Basic principles of the new atlas chiropractic technique (A.O.)

What are the anatomical and functional principles underlying the new
“gentle” atlas chiropractic technique?

Just like Atlas, the figure in Greek mythology condemned by Jove to carry the world on his shoulders, the top vertebra of our spine, known by the same name, supports the cranium, which it connects to the rest of the spine. If we consider that the atlas has to bear the weight of the cranium (between 4 and 7 kg), it is easy to understand the effects its subluxation can have..

Moreover, when we consider the closeness of the atlas vertebra to the brain (and the continuous comings and goings of nerve impulses) and the high mobility of the upper cervical spine (making it more susceptible to subluxation than the rest), a great number of pains throughout the body – in fact, more than one might expect – can be attributed to the misalignment of the atlas vertebra.

The riding accident that paralyzed Christopher Reeve (Superman) gives a good understanding of the importance of this section of the spine. The late actor suffered lesions in the cervical spine that resulted in the loss of motor and sensory functions below the shoulders and the need for mechanical ventilation. In fact, the higher the spinal injury, the greater the extent of the damage. In Christopher Reeve’s case, a lower lesion would have allowed him the use of his arms and hands, as well as spontaneous breathing.

A slipped atlas, and the resulting misalignment with the rest of the spinal column, shifts the position of the head away from its proper vertical position.

As a result of the slipped atlas (the top cervical vertebra, C1), the entire body is then progressively twisted. In essence, this degenerative process can be compared, as stated above, to the movement of a large metal chain dangling freely in the vertical position: when the first link (namely, the atlas in the spine) is twisted, each subsequent link turns accordingly, thereby disrupting the rest of the chain.

This leads to a gradual and increasing postural imbalance, as the body attempts to: a) compensate to maintain its center of gravity; b) bring the head back into a vertical position compared to the feet and spine.

Different length legs?

During examinations, chiropractors will find that this twisting of the skeleton has caused one leg to appear shorter than the other. However, it is worth noting that in most cases one leg is not actually shorter, but is drawn short due to the body’s compensation for the displaced atlas.

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