Adjusting Below the Atlas
by Chris Akey, DC
Most of us agree that we do adjust below the atlas. How far below is the question!
Going through college, my philosophy was to adjust the spine only, and that anything else was “mixing.” The notion that subluxations were only in the spine was steadfast and blinders tight. I’m sure I might get remarks still today about this, but I have opened my blinders since then. The nerve system doesn’t stop at the spine, nor do subluxations. I know the subluxation as defined by D.D. and B.J. and Stephenson’s text. I highly respect those individuals—if not for them, I would not be a Chiropractor.
Involvement Beyond the Spine
If we are dealing with a misalignment in the spine that is causing nerve interference, can the bones in the extremities misalign and cause nerve interference too? Let’s consider a knee that is symptomatic. Can adjusting the pelvis help the knee? Yes. Can adjusting the atlas help correct the knee? Right again. So, I put my hands or instrument on the knee to adjust, then the pelvis and atlas (necessary in this case). What would the difference be? You can email me.
My point is, you are adjusting other structures, whether you think so or not. And it’s ok—you are still a Chiropractor.
What about a couple of parts of the nerve system called mechanoreceptors and nociceptors? Mechanoreceptors provide continuous feedback about where the body is in space. They also are sensitive to position, motion, vibration, and pressure—and they inhibit perception of pain. Nociceptors are in every tissue in the body except two small areas in the brain. Excessive firing of nociceptors indicates pain, also called proprioceptive noise. Since these are part of the nerve system—and the nerve system goes everywhere—can we examine these areas if it would better serve our patients?
As Far as the Feet
If the nociceptors are excessively firing in a foot, does adjusting the low back help? Correct. Does adjusting the foot help too? Even better. Adjust both, and this allows the nerve pathway back to the spinal cord and brain to be free of the proprioceptive noise. If I were to adjust the pelvis only, while leaving the excessive firing of nociceptors in the foot, short-term and long-term results would be different.
The most common subluxation pattern of the foot is excessive pronation, and nearly all excessive pronation is bilateral and asymmetrical. When walking or running, the foot goes into a heel-toe strike motion. While walking, two-and-a-half times your body weight is concentrated on the foot (and three-and-a-half times while running). If the foot is misaligned, just imagine the problems that can and will occur. What about a foot that is currently aligned in which we want to prevent future problems?
To help both cases, I suggest custom-made functional orthotics, along with adjusting at least the feet. Since I have been wearing mine, I have noticed a significant improvement in running, walking, or even standing in my office all day. My feet and knees used to hurt, with pain running down my right leg. Now, I get adjusted regularly and wear my functional orthotics every day. And I feel terrific!
For more information on adjusting extremities, I urge you to attend a seminar put on by Dr. Mark Charrette. In my opinion, he is one of the best in our profession.