Feb 25, 2011

Atlas Orthogonal Chiropractic: Does It Work?

Although I am a perpetual skeptic, and I openly admit that I don't entirely understand the science behind it, chiropractic adjustments have worked wonders for me. Particularly for my excruciatingly painful TMJ headaches. Following my car accident, I completed 4 long months of physical therapy and experienced little to no pain relief but a slightly improved range of motion. I also endured several massages, some of which offered temporary (lasting a few hours) relief and muscle relaxation, others which left me in worse pain than I had started with. I even completed a few months of bi-weekly acupuncture treatments which helped significantly, but the effects only lasted a day or two. About the only thing I didn't try during that period was chiropractic care, and I'm not really sure why. No one had suggested it yet. But I sure wish they would have.

About a year after my accident and I was still suffering from chronic, intense daily headaches (even after being fitted for and wearing my first custom mouthguard or 'therapeutic jaw splint' as they called it, on a daily basis). I simply couldn't stand the pain anymore. I had tried just about every over-the-counter pain relief method known to man, heat, ice, and even several prescription narcotic pain meds, and none of these offered even momentary relief. I was beginning to think that life was simply going to be filled with chronic and debilitating pain, which was a disturbing, discouraging, and painful realization for me. Everyone told me TMJ pain was among the hardest to extinguish in the human body, as the temporomandibular joint is constantly at work and never rests completely (it is at work when talking, eating, and even breathing). Basically, jaw joints never get a break. I consumed an exclusively liquid diet, wore my mouthguard day and night as instructed, and refrained from talking, chewing, singing--basically everything I previously enjoyed. At that point in time I would have been completely satisfied with even a slight improvement in the intensity of the pain.

One day a coworker recommended her chiropractor to me. She said he used a quick (2-3 seconds) and painless method called the atlas adjustment. I had never heard of the atlas before and wondered what it was and what adjusting it could do for my headaches. So I figured why not give it a try, it couldn't have made things any worse. At the same time, I was afraid that if this didn't work, I might be all out of options and therefore be sentenced to a miserable life of pain. Luckily, that was not the case. My car insurance agreed to cover my chiropractic care until my benefits ran out. I had a few x-rays taken of my head and neck and some manual measurements performed by the chiropractor. He then determined the appropriate settings on the machine to adjust my atlas to. The atlas is the uppermost vertebra of the spine, also known as C1. The heavy human head essentially rests upon that tiny vertebra and if you have have ever been in a car accident of any kind or sustained any kind of fall or physical injury, then chances are your atlas may be off kilter. If it is off by even the slightest bit, a number of serious health and pain conditions may result. My chiropractor seemed to think that if he could get my atlas securely back into place (turns out mine was quite far off) that it would alleviate some of the pressure and pain in my neck, and encourage my jaw to also fall back into proper alignment. I laid on my right side as a tiny needle-like instrument rested behind my left ear and vibrated gently for a few seconds, completely painlessly. For the first month or two, I had 2-3 of these adjustments a week. Then weened off to once a week, then once a month, which seems to keep my atlas in place. However, the past 6 months or so I had not been to the chiropractor at all due to a change in insurance, and once again the bad headaches began to recur.

Last week I suffered one that lasted 4 days before I finally decided that I had to go to the chiropractor whether I had to pay out of pocket or not. Thank goodness I did. This time, all it took was one adjustment, and about 20 minutes later my persistent headache pain started to ease off, and within an hour it was gone. I awoke the next morning with a completely pain-free neck and jaw for the first time in several months. And the relief lasted for 4 whole blissful days. Then I went to the grocery store. The checker bagged my groceries so heavy that I had a hard time just getting them from the cart into the car. My chiropractor does not advise any heavy lifting, especially in the first few days following an adjustment. Well, those heavy grocery bags did the trick and the next morning I woke up with my usual jaw headache. So although atlas orthogonal adjustments certainly do work, the effects don't always last, especially if you engage in any strenuous activity afterwards. So looks like I will be going back to my chiropractor as soon as the snow lifts. Even if I end up having to pay, it's well worth it to be pain-free.


  1. I am currently going to a Chiropractor, and I cannot tell you how nice it is to have someone else with POTS using this type of care as well!

    She is working on my atlas as well and every two weeks performing nerve tests to see how it is working (or not working). I have not really found great relief yet and it's been a little over a month...

    SO interesting! Are you on any medicines as well?

    Take care!!

  2. Hi Erin!

    This treatment has worked wonders for me. At least for pain management! Do you suffer from bad headaches or just trying to relieve POTS symptoms? It has had a marked improvement on my headache and TMJ pain. I occasionally take ibuprofen, but if I keep up on my Atlas treatments I don't need to.

    If I were you I would stick it out for at least 3 months. I believe it is a cumulative process and getting your atlas to stay in place may take a little time. Be patient and give it a chance, if you don't experience any relief after a few more months than maybe it isn't the right treatment for you.

  3. White Flower Oil (http://embrocation.50webs.com) was introduced to me by my mother. During one of my headaches, she gave me this tiny bottle of oil and told me to massage it on my temples and forehead. Amazingly, it worked! Somehow the oil penetrates into the affected area and relieves the pain.

  4. Thanks Rachel, I will definitely check this out!

  5. If you were just able to undergo Chiropractic care sooner than you had, it would have been easier for you to recover from any pain. And the chronic headaches after the accident might have been treated earlier. But I think the other methods you tried have also helped a lot in your healing process. I hope you are totally fine now.

    >Tiffani Villagomez

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  7. I had a long standing injury from neck pain due to whiplash and althogh it didn't hurt all the time, when it did it was hell.
    I have tried everything including chiropractic manipulaiton.. but to cut a long story short.. nothing seemed to work permanently. then I decided to try this Atlas adjustment thing.. I was sceptical as it didn't seem very convincing with this needle thingi bopping once or twice at my neck.. Boy was I wrong. After just one treatment.. I was in a lot of pain for couple of days.. but then suddenly all pain and stiffness GONE! even when I turn my head - no pain or stiffness, whereas before there was always an impinging stabb when I twisted my head even if there was no neck pain otherwise... I am so elated that I decided not to go back as I worry about things taking a turn for the worst! I am enjoying my pain free neck and loving it! it's the first time in 12 years!! Gosh. But I need to add that I have been taking curcumin with boswellia which is also a strong anti inflammatory natural remedy by a company that does the most absorbable and effective combo on the market. So maybe that has helped too. Goodby poisonous pain killers... Hello natural treatments !!