A Patient Guide: Frequently Asked Questions
The questions most frequently asked by patients are answered in simple language here.
Q. What do you mean when you say I have an atlas subluxation?
A. The atlas is the top vertebra (spinal bone) of the spinal column. If it moves out of its normal position (misaligns), it causes damage to nerve structures, bodily distortions, produces spinal column imbalance, spastic contracture of the extensor muscles, and a contractured (short) leg.
Q. What does my subluxation have to do with my condition?
A. The nervous systems of the body must operate freely to maintain a state of health sufficient to permit the body to heal itself All healing in the body is self-healing. The most effective weapon for combatting disease is the body's capacity to heal itself.
Q. What is an adjustment?
A. An adjustment is a correction-a resetting-of misaligned vertebrae. This correction frees the nervous system, restores nervous circulation, and promotes self-healing.
Q. How do adjustments cause healing?
A. The body has the inherent ability to heal (self-heal) if its nervous systems are operatingnormally. (The repair of a broken bone after it has been set is an example of self-heal) The adjustment of itself has no healing power; its sole function is to re-set the displaced vertebrae so that normal nerve circulation and control over the bodily systems is reestablished. Self-healing can then take place.
Q. How long will it take me to get well?
A. The time required to "get well" depends on how long the vertebrae (spinal bones) have been displaced; the amount of reduction obtained by the first adjustment; the extent of damage to the nerves; how long the patient can retain the correction made by the adjustment; the physical condition of the patient; his vitality; how many falls, jerks, or other injuries the patient suffers during the service period; and how closely the patient cooperates with his doctor (keeps appointments, etc.).
Q. How does the doctor determine if I'm getting better?
A. Patient progress is determined by the physical measurements the doctor makes on the patient. These physical signs are always present whenever there is a subluxation and to the degree that the subluxation exists. These measurements indicate progress or regression.
Q. Why don't I always get an adjustment when I don't feel good, and why do I sometimes get an adjustment when I feel good?
A. How a patient feels is not a safe way to determine the need for an adjustment. An adjustment may activate a patient's nervous system, increasing input or sensations to his or her brain (sensorium), making the patient more aware of his/her distress. The increased sensory input is essential in many cases to central nervous system response, a vital factor in selfhealing. This is usually a temporary matter. To adjust to make the patient feel better would retard his recovery. Further adjustments would be necessary to repair the damage of having created another subluxation or increasing the former subluxation. Symptoms arise from both tissue degeneration and tissue repair. If from tissue repair, they should not be interfered with. Those symptoms associated with tissue repair are called "reactions to the adjustment."
Q. Why is time required to obtain results?
A. Subluxation usually exist for years before causing distress sufficient enough to make the patient aware of health problems. It takes time to become ill, and time is required to repair the harm caused by the subluxation. In the case of immediate results, the problem was no doubt functional (no change in structure); your problem may be pathological (diseased).
Q. Why am I adjusted in the neck when my pain or distress is in my lower back, legs, or elsewhere?
A. The upper neck vertebrae (atlas and axis), if displaced, interfere with the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord). These vertebral displacements can cause physical bodily distortions through spastic contracture of spinal muscles such as pelvic malalignment and spinal distortions which do not occur with lower vertebral displacements. Upper cervical displacements also affect the nervous centers for heart rate, respiration, digestion, etc.
Q. Why do I notice sensations I've never felt before after an adjustment?
A. Many benefits happen to patients from adjustments other than the reasons for which the patient sought help. Some of these benefits are:
Correction or repositioning of vertebrae that are displaced
Realignment of the pelvis to normal position
Improved spinal balance
Realigning the centers of gravity of the head and body
Improvement in the performance of the central nervous system which benefits, respiration, heart rate, circulation of blood, digestion, and eliminatory action
Equalization of leg length, providing better body weight distribution
Protection of spinal discs
Position improvement of many intern organs
Q. Do I get an adjustment each visit?
A. An adjustment is given for the purpose of replacing displaced vertebrae. If the vertebrae are not displaced, holding their position from a previous adjustment, obviously any attempt to replace them further would be impossible. An attempted adjustment to move corrected vertebrae would cause greater damage to the patient, increasing the subluxation, bringing about a recurrence of neurological imbalance, and causing another subluxation.
Q. If I get adjusted more often, will it speed my recovery?
A. No, it will probably retard it. The rate of recovery is determined by the body's ability to heal itself, by the care the patient takes of his adjustment, good living habits, patient compliance and cooperation; and, most importantly, by the length of time the adjustment holds in place or stabilizes.
Q. What precautions should I take after an adjustment?
A. Avoid looking upward or reaching above the head. Enter automobiles by putting the head in first and following with the body. Do not use the head when lying down to lift or turn the body. Do not permit anyone to massage the neck or manipulate the spine. Avoid any strain on neck muscles, such as when backing a car or having the hair washed. Do not pull on head or try to "pop" neck. Avoid sleeping in chairs or automobiles. Sit upright in chairs, do not slump, so that the body weight rests on the back of the thighs and pelvis. Avoid fatigue and emotional upsets. Get a spinal check as soon as possible after a jar or fall. Check your subluxation if you contract a cold or other febrile (fever) condition.
Q. If I feel O.K., why should I continue to occasionally check with the doctor?
A. A patient's recovery is not completed until healing has taken place. A patient may feel better after his first adjustment, but that does not mean that his nervous system has fully repaired or that tissue repair has occurred fully. As the misalignments of the subluxation reduce to normal, the affected nerves change in size, position, and shape, filling the space formerly occupied by the misalignments. Because nerves must regain their normal size to function properly, time is required for the repair process. The patient should continue to check his subluxation until the process of repair is completed.
Additionally, as the nerves enlarge in size, tolerance is reduced to a minimum. If the patient is not checked during this period, the doctor has no way of telling what changes are taking place, and he can lose control of the subluxation.
Q. If I'm checking clear, does that mean I'm O.K.?
A. No, it means only that the nervous systems are recovering from the harmful effects of the subluxation-caused injury, and that the patient is responding.
Q. I'm checking clear and my subluxation is stabilized, so why am I having pain and distress?
A. Correction of the Cl subluxation is the first step to recovery. After the correction is obtained and the subluxation is stabilized, healing can take place. Until healing has reached a certain point, the patient will not feel better.
Q. How can the patient tell if he/she needs an adjustment?
A. The patient can't be sure. If he/she judges by how they feel, they may be mistaken, because the adjusted patient's sensory or input nerves may become more active, alerting the brain more fully to the condition. The need for an adjustment can be accurately determined only by measurement-not by symptoms that are reactive to the adjustment. Measurement of the patient will determine if symptoms are constructive or destructive.
Q. After I have held my adjustment for awhile and have had no injury, but require another adjustment, what has happened?
A. A Cl (atlas) subluxation narrows the openings through which the brainstem and spinal cord pass (foramen magnum, atlas foramen). The adjustment properly aligns these openings. Neurological structures passing through these narrowed openings are reduced in size by the misaligned vertebrae because they are stretched. (Nerve structure is somewhat elastic and stretching reduces its size). To function properly a nerve must be of normal size. After the correction (adjustment) of these narrowed openings, the nerves gradually are returned to their original size, and the nerves occupy the increased space and tolerance is reduced.
Q. Do you treat all diseases and conditions the same?
A. The adjustment is not for the purpose of treating a disease directly; it is for the purpose of mechanically replacing a displaced spinal bone that is affecting the nervous system (subluxation). When the subluxation is removed by the adjustment, the body is better able to cope with disease through self-healing.
Q. Is every case adjusted the same?
A. While every case is adjusted in the neck, no two cases are adjusted alike. It has been estimated that over 10,000 combinations exist of vertebral displacements. Each combination requires a different, precision adjustment which is determined from the analysis of the patient's x-rays.
Q. Are there exercises that will help strengthen my spine?
A. Yes, but a patient who has suffered a subluxation for some time also has had spastic contracture of the extensor muscles. Until spastic contracture is relieved some exercises, therefore, would be harmful. It is better to consult with your doctor about an exercise program.
Q. How does a patient become aware of illness?
A. Through impressions carried by sensory (input) nerves to the brain (sensorium). These sensations are interpreted in the brain, and his/her body is, in effect, warning him/her by distress signals. If a subluxation produces a sensory conduction block, the patient may not be aware of his/her illness because these sensations may not fully reach the brain. Once the sensory conduction block is removed by the adjustment, the input nerves, being cleared, may increase his/her awareness of pain.
Q. Do pain-killing drugs retard my recovery?
A. Yes, they act by reducing or blocking off impressions to the sensorium of the brain. When these impression are blocked off from the brain, self-healing is slowed. Tell your doctor if you are taking pain-killers.
Q. What is the chiropractor's position on obtaining other opinions from other professionals?
A. It is encouraged. It is recommended, however, that the patient continue to have his subluxation monitored so that normal performance of the nervous systems is assured.
Q. Can I feel good and still have a subluxation?
A. Yes, sensation is conveyed from the body's sense organs through the spinal cord to the brain over sensory or input nerves. If the subluxation reduces the capacity of these nerves to carry sensation, the patient will not be fully aware of his health problem. He may feel well enough, but be quite ill.
Q. Does it take an injury to cause a subluxation?
A. No. We are subject to the stresses of our environment and must constantly adjust to it. Within the environment are disease-producing organisms, pollutants, poisons, psychological stresses, and other factors affecting the body. If we cannot adapt to these factors, a subluxation may be produced.
Q. If I respond quickly and feel O.K. after an adjustment or two, why should I return?
A. The subluxation is a very delicate mechanism. A lateral misalignment no greater than the width of a pencil mark may cause neurological imbalance until the subluxation is stabilized.
Q. Can my subluxation correct itself?
A. Rarely, and only if an injury repositions the displaced vertebrae.
Q. Do vertebrae "snap" out of place?
A. No, not without some force that moves them out of place. The two most vulnerable vertebrae are the two top bones in the neck. They are held only by tendons, ligaments, and muscles and have no bony locks as do other vertebrae. Additionally, these top vertebrae must support the weight of the head.
Q. Do you recommend a shoe lift under the short leg?
A. No, except when the patient was born with a short leg, or acquired one through accident. The short (contracted) leg is caused by spastic contracture of the extensor muscles, resulting from a subluxation at the lower end of the brainstem. A shoe lift will not correct the subluxation or the spastic contracture.
Q. Should everyone be checked for a subluxation?
A. Yes, checking the spine for a subluxation could uncover subluxation-caused conduction blocks. Removing these blocks could prevent many illnesses from developing. Posture could be improved, spinal discs protected, and undue unilateral stresses on knees and hip joints avoided. General health would also be improved. As teeth are regularly checked by the dentist, spines should be checked for subluxations.
Q. Should I check my subluxation after recovery?
A. Yes, an occasional check is advisable every six months. A subluxation can recur or a new and different subluxation created, giving rise eventually to new conditions and symptoms.