Blog 1: Welcome to a unique and powerful approach to healthcare
Updated: Feb 24, 2021
Dear prospective or current patient,
Welcome to Upper Cervical Specific Chiropractic! I’m going to use today’s blog entry, my very first, to tell you about Upper Cervical Specific – what it is, how it works, how it can help you and also to give you some background on myself and the path that lead me to where I am today.
If you had told me when I was 10 or 15 or even 20, that I’d become a chiropractor, I would have been in total disbelief. I would have known that something in my future was going to go way off script in order for me to take such an unexpected career path, and I would have been very intrigued as to the series of events that would lead me there because honestly, there were few, if any, professions that I considered worse than that of chiropractor. I thought they were the sleeziest, snake-oil salesmen, scum of the earth frauds that there could be. “They’re not even real doctors”, I thought.
A few years later those unexpected events unfolded – in my own despair and against my will, as a famous Greek tragedian so aptly understood – and the lessons learned from the experience have been life-altering. To make a very long story short, on September 3, 2007, I woke up and didn’t feel good. Over the next three weeks, I’d develop 90 percent of all the symptoms I’d suffer with for the next three years – 32 months to be exact. (For a complete list of those symptoms, read the addendum at the end of this post). I visited specialists in Dallas, Houston, Washington DC and Los Angeles but my condition only worsened with time. In May 2010 I found Upper Cervical Specific Chiropractic. I always tell people it’s the last thing I found but the first thing that actually made sense. The only thing that could explain how so many things could go wrong with my health seemingly overnight.
So I made an appointment with a UC Specific doctor in town. She took a series of six x-rays, performed her analytic tests and then proceeded to deliver a light, tight and fast adjustment – no popping, cracking, twisting, pulling or yanking involved. And this part is very important. Had there been, I would not have visited her but even the adjusting style made sense to me. It was so light in fact, I didn’t even think anything had been done and yet as soon as she did it, the nightmare was over. Immediately, I felt what I could only describe at the time as "the life force” come back to me. Symptomatic relief was instant and as the weeks and months passed my health and my life gradually returned to me as we say in UC Specific, “Above Down, Inside Out”. I learned many life lessons from this existential-level crisis and I’m grateful for them. A decade later, here I am in Dallas as a UC Specific practitioner.
The first and most important thing that you must know about UC Specific is that it’s different. Upper Cervical and chiropractic do not treat symptoms, conditions or diseases. The purpose of chiropractic is to restore function. Think about it this way: when an egg falls off a counter and breaks upon impact with the floor, it’s impossible to reverse the laws of physics and mechanically put the egg back together. Similarly, there are billions of physiological reactions that must occur in order for pain, symptoms or conditions to manifest in our body. Treating someone based on how they feel and where they hurt is akin to trying to put the egg back together once it’s broken. It's impossible. If you’re ever going find a real solution to the chronic health conditions that afflict so many of us, the approach has to be principle-based not symptom-based. Otherwise, you're never ahead -- you're always reacting, always behind, always chasing, always at the mercy of what's happening internally. I would say that the notion of restoring function has been lost on our society but it’s hard to lose something most of us have been largely ignorant about, including myself until that fateful day in 2010.
So what is Upper Cervical Specific? UC Specific is based on the premise that when the top two bones of the spine, C1 and C2, misalign they create a neurologic and biomechanical compromise that lead to a state of degenerative health and that by effectively realigning these top two vertebrae, the body is able to return to optimum function. There are several different techniques in the UC Specific world and while we differ on how the vertebrae misalign and how to best put them back in place, our principle is the same and has been the same since B.J. Palmer, the developer of chiropractic, discovered the UC Specific principle in the mid-1920s.
How does this problem occur and who can UC Specific help? This issue affects us all to varying degrees. To date, I’ve yet to find anyone who doesn’t have it. The upper cervical area is very flexible. You’ll notice that there’s a lot of mobility there that we don’t have in the rest of the spine. We can flex our neck to say yes and rotate it to say no and move it around in circles, too. This is made possible by the singular anatomy of that area which is different from that of the rest of the vertebrae beneath and the occiput above. However, this flexibility comes at the expense of stability. Physical traumas, such as the birth process, falls, sports, whiplash auto accidents, etc. and emotional stress as well as toxic intake from a bad diet cause these two bones to misalign and get locked between the head and the rest of the spine. Once this happens, the body can’t unstick them and we’re in trouble. Many times issues don’t appear for months or years after a trauma and so this is a truly insidious, pervasive problem that very few people realize exists and even less can deal with as practitioners.
Now, I should preface anything that I write here by saying that Upper Cervical may help your condition or can help your condition because we get in trouble if we say it’s the solution for anything or that we’re treating a particular symptom. Of course we don’t have to because that’s not how Upper Cervical works. Quite simply, when function is restored, anything and everything that is within the body’s power to remedy, it will.
So let’s address the two major ways that the Upper Cervical Subluxation Complex affects your health – neurologically and biomechanically. Neurologically, the body is controlled by the central nervous system in conjunction with the peripheral nervous system and their various subdivisions. Every cell, organ and system is under the control of the brain. Now think about this. Every single nerve fiber in the body bottlenecks in the upper cervical area as it travels back up into the brain. Any nerve fiber that is being compromised by vertebral pressure will not be able to properly relay afferent and efferent nerve signals to and from the brain causing the regions it innervates to not function properly. And anyone who thinks nerve pressure is not a real thing: think about the time when you’ve hit your funny bone so hard and so right, that it hurts you in the brain and you lose function down your arm for a few seconds. Now imagine a constant, steady pressure or stress or tension on the spinal cord from a locked vertebra not for a fraction of a second but for months and years and decades. You are quite literally getting choked off. But furthermore, when you have a misalignment at this level not only is there pressure on the spinal cord but also an interruption of thermodynamics – mainly of cerebral spinal fluid and blood flow to and from the brain that prevents secretion, delivery and drainage of hormones, neurotransmitters, oxygen, glucose and other nutrients and wastes. Check out the ESPN story on Upper Cervical and retired NFL players on YouTube for more.
The second problem is one of biomechanics. When the vertebrae misalign the head is literally on crooked. However, the brain doesn’t like being that way so it sends signals to the body to compensate in order to remain level. The brain would actually rather have the body in pain than have it fall over. So a muscular adaptation occurs throughout the body. The vertebrae are misaligned and in order to keep the brain straight, one shoulder comes up, one hip comes up, causing one leg to go short. This creates tight, contracted, tonic muscle patterns throughout the back and body. You can massage, adjust, stretch these muscles all day long only for the pain to come back after a short period of time. Once the UC adjustment is made and the compromise is cleared, the muscles relax and rebalance and the body goes into a more ideal adaptation.
So how does the adjustment occur? The goal of a UC doctor is to “clear” the compromise and get out of the patient’s life. Depending on the technique, the UC practitioner takes detailed imaging at the start of care to deliver a customized adjustment particular to that patient's anatomy and at every visit runs a series of examinations that allows him or her to determine whether the vertebrae are in or out of alignment. These tests can include Tytron pattern-analysis, table-based assessments such as Leg Length Inequality, Prill, Cervical Syndrome, Derefield, stress tests and palpatory examinations. If the tests show the bones are in alignment, nothing is done. If the tests are positive, the adjustment is performed. It is just as important to know when to adjust as to when not to adjust. In this way, the patient proceeds through care and receives the benefits of Upper Cervical Specific.
What patients care about is symptom relief, which fortunately usually happens very quickly under UC care. It should be noted that this is not a neck adjustment but instead a full-spine, full-body adjustment given at the neck. The structure of the body changes immediately -- not the day after or in a month but right away. And so while patients often report feeling much better within days, they also report "weird" sensations throughout the body that come and go. This is part of the anatomy both changing the structure and adapting to that change. What UC doctors really care about most is that patients are holding. Because as we say, “holding is healing”. The longer you hold the more you heal and the more you heal, the longer you hold. And that my friends, is reliable, cumulative, long-term, restorative healthcare.
If you’ve read this long, thank you so much. I hope this message resonates with you both on an emotional, heart-based level and on a rational, empirical, scientific level as well. In future posts, I’ll get into the history of UC, where it comes from, why people don’t know about it and of course, the science and neurology of UC as well as a very important topic: what is health?
Of course you're welcome to contact me or visit my office to learn more but you can also research and find a UC office near you across the country or throughout the world. This is the greatest message I could ever share with another human being and I hope I've given you a new perspective on healthcare.
Several people have asked me about my symptoms so I will list them below. Many of these symptoms were diagnosed by medical specialists and the only reason the rest were not is because I simply didn’t get to that particular kind of specialist in time -- otherwise they would have been.
Here are the symptoms I experienced for 32 months and that disappeared under UC care:
1. Headache (every second of every day for 32 months)
2. Dizziness (every second of every day for 32 months)
3. Vestibulocochlear dysfunction
6. Cognitive decline
7. Brain fog
8. Fasciculations (muscle twitching in and around every joint of my body)
9. “Sand-paper” feeling and noise in my neck upon turning
10. Night sweats
11. “Electric shock” feelings throughout my body (these were very frightening and painful)
12. Shallow breathing
13. Early stages of asthma
16. Severe insomnia (never slept and if I did, it was very superficial, this made everything feel at least twice as bad)
17. Segmental dysfunction (hypermobility)
17. Chronic fatigue
18. Neck pain
19. Back pain
20. Severe muscle spasms (the weight of a shirt was enough to cause me to seize up for days)
23. Circulatory issues (left arm turned blue)
24. Restless limbs (arms and legs moved on their own and it was not subtle, this one was very scary as I felt I was not in control of my body)
25. Aches and pains throughout my body (several doctor visits were made during those years due to undisclosed pain in head, groin, etc.)
26. Sleep paralysis (anytime I did sleep, which was never, I had the most vivid, terrifying dreams)
27. Lowered immunity (blood work)
29. Seasonal allergies
And I likely forgot a few. These symptoms are very consistent with a nervous system that is in full fight or flight, sympathetic overdrive, which is what I see most often in patients. There's a bone or two stuck underneath the occiput and the body can't deal with it and goes into a stress response. As a result, sleep, digestion, immunity and other parasympathetic-dominant processes suffer. In other words, it's not time to rest or digest or fight infection when you're trying to run away from a grizzly. All resources go to sympathetic-dominant responses which eventually wears the body down.