Dr Drew Hall

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Upper Cervical Care: Technique and Treatment

Posted in Upper Cervical Technique on Sep 27, 2017

Upper cervical care is a type of chiropractic care that differs from traditional chiropractic. Upper cervical chiropractic care is a subset within the chiropractic profession that focuses on the most critical part of the nervous system – the upper neck – in a very specific manner.

There is no twisting or cracking of the neck. All upper cervical techniques use precise methods of adjusting the upper neck. Most upper cervical techniques use adjusting procedures where you remain positioned on your side in a neutral posture.

Upper cervical techniques include Atlas Orthogonal, Blair, EPIC, Grostic, Orthospinology, National Upper Cervical Chiropractic Association (NUCCA) and Toggle Recoil. Upper cervical treatments can be delivered by hand, or hand-held and table-mounted instruments.

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When receiving an upper cervical treatment, you may barely feel the adjustment itself because of how painless, gentle and non-invasive the adjustments are. What you will certainly experience is a dramatic difference in the effects of the adjustment. 

To understand the niche of upper cervical chiropractic care, it’s helpful to review the general focus of chiropractic. Chiropractic is a healthcare profession based on the premise that misalignments of the spine can alter the regular transmission of nerve impulses which can reduce your body’s ability to work effectively. 

Chiropractic uses spinal adjustments to correct the misalignments and restore normal nerve transmission. This allows your body to recuperate on its own. Chiropractic does not treat conditions, only the body. This makes chiropractic a natural approach to health and well-being that helps your body to heal naturally without the use of drugs and surgery. 

To understand the significance of upper cervical care, let’s see why the upper cervical region is important. The cervical spine refers to the neck. Upper cervical means upper neck.  The top cervical bone that is nearest to the skull is called C1, or atlas – it is the smallest bone in the spine.  

The second bone in the neck is called C2, or axis – it fits into the ring-shaped atlas above it and allows the skull and atlas to rotate around it. Atlas and axis together are commonly referred to as the upper cervical spine. Between the atlas and axis pass a critical portion of the central nervous system called the brainstem. The brainstem controls and coordinates virtually all your body’s vital functions. 

The upper cervical spine also has the following unique qualities:

  • Most vulnerable to injuries because it is highly mobile to allow movement of the head. That makes these 2 bones the most common to misalign. 
  • Supports the 10-12 pound head (weight of a bowling ball)
  • Does not have any intervertebral discs that absorb shocks and stabilize the spine
  • Has much more proprioceptive fibers (perception of your body in space) than anywhere else in your body
  • The muscles that move the region are more precise and smaller
  • Atlas is the only vertebra that cannot self-correct itself because the all of its nerve supply is impaired when it misaligns, whereas the muscles that hold the rest of the spine below have multiple nerve supplies. 



When your head is “off center,” or in other words, when your head is not “on straight,” it can cause a myriad of health problems over time.  Even a slight misalignment can lead to changes in your central nervous system function by disrupting or interfering with the communication – both back and forth – between your brain and body.

When the atlas misaligns, 3 major things occur:

  1. It tilts your head slightly off balance and alters your head’s center of gravity. Since your brain doesn’t like to look at the world crooked, it tries to correct for it: this is called the Righting Reflex (the reflex to keep your head level). As a result, the soft tissues, muscles and the rest of your spine will shift to compensate and hold you upright against gravity. As the rest of the body shifts to compensate for the altered head position, you may experience tighter muscles on one side of the body, postural distortion, balance issues, pain, and countless other problems due to interference of messages to organs and tissues. 
  2. It can obstruct cerebrospinal fluid flow and blood flow to the head resulting in a form of brain congestion. 
  3. Nerve irritation to the brainstem can affect nearly all vital body functions and systems. It can also negatively affect physical, emotional and even mental performance. 



For these reasons, upper cervical care specifically assesses misalignments as small as 1 millimeter in your upper cervical spine. Upper cervical care restores body balance and reactivates the body’s natural healing ability.

Here are some ways that upper cervical treatments are different from traditional chiropractic treatment plans. 



  1. You won’t receive upper cervical treatment without x-rays. Part of the precision in upper cervical care is to analyze and measure the unique anatomy of your upper neck in relation to your head. The formation of your bones and joints are as unique to you as your fingerprints are. The specific way the bones of your upper neck misalign are also unique to your history. So, a precise adjustment cannot be accurately crafted without detailed x-rays taken by all upper cervical techniques
  2. Your nervous system function will be measured at every visit. All upper cervical techniques use objective tests to measure your nerve function, such as bilateral spinal skin temperature regulation (thermography), postural asymmetry, muscle tone assessment, and functional leg length inequality. Upper cervical techniques utilize these various objective tests to determine whether you need an adjustment or not. 
  3. You won’t receive an adjustment at every visit. The goal of upper cervical care is to adjust the misaligned segment in your upper neck back into proper position and to leave it alone. Upper cervical treatments are designed to retrain and support the spine to maintain its proper position over time so that your body can naturally heal and remedy the imbalances. With traditional chiropractic systems, multiple adjustments over many visits may be expected and delivered. On the contrary, upper cervical techniques believe that “holding” the upper neck alignment correction after an adjustment is more important than receiving it.
  4. You will have less frequent visits. You will likely receive more frequent adjustments when you first begin upper cervical treatment plan because the neck muscles may have the tendency to pull the corrected segment back to abnormal position due to the length of time your head and neck have been misaligned. However, over time, your visits should occur less often as the muscles that support your head and neck alignment regain strength in the correct position. With upper cervical care, our goal is not to adjust. Rather, our goal is to provide periodic checkups to ensure your correct head and neck alignment is being maintained. This means that your head, spine and pelvis are all in a stable and balanced position. Once the spine is in a stable holding position, many upper cervical care patients maintain their correction for weeks, months or even years at a time. When this occurs, the entire nervous system begins to function optimally and the body can begin a process of long-term recovery and healing. 
  5. Your upper neck adjustment will always be gentle and safe. Upper cervical treatments are about delivering a gentle adjustment to re-align the head and neck into balance. Upper cervical care does not involve forceful twisting, popping or cracking of the neck that is commonly thought to be associated with chiropractic care. Most upper cervical techniques use a gentle touch to the side of the neck, just below the ear where the top bone of your neck is located. Due to the precision of the adjustment based on vectors taken from specific x-rays views, only a minimal and light force is necessary to move the misalignment vertebra back into place. relieve pressure off the brainstem and any stress on your nervous system to allow proper body function. This in
  6. Your upper neck adjustment will affect the rest of your spine. Upper cervical treatments only involve adjustments of the upper neck. When the upper neck is properly aligned, the head is re-balanced and pressure is removed from the brainstem. This restores proper communication between the brain and the rest of the body, including restoration of postural balance over time. The guiding principle of upper cervical care is that the natural healing systems within your body should be given every opportunity to function with minimal interference by outside forces, including by chiropractors.



Upper cervical care is a radically different and often overlooked approach to healthcare. Upper cervical treatments address the cause of the health problem and not the problem. The body’s natural healing mechanism is the main way that any healing process occurs within us.

Upper cervical care can aid in the powerful healing process that your body is already designed to go through to combat disease, sickness and any other problems you have in any part of your body. 

Blair upper cervical chiropractic is one of the upper cervical techniques. Blair technique is unique among other techniques in that it considers the asymmetries in your body to individualized care that is specific to your body’s needs.