For a long time, manual therapists have attempted various techniques to return the Atlas to its correct position, often without success or with only a small percentage of permanent results. The methods available so far have, as a rule, not led to meaningful and long-lasting changes in the first cervical vertebra's position. Evidence for this can be found in the fact that the techniques have to be applied over and over again.
When the method is used, however, the resulting positive changes to health are often continuous and long-term.
Why is this? To permanently correct the position of the first vertebra, first of all it is necessary to sufficiently relax the deep musculature that holds the first vertebra in place. This is hardly possible if done manually; a fact that any experienced treatment specialist can confirm. This is why the metod uses a device that has been especially developed for the purpose.
To understand the advantages of the technique, it is necessary to understand the anatomy of the Atlas-head joint. This joint is unique in that it is held in its correct position by a variety of muscle layers and various ligaments. This characteristic guarantees high joint stability, and functions as if the Atlas were a part of the head and not a stand-alone vertebra. Very rigid ligaments and sub-occipital musculature that is almost always tense lead to very limited elasticity in this joint. The Atlas has the tendency to remain in its orientation and position even if it is not the correct one. Existing conditions can only be changed with the application of external forces of a certain level of intensity. Rather than short and immediate impulses as used during chiropractic manipulation, the technique operates through the application of continuous and adequate pressure on precisely-defined points of the occipital musculature. This targeted pressure of sufficient intensity makes it possible for the muscles surrounding the Atlas vertebra to gently expand and lead the Atlas, step by step, back to its correct position. Think of an image from metallurgy (the so-called plastic effect) to better understand why a chiropractic impulse is insufficiently effective in correcting the Atlas: You will not be able to bend an aluminum sheet into a 90-degree angle by hitting it only once with a hammer; rather you need a special bending press to apply a force of suitable intensity and sufficient duration. Add to this that in order to bend a plate to a 90-degree angle, a bending press has to be set at an angle greater than 90 degrees, namely around 100 degrees, in order to counteract the material's elastic effect. However, when you set the folding machine to only a 90-degree angle, the plate will only bend to an angle of 80 degrees during the process. It goes without saying that the application of too little force for too little time, or the application of said force on the wrong point, will not lead to the desired result. The metod uses the same principle when correcting the Atlas: to move the first vertebra to the desired position a one-time pressure will be insufficient. Rather progressive force at the right point and correct angle is needed to reach the hypothetical 100 degrees in the above-mentioned range. Thus the Atlas can be stabilized into the correct position even after the influencing force is discontinued. Experience has shown that, in contrast to most other methods, this approach will deliver longlasting results. There are no risks associated with the method because the correction of the Atlas takes place gently, even though under continuously increasing pressure – and does not entail the generally feared sudden and jerking neck movement experienced during chiropractic manipulation.
Incorrect positioning of the Atlas is determined by a close manual examination of the relevant area. This requires a particular technique and the specially trained fingers of an Atlastechnician. Since the Atlas is surrounded by various layers of muscles that can be expanded and contracted in different ways, this can lead to a totally wrong diagnosis.
This is why few therapists and even fewer doctors are able to evaluate the position of the Atlas correctly, while hardly anyone at all can do anything to counter the misalignment. Without the appropriate technique– it is not possible to solve the problem.
Please note: With a standard X-ray or magnetic resonance image the position of the Atlas CANNOT be displayed correctly and therefore it is NOT possible to visualize the rotation of the Atlas with this procedure! It is essential to use a spiral CT scanner with the correct settings, otherwise the CT images are not sufficient for this purpose.
A spiral CT scan is not essential to conduct the treatment, because as mentioned above, the position of the Atlas can be determined with the fingers, except in a few rare cases.
Misalignment of the Atlas:
- may cause a constriction of the passage between the vertebral canal and the opening at the base of the skull, leaving less space available to the spinal cord and limiting, altering or blocking the flow of electrochemical impulses;
- may cause pressure on the cervical artery and the blood vessels and nerves that exit the skull through the jugular foramen, such as the glossopharyngeal nerve, the vagus nerve, the accessory nerve, the jugular vein and the internal carotid artery;
- may slow the circulation of the cerebrospinal fluid that flows around the spinal cord enclosed by the dura mater membrane. Cerebrospinal fluid, also known as CSF or liquor cerebrospinalis, nourishes, protects and cushions the spinal cord itself.
During normal movements of the head and body, the various vascular, nervous and lymphatic structures may be momentarily compressed or stretched. These compressions are only temporary and do not create problems of any kind: the body was created to move. The compressions generated by a misaligned Atlas, on the other hand, are PERMANENT!
12 pairs of cranial nerves leave the brain and continue down the right and left sides of the body. The vagus nerve or cranial nerve X is the longest, most important and most branched cranial nerve of the parasympathetic nervous system, and helps to regulate the functioning of almost all the internal organs: it controls certain muscles, the larynx, the pharynx, part of the external organ of hearing, the heart, the lungs, the stomach and the intestines.
One task of the vagus nerve is to stimulate the production of gastric acid and regulate the action of the bowels. The vagus nerve is also responsible for regulating heart rate and perspiration, and is involved in some movements of the mouth, controlling certain muscles used for speech and breathing. The vagus nerve has a diameter of 2-3 mm at neck level and, together with the carotid artery and the internal jugular vein, passes in front of the Atlas.
When the functionality of the vagus nerve is compromised (which may also arise from cervical arthrosis), this may produce a whole series of symptoms, including nausea, stomach acidity, dizziness, hot flushes, tachycardia, pain and stiffness in the neck, and headaches.
Depending on the kind of compression and how far the Atlas is shifted from its optimal position, pressure marks may be created, thus irritating the vagus nerve and/or other cranial nerves. This can give rise to various complaints, such as headache, Ménière's syndrome, difficulty in swallowing or the sensation of a lump in the throat, excessive perspiration, neck pain, sleep disturbances, generally cold hands or feet, irregular or accelerated heart rate, or chronic constipation or diarrhea with no apparent cause.
The correction of a misaligned Atlas may also have positive effects on epilepsy. The approach of conventional medicine to treating severe epilepsy is to cut the left vagus nerve surgically in the upper cervical area or to implant an electrical impulse generator in order to stimulate this nerve. The left vagus nerve is normally compressed by the Atlas. Could this be a coincidence? The question merits further attention and a more thorough investigation.
Immediately after realignment of the Atlas and in the following days, people have experienced different sensations, but above all a feeling of liberation. Many have felt their head to be much lighter, as though it were pivoting on ball bearings, allowing a greater angle of rotation in one or both directions with no pain or dizziness, if they suffered from these problems previously. Others have noticed that they hold themselves more upright and with better postural balance, that they breathe more deeply with a sensation of inner peace and greater self-assurance, and that they can tilt their head further forwards and backwards. Many people have come to the Atlas Center with a headache and left without it, while others have had their back or shoulder pain disappear.
After the treatment, the body may show certain reactions, indicating that selfhealing is proceeding at full pace. Not everyone has negative reactions after treatment, but it is important to be aware of this possibility. These reactions are temporary, and indicate the appearance of a better posture.
The most painful part of the body is the one undergoing change. Because the need for compensation now disappears, the posture used by the organism to adjust for a misaligned Atlas has to undergo a readjustment once the Atlas is realigned. This realignment process can be very noticeable.
Weights must be redistributed, in order to restore the proper alignment with the vertical axis of the body; muscles that were formerly in spasm must de-contract, and those that were not being fully used and may therefore have atrophied must start working fully once again.
In naturopathy, this situation is known as the "healing crisis", a process indicating that a change is taking place without which any condition would remain unaltered.
Once this phase of adjustment of postural and chemical balance is completed, the increase in available energy is considerable. The reactions may appear immediately after the treatment, or a few weeks or even months later. Experience has shown that the more ill the body has been in the past, the more pronounced the reactions experienced may be.
Possible reactions are as follows:
A few days of acute tiredness and increased need for sleep, muscle stiffness or pain in the neck, back or lumbar region, pains in the knee and hip joints caused by the change of load due to the adjustment of the previously tilted pelvis. (Correction of the pelvis.)
The regeneration phase may be helped and curtailed by regular massages of the neck and back. Other treatments obtain better results after application of the method.
Thanks to the improvement in posture, after application of the method there may be an effective increase in height. In some cases, this increase in height has been as much as a few centimeters, demonstrating how far the spinal column had deviated from the ideal shape.
Given our experience, we have been able to establish that knee or hip pain that is not caused by traumas or accidental injuries often arises in the leg that has had to bear a greater load due to pelvic obliquity. Indeed, the "longer" leg bears a significantly greater dynamic load.
With an asymmetrical pelvis, there may be a difference of up to 15 kg in the distribution of weight on the legs and therefore on the knee joints, which can lead to knee complaints in the long term.
The method can bring about a rapid, marked improvement in the obliquity of the pelvis, thus preventing the consequent overloading of the knee and hip joints. Such overloading sooner or later compromises structural integrity, frequently to the point of making surgery necessary.
As car tires show asymmetrical wear and tear marks because of incorrect wheel alignment, the human body may also have such wear and tear marks if symmetry and posture are not correct.
Poor body posture caused by a misaligned Atlas associated with a different weight burden forces the hip and knee joints and the ankle to work under a suboptimal angle of rotation. This in turn leads to incorrect weight bearing by the tendons and muscles involved which is eventually perceived as pain and may initiate degeneration of the joints and inflammation in the surrounding soft tissues.
A misalignment of the hip joints with the resulting locking-up of the sacroiliac joint often leads to sciatica or an inflammation of the sciatic nerve, knee pain associated with meniscus problems as well as problems with the ankle. In this condition the patient very often also suffers from attacks of lumbago.
If the underlying cause, which often consists in a misaligned Atlas, is not removed, these complaints will inevitably keep returning again and again!
Many people report that their knee and hip complaints cleared up for good after the adjustment of the Atlas, in a way that is apparently inexplicable to them.
The situation is different with knee and hip joints that have already degenerated completely as a result of arthrosis (osteoarthritis). In such cases rapid improvement after correction of the Atlas should not be expected.
Report on the results of Patient Survey
The method is a special massage technique for the correction of a misaligned Atlas. In order to make a statistically sound record of changes in the range of complaints reported by patients following treatment, two offices, based in Switzerland and Sweden, carried out surveys of patients in 2008 and 2009.
The surveys were carried out using a standardized questionnaire which was presented to the patients immediately before and approximately one month after treatment at a patient review meeting. The questionnaire contained 18 pre-selected categories of complaints (e.g. neck, shoulder, back and knee complaints, as well as headaches, insomnia and migraines) and the patients were asked to rate their levels of discomfort before and after treatment, reporting both on the frequency and strength of the complaints on a 7-step scale (without a verbal definition of the steps).
The questionnaires were recorded and analyzed statistically by the scientific institution INKAM, the Institute for Customer Satisfaction Analyses and Marketing, run by Prof. Theis of Marburg. In total 504 people took part in the survey, 297 women and 207 men, aged between 16 and 84. The precision of the survey results is +/- 4.45% (confidence level 95.5%).
- Only a few patients came for treatment on the basis of just one or two specific complaints. Normally, ten or more painful areas were named.
- One month after treatment, 74% of treated patients were free of pain in at least one of the areas involved.
- With regard to complete alleviation of pain, the treatment achieved the greatest success in migraine patients: one month after Atlas adjustment 39% of all those surveyed were free of pain, while a further 43% reported a reduction in the frequency and/or strength of the pain.
- More than 85% of all those surveyed reported being pain-free about one month after the treatment or had at least experienced a reduction in the frequency and/or intensity of pain in the following areas: neck pain, headaches and muscular pain.
- At least seven out of ten patients surveyed reported being pain-free after the treatment or had at least experienced a reduction in the frequency and/or strength of pain in the following areas: shoulder pain, dizziness, migraine, lower back-ache, tiredness, hip pain, sleep problems, tinnitus, depression and gastrointestinal complaints.
In the case of misalignment of the Atlas there are 4 basic variants. These variants affect the posture in different ways:
- Variant 1
- Variant 2
- Variant 3
- Variant 4
Parietal shift of the Atlas. As a consequence, the Atlas is tilted sideways, one lateral apophysis being higher than the other. This variant causes scoliotic posture, a "C"-shaped spine, deviation of posture from the ideal axis of vertical symmetry, one shoulder lower than the other, tilted pelvis, a "leaning tower of Pisa" posture.
Please note in the photo: considerable improvement in the posture; the left shoulder is returning to the same height as the right one, and the tilting and rotation of the pelvis are correcting themselves.
Rotation of the Atlas on its horizontal axis. This variant causes pressure on the nerves, arteries and lymphatic ducts surrounding the Atlas, with negative consequences on the entire body. There are no major effects on posture in the vertical axis, but it may cause rotation of the ribcage or pelvis.
Atlas locked backwards (dorsally). Contributes to increased kyphosis and lumbar lordosis.
Atlas locked forwards (ventrally).Contributes to a loss of cervical and/or lumbar physiological lordosis.
Thanks to the treatment a process of self-regulation of the body is started in the organism. The method can also be regarded as a very effective preventive measure.
It is therefore highly advisable for the method to be applied as early as possible, even in childhood, in order to ensure healthy, optimal development. A misalignment of the Atlas since birth is an easily verifiable fact.
The treatment of children is particularly promising both because of the ease of execution, owing to the near-absence of muscular contractions, and because of the greater capacity for adaptation.
Many people have the bad habit of only starting to do something for their health when their pain and complaints have reached an advanced level and become unbearable.
After years of pains and numerous attempts to ease them by inappropriate use of medication, the body is in an increasingly poor condition which makes it even more difficult for it to recover.
Under such serious conditions the process of regeneration takes a lot longer after the method. For this reason, it would be ideal to have the position of the Atlas already checked and adjusted in childhood, even if the children concerned haven't encountered any problems so far. Your kids will thank you in the future.
Waiting for a complaint to arise and doing something about it only later on is the most painful path!
The brain communicates with the body via the central nervous system, which branches through the entire body via the opening at the base of the skull.
The Atlas is the most delicate point of the entire system. We also find this idea in Greek mythology: Atlas is the giant who is punished by having to carry the weight of the celestial sphere on his shoulders for eternity. As in the myth, the first cervical vertebra is known as the Atlas because it bears the weight of the whole head.
When there is a misalignment of the Atlas, the interactive communication between the brain and the rest of the body is disturbed, which can lead to a neurological deficit.
The anatomy of the spinal column is comparable to a precision mechanism: the slightest shift of the Atlas from its correct anatomical and physiological location can have negative repercussions on the entire musculoskeletal, postural, circulatory and parasympathetic nervous systems, as well as the body in general.
Such misalignment may be present from birth (even in the case of a delivery by Caesarean section) and may be worsened by traumas such as whiplash.
For a better grasp of the problem, it is important to understand the difference between static and dynamic conditions. When the body is in motion, there are dynamic changes in weight distribution, which may lead to a momentary compression of nerves and bloodstream. These stresses are purely temporary and unproblematic for the body, since it returns to a resting position sooner or later: the influences and compressions disappear.
On the other hand, a static load permanently bears on the skeleton. If this weight bearing is constantly unbalanced and one-sided, postural defects are the consequence. Ongoing pressure on nerves and bloodstream leads to a whole series of dysfunctions.
When the spine is in balance, weights are distributed evenly between the two sides of the skeleton.
The head's considerable weight (as much as 5-6 kg), which should not be underestimated, is supported entirely by the Atlas. A misaligned Atlas causes the cranium not to be perpendicular to the spine.
This produces a shift in the body's center of gravity and therefore an imbalance from head to toe, leading to musculoskeletal dysfunction. This causes a static false posture, in which one side of the body is more stressed than the other. This is also the reason why pain is generally concentrated on just one side.
This imbalance is measurable with the help of two scales, which can show a weight difference of up to 15 kg between one leg and the other.
Depending on the kind of Atlas misalignment, physiological lordosis or kyphosis of the spine may intensify sharply or disappear altogether.
The first vertebra has a great influence on the balance of the whole skeleton and is therefore directlyresponsible for an upright posture.
Even if the cranium rests on a non-leveled Atlas, the eyes need to maintain alignment with the skyline*. As a consequence, the muscles and ligaments of the sub-occipital area are under permanent tension, in their constant attempt to compensate for the alignment of the head. The rest of the spine is curved accordingly. (*Try running with your head tilted sideways!)
This continuous stress leads to the body's center of gravity being shifted and to contractures, muscle spasms and pain, especially if the muscles are weak and untrained. This results in cervical problems, tension-related headaches, vertigo, stiff neck and restricted or painful head rotation.
In this condition advice from the doctor to train and strengthen the neck muscles may be of some benefit. It would be better still to get to the root of the problem, by removing the imbalance which caused the problem in the first place!
Depending on the type of misalignment of the Atlas, negative impacts may also arise in the alignment of the Axis (second cervical vertebra, or C2).
In fact, by adjusting the Atlas, the second vertebra is also freed from potential misplacement, as are the other cervical vertebrae, through a kind of "domino effect." Constantly blocked vertebrae, which require continuous adjustment by a chiropractor or osteopath, no longer need this kind of therapy after the treatment.
In a chain-reaction process, a misalignment of the Atlas may cause asymmetries of the entire skeleton, such as one shoulder being higher than the other with pain in the scapula, scoliosis, tilted pelvis with consequent danger of herniated discs (discopathy), pain in the back, hips, knees and even feet.
As long as postural defects exist, permanent muscular contractions develop which, as well as being painful, can cause other vertebrae in the column to become blocked (subluxations).
The resulting subluxations may create persistent compression on certain nerve roots. More and more frequently doctors use cortisone against those irritations, which is indeed a useful medicament, but which causes severe, well noted side effects in the long term.
Compression of certain nerves (leads to pins and needles) in arms and legs, while the pressure put on other nerves leads to malfunctions in the corresponding organs. This gives rise to a series of disturbances, even in apparently unrelated areas of the body.
Enlarged, hardened muscles as a result of constant tension compress lymphatic structures as well as the arteries and veins which run between these muscles. This leads to decreased blood flow and a build-up of metabolic waste products in the tissue. This condition causes a vicious circle, making the muscles even more rigid.
Certainly, there are other factors to be taken into account which can affect a symmetrical, upright posture of the body. However, misalignment of the Atlas can be absolutely decisive. Experience has shown that in many cases – after a simple correction of the Atlas – the skeleton consequently takes on a more correct and natural shape.
If one shoulder is higher than the other or the pelvis is tilted, complaints are inevitable, sooner or later.