Upper Cervical Correction

In contrast to medical propaganda there are many different types of forces to correct the cervical spine without necessarily twisting and cracking the neck as claimed. While some chiropractors use their hands, others used percussion hammers and special tables with drops. Whatever method is used chiropractic is the safest of all heath care professions by far.

Specific upper cervical care is a specialty in chiropractic that very few chiropractors use. Upper cervical correction is based on precision x-rays used to analyse the strain. Counterstrain corrective forces are applied to reduce the strain and restore function. There is disagreement and different schools of thought about analysis of the strain as well as the best means of correcting it but the goals are basically the same; that is to correct the strain or as chiropractors prefer to call it, the upper cervical subluxation.

The method I learned was the original method developed by BJ Palmer called knee chest toggle recoil seen in the picture above of Palmer working on a patient. In practice I used what are called side posture drop tecniques as well as knife hand contacts. There are many good upper cervical techniques but I won’t go into them here. I have also used all types of cervical mechanical and hand traction and distraction techniques. Currently, chiropractic biophysics is the rage.

Interestingly, BJ Palmer, the originator and founder of upper cervical technique, the most controversial figure in chiropractic, was over a hundred years ahead of his time and caused a split in the camp over upper cervical care and other issues. He was a brilliant, albeit slightly eccentric millionaire. Among other things, he owned one of the first cars and first radio stations in the United States. He also owned one of the first x-ray unit, which is how upper cervical technique came into being. It allowed Palmer to more precisely analyze the strain. The goal of his technique was called a “Hole in One.” The goal was to realign the foramen magnum with the neural canal. While other upper cervical practioners still argue over issues that may be related to design anomalies and assymetries, the original goal and the goal of certain current techniques is probably the most logical because it eliminates all the assymetrical and genetic design isssues that can complicate the analysis of the strain.

When it comes to the brain and neurodegenerative diseases, BJ Palmer was light years ahead of today’s science and way ahead of the rest of the profession. He even opened a sanatorium and stared treating the most unusual neurological cases with a fair degree of success. His legacy is upper cervical correction which may be part of the solution to neurodegenerative diseases. Nothing could more important to research, care and prevention of neurodegenerative diseases today than upper cervical chiropractic research and techniques.

On the other hand chiropractic has been shut out of research. The public and patients can change that. What’s more, organizations such as NUCCA have done incredible, highly cost effective inexpensive research with highly relavant clinical value and results. It time to demand parity and an investment in upper cervical chiropractic research into neurodegenerative diseases. It would be the cheapest investment ever made.

25 Responses to Upper Cervical Correction

  1. Rosemary Bevers says:

    In my mid 30’s had (virus?),had tremor in 1 hand ,unable to focus with both eyes,flu-likesymptoms.gp sent me for xrays of skull and upper back.Results came back as Rotation of brainstemAm wondering if this could be relevant to my later diagnosis of MS at 47yrs,after years of what i presumed to be chronic back problems.I would appreciate it if you could throw any light on this matter for me.

    • Hi Rosemary,
      Your case sound interesting but I have some questions. The first thing that concerns me is that rotation of the brainstem, which is not something to be taken lightly. I will be discussing it in future posts very soon. What I don’t understand is how the radiologist made that detemination. Did you have a CT scan of the skull and upper back or just plain x-rays? The tremors and visual blurriness are also important and concerning signs and symptoms but could you be more specific about the flu-like symptoms? Lastly, what do you mean by low back pain. Where is the pain?

    • Drs Flanagan says:

      Hi Rosemary, I responed to your question on the website so others can benefit in the conversation. If you wish to remain private let me know and I will email you. MFDC

  2. Lisa Whittingham says:

    Is the atlas orthogonal a safe and valid technique to adjust the upper cervical?

    • Drs Flanagan says:

      It is not my favorite method of upper cervical. I’m old school and biased. I still prefer hands on methods myself. That said, Atlas Orthogonal is abosolutely safe and a valid recognized method of upper cervical correction. The Chiari/CCSVI correction I posted awhile ago was done by an Atlas Orthogonal chiropractor.

  3. Dr. Flanagan,
    This is a great post and I appreciate your recognition of the NUCCA organization for our research. I will continue to read your posts…I wish more Upper Cervical Docs would blog to get the word out there. The more good info there is the more people can be helped with upper cervical care.
    God Bless,
    Dr. Davis

  4. david lyons says:

    hello, my name is Dave from northeast Ohio. i have has m.s. sense 1986. i also have very bad posture in the neck area where it is almost impossible to straighten my head and neck. could that have something to do with venous drainage??

    thanks much, Dave

    • Drs Flanagan says:

      Hi Dave, abnormal curves in the spine can affect venous drainage of the brain, especially a reversal in the normal curvature of the neck called a cervical kyphosis.

      • David Lyons says:

        thank you Dr. Flanagan for your reply. is there any possibility that this condition could be corrected to some degree? i fully agree with your concept that there are structural problems with us that cause various disease and problems. what tests would you recommend to show a drainage restriction?
        thanks again for taking the time to reply.

  5. Thanks because of this! I’ve been searching all above the web for that facts.

  6. Phil says:


    I recently (from Sept 2010) started suffering with severe dizzyness, tinnitus, migraine like headaches, photophobia, neck pain and chronic fatigue. The docs did all the usual tests (MRI of head and neck, blood work, thyroid check etc and found nothing). One doc suggested I had MS, another viral meningitis and another stress (which certainly isn’t the case!).

    The symptoms got so bad in October that I was bedridden with constant Migraine and severe dizzyness upon standing/walking which would cause me to fall over.

    Whilst ill I managed to do some research on the laptop and thanks to websites like this discovered NUCCA. I found a NUCCA practitioner and had my first consultation in early November. Xrays were taken and my posture was measured at the leg, shoulder and hip and a subluxation of the atlas bone with respect to my skull was found which we think had been there for sometime (possibly since an accident I had 16 years ago in which I fell 30 feet onto my back).

    Due to the subluxation my head was 3 inches further forward than it should have been and was cocked to the left, one leg was 1.5 inches longer than the other and my hips were also not straight.

    I had the NUCCA procedure to correct the subluxation which has held for the last 7 weeks (I had to have it twice as the first attempt only held for 2 weeks). The technique involved a sort of two handed pressure on a specific point just under my ear determined precisely from the Xrays. It was gentle and all I felt was a light vibration in my neck. Within 10 mins of the procedure my posture then corrected itself which was impressive. It was explained that my symptoms may worsen for a few weeks before they would start getting better which is what happened. 7 weeks later I now have no more headaches, photophobia, neck pain or fatigue however the tinnitus is still as severe as it was and the dizzyness is about 50% better. I was told that it might take a year or so to get a complete recovery (but I am hopeful it will be much quicker than this!).

    I have also noticed that some other issues I have suffered from over the last decade or so have gone away (namely Sleep apnea in which I would awake choking in the night about once a week and some lower back pain has dissipated).

    I am keeping my fingers crossed that the dizzyness and tinnitus will also improve further but was curious to know whether others had been cured of these ailments via NUCCA and how long it took? The tinnitus I have is basically a constant very high pitched sound in both ears; the dizzyness is like the sensation of walking on a boat at sea in rocky waters which is frankly awful and has stopped me enjoying walking/gym etc.

    I also have a bad grinding noise in my neck when I turn it to the left – I am curious to know what could be causing that – is it bone, ligament or muscle related? The neck grinding seems to aggravate the remaining symptoms of tinnitus and dizzyness -do you think this will recover with time also? I have read that damaged ligaments in the neck once torn or stretched cannot recover and can result in permanent dizzyness – is this true!?

    Many thanks for any advice and keep up the good work!

    • Cedreca says:

      The ringing in your ears and dizziness can be caused by fluid on your ear drum. I suffer from it and I have to put cotton in my ears at times to stop the fluid from resting on my ear drum. It sounds like you just need to go see the ear, nose and throat doctor. I have a preferated ear drum and allergies so my ears are always running.

  7. Suzanne says:

    Hi Doctor:
    I had scoliosis growing up such that I required a Milwaukee brace (which I often didn’t wear and would hide in my room and take it off because it was so uncomfortable). I don’t know what my final degree of upper curvature was, but I believe it was around 40 degrees, since I never had to have surgery or Harrington rods placed.

    Is it possible that this could have played into my development of MS? I was rear-ended back when I was 25 (my car was at a dead stop at a red light) and developed my first symptoms (that I remember when I was 33, when I was first saw a neurologist) but I didn’t actually get diagnosed until I was 38. Just curious what your thoughts might be on scoliosis and MS– if they can be related at all?

    Thank you!

  8. Michelle says:

    Hi Dr Flannagan

    Six months ago I caught what the hospital considered to be a virus on my return from China that played havoc with my immune system and lowered my WBC to 2.1. Since then I have been suffering from fatigue and hip/flank pain which radiates down the back of my legs (a pelvic xray showed no abnormality), three weeks ago a swelling occured at the base of my skull which at the inital time resulted in nuchal ridgidity and severe pain. Xrays and a head CT could find no reason for the swelling. The pain has since subsided but when I put my chin on my chest there is a swollen line about 1cm wide (the only way I can think to explain it) that extends from one third up my neck and directly up into my skull, so much so that I am unable to feel any of my upper cervical bones, only this cord? Even with my neck in a normal position I am unable to feel upper cervical bones, just the ligament?

    The many doctors I have seen have never seen this before, but as I am no longer in any cervical pain and because my WBC has improved to 4 they have told me not to worry and that perhaps my symptoms can be explained by a post-viral syndrome.

    As this swelling, or whatever it is, is not usual and there has been absolutely no change in the size of the ridge on my neck at all since it first came up, I would quite like to find an explanation for this. I would like to ask if you could kindly let me know it you have you ever come across this kind of medical symptom before?

  9. Zach says:

    Dr. Flanagan,

    Thanks for the rapid and very detailed response in the other post, I figured this would be better placed here in case others are dealing with the same issues. So, indirectly the position of C1 will affect C2? The previous chiro took x-rays and from what he showed me determined that my C2 vertebrae was rotated nearly 5mm (not sure which side atm). He did some specific work on the C2 vertebrae and was able to decrease the rotation down to 2mm or so (x-rays were taken within 5 minutes of the adjustment). Along with the decrease in rotation came a shift of my spine closer to center which was great news. The reason I stopped seeing him is because I had 2 or 3 sessions with him where I felt worse leaving his office than I did walking into his office. He deduced it was because of the head weights he had me wearing at the end of the session (this was verified on x-ray and yes, he is a pettibon practitioner). My reasons for terminating treatment with him were mostly financial but I was also experiencing neck pain that wasn’t there prior to working with him.

    The conundrum I seem to be facing is one chiro has identified the problem as C2 but his methods of adjustment and multiple errors he made before identifying what was working and what wasn’t scared me off as well as the fact that I was paying on average $100 per visit. On the other hand I am seeing a NUCCA doctor who only adjusts the Atlas and is very vague when I try to ask him any questions regarding my symptoms.The fact is that my symptoms haven’t faded all that much yet he is saying that my legs are even and that my hips are balanced (meaning we haven’t made anymore corrections since the initial one) which would indicate to me that my pain should be greatly diminished even though we are only two weeks into treatment (am I on the right track or is there a chance it could take much longer? I have had these symptoms for 1-2 years).

    My main concern is that the C2 vertebrae also needs adjusting and only paying attention to the Atlas won’t do the trick to have everything fall in alignment (including the C2 vertebrae). I am not sure how much stock I can put into this but my sinus problems which have only been an issue for me these past few years really haven’t faded (seems there is a link with C2 misalignment and sinus issues) and the amount of movement through my neck is still very crappy (left to right and flexion/extenion), bad enough to have two people comment on how I look like I move as if I was a robot yet I am being told that I am holding the correction and my measurements look spot on. Needless to say I am baffled and frustrated and desperately looking for answers.

    – Zach

    • Drs Flanagan says:

      Hi Zach,

      It was most likely the weights the first doctor used that caused the discomfort following treatment. You have only been with the second doctor, the NUCCA doctor about 1-2 weeks and for problems you have had for 1-2 years. Specific upper cervical care takes time. I would give it a month at least before you reevaluate. There is no question that you can correct C2 by working on atlas. The first things to improve should be range of motion and muscle discomfort in the shoulders and neck.

      Dr. Flanagan

  10. Carlos gregório says:

    tive um acidente a jogar futebol. Choquei com um colega cabeça com cabeça e torci o pescoço
    tenho as lesões na C3, C4, C5, C6. Sinto um desconforto muito grande, tenho muitas insónias e também muita pressão na cabeça. Onde tenho muitas dificuldades em me concentrar. muitas das vezes faço, com as mãos alguma pressão sobre o pescoço e alivia-me a pressão. O que me faz sentir-me melhor. Gostava de fazer um tratamento, onde poderei fazer o tratamento
    Agradeço a sua atenção

  11. Hello Carlos,
    This is the google translation from Portugese to English of your comment::
    I had an accident playing football. I struck a fellow head to head and twisted my neck.
    I have lesions in the C3, C4, C5, C6. I feel a great discomfort. I also have insomnia and a lot of pressure on the head. I often have a hard time concentrating. Massaging the neck relieves some of the pressure, which makes me feel better. I would like to get treatment, Where can I go?

    Thank you for your attention

  12. Saralynn says:

    Dear Dr. Flanagan,

    I have a 20 year old daughter, who wakes up every day without a headache, but after one hour she develops a sidelocked headache in the supraorbital notch. This has been happening daily for 21 months (she used to be HA free for 5-6 hours up until 14 months ago). At best the pain is a 4/10, and at worst the pain has been a 9/10 (rare). She has a history of a HA lasting 1.5 years at age 10 that I strongly suspect was due to repetitive low-grade cervical hyperextension trauma while learning a specific gymnastics maneuver. We tried EVERYTHING, never got to the root of it, and the HA appeared to burn out slowly over time.

    The current HA onset occurred at the end of a 3-week winter tour of Eastern Europe. She spent a lot of time traveling by plane and bus, sleeping in new places each night. Currently, she has pursued 3 headache specialists, massage therapy, chiropractic treatment, and acupuncture. There is no OTC or prescription pain reliever that touches the pain. Her current specialist was the only one to recognize the postural component, and he investigated aggressively for a CSF leak with negative results. He has ruled out some other less common HA’s as well. She feels her neck is involved in the process; however, he refuses to investigate it. In the radiology summary of her C-Spine MRI, it was noted that the spinal cord tips anteriorly and is in contact with the spine. I asked the HA neurologist about it, and he pulled up the image; it looked like a “kink” in her cord. He is blowing it off as nothing. He is resorting to strictly trying different meds now….all of which have nasty side effects and do nothing to help…sigh.

    I was reading an excerpt from your book about the upper cervical/clivoaxial angle. It immediately conjured up the image of the kink in her cord that I saw. Clearly this is some sort of postural HA, as it is so consistent and is dependent on being upright for a period of time (she tried delaying getting out of bed after waking up, and the onset of the headache was delayed until one hour after getting upright). We are running out of options and meanwhile, I have become very skeptical of health care providers, as well as protective of my daughter. Could you clarify what impact the kink in the spinal cord might have? Can a kink be fully corrected with upper cervical manual treatment?

    • Hello Saralynn,
      It sounds like your daughter has irritation of a sensory branch of the trigeminal nerve that goes to the forehead area. I suspect that the kink in the cord is in the cervicomedullarly area between the brain and cord. The history of repetitive hyperextension trauma due to gymnastics training could have easily caused a misalignment of the upper cervical spine or a curvature problem in her cervical spine. Among other things, this can cause tethering and deformation of the brain and cord in the cranial vault and spinal canal, which can affect the trigeminal nerve. The link below is to a page I just published on my website on the topic.

      Many kinks can be corrected or managed with specific care of the upper cervical spine but you want to go the best and most qualified doctors. Your daughter is still young but I suspect her problems go back to when she was ten.

  13. Saralynn says:

    Thank you so much for your response. I failed to specify that the kink in her spinal cord is at C2. There is a Cert Level II NUCCA practitioner very close to us. I struggle with all of the negative information about it online, and yet, my gut is telling me that the source is her upper neck.

    • It makes sense that the kink is at C2. A certified level II NUCCA doctor would be an excellent choice. Your daughter has nothing to lose and a lot to gain. At the very least her neck will feel and work much better. Most likely it will also get rid of the kink in the cord and the headaches as well.

  14. Saralynn says:

    I am very intrigued by the concept of the impact of the clivoaxial angle…A clival tumor was noted in my 81 year old mother a few years ago; it was discovered incidentally while her carotid arteries were being assessed. Apparently, it was present in earlier images without being addressed. She has had increasing dementia over the last several years, and it is likely Alzheimer’s Disease. The clival tumor is benign, and they are just watching it. It is curious in light of what I have been reading on your website. I am a pediatric physical therapist, working at the other end of the age spectrum; proper alignment is an ongoing struggle in my world. I have ordered your book, and I am anxious to read it!

    • Thanks Saralynn. It is interesting that you mother has a clival tumor along with increasing dementia and Alzheimer’s. It is quite possible that the tumor is affecting the basilar artery which supplies many structures in the brain that could cause Alzheimer signs and symptoms. I discuss it in my book. Among other things the vertebral-basilar arteries supply the hippocampus of the brain, which is part of the temporal lobe and plays an important role in long-term memory.

      I think you will be pleased taking your daughter to the NUCCA doctor. Now is the time to correct problems before they do permanent damage.

  15. laurenclumdc says:

    Hey Doc, just wanted to let you know that I posted this picture of BJ adjusting in the knee chest posture on Facebook, hope you don’t mind!! 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s