How Do I Hold The Adjustment?
By Dr. Jason Slagel | December 12th, 2022
The NUCCA adjustment requires incredibly light pressure. The specificity from our measurements, the anatomy around the Atlas bone, and the skill level of the adjuster allows for this to be the case. This can sometimes be a difficult thing for a new patient to wrap their mind around. We often hear questions like, “with such a gentle adjustment, how can I expect it to stay there? You barely even touched me, what is going to keep me from losing my correction? What is going to stop me from going right back out of alignment?”
In order to understand how the adjustment can stay in the correct position, we first must understand how it can be so delicate. The light pressure of the adjustment is possible because of the unique anatomy of the head and neck. There are no bony, interlocking joints above or below the Atlas (the top bone in the neck) and there are no discs above or below. All the other vertebrae in the spine have bones and discs above and below them providing stability for the joints. If it weren’t for the unique anatomy around the Atlas bone, the NUCCA adjustment would never work. If we did the NUCCA adjustment anywhere in the thoracic or lumbar spine, we wouldn’t move a thing. If we did the NUCCA correction on any neck vertebra below C1, we would not change their positions at all. Our NUCCA adjustment only works because of the special anatomy in the Atlas area.
Unlike the other spinal segments, the Atlas gets its stability from soft tissue. Muscles and ligaments hold the Atlas in place. Therefore, we have so much more mobility around the Atlas than we do in any other segment of the spine, and this is also why it is so common to have an Atlas misalignment from any amount of physical trauma.
The goal of the NUCCA correction is to align the head and neck where the brain stem is located. This is done by using the Atlas as a lever between the head and neck. Aligning the Atlas is important because it can be measured with pre and post x-rays, but it is just the means to accomplish a specific goal of removing interference with the brain stem. If we do this correctly, the brain stem will be in its most neutral position, thus allowing for communication to flow freely from the brain to the body and from the body to the brain, unimpeded.
Your brainstem controls all your bodily processes on a millisecond-to-millisecond basis; there is no memory in the brainstem. It operates with a constant input and output mechanism. Your brainstem has no memory of how you used to stand crooked or how poorly you used to sleep. Therefore, your brainstem will never cause you to lose your correction.
What can cause you to lose your correction is the memory that is in the rest of your body. The muscles, ligaments, tendons, bones, cartilage, etc. have gotten used to being in an off-center position. Immediately following an adjustment, our posture changes, our muscles work differently, and our bodily function alters as well. It takes time for the body to get used to this new position. We want to allow this process to take place, so this is one reason why we have patients rest after an adjustment.
Imagine that you wanted to improve your golf game. To start out you may have a professional assess your swing and make some alterations to help improve power or consistency. It will usually feel very foreign to you at first but if you stick with it, the new swing begins to feel natural. After a ton of quality repetitions, the old swing will start to feel foreign. If we get fatigued when working on our new swing, our new form will suffer and we will go back to the old habits. The expert that has been hired to help improve your game will keep a close eye on this process and make sure that the reps are quality.
Similar to this, after getting your Atlas aligned and changing your posture, you may notice that you are standing and moving differently. Just like a new golf swing, the longer you stay in alignment, the more natural it will feel and the stronger your body will get in its new position. However, if you try to do too much before your body is strong enough to stay in alignment, you will lose the correction. When this happens, your body collapses back to its old position. This is what we are trying to avoid by asking patients to take a break when they get tired.
Overstressing the body before it is strong enough to withstand the new stimuli is the most common way a new patient will lose their correction. This happens frequently with those who have felt especially awful for a long time. When these patients feel better after the first adjustment, they typically want to do things that they hadn’t been able to do in months or years. We need to fight this urge and avoid starting new exercise routines or testing how far we can push our bodies. If you have avoided lifting weights, going for a run, etc. because your body hasn’t felt good enough to do it, continue avoiding it for at least the first month after your first correction.
On the other hand, certain things will need to be done and cannot be avoided. In these situations, do that activity until you notice fatigue. Then rest for ten minutes. After resting, resume that activity but pay attention to your energy levels. If you get tired, you must rest. A friend or loved one can help remind us to take a break, but ultimately this task rests squarely on the patients’ shoulders.
Remember, just because you feel better, that does not mean your body is healed. Healing takes time. The best thing you can do to hold the correction is to rest when you are tired so your body can be nice and stable in that corrected position.