address the foundation of your spine’s balance. While Atlas orthogonal adjustments effectively treat neck and shoulder pain, this technique is essential to restore balance throughout your entire spine. Call or click to make an appointment to see me at Advanced Wellness of Westfield.

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