When it comes to chiropractic and spinal correction, people always think the adjustment is what gets them better. It doesn’t. It’s only when your body is in a state of not needing to be adjusted that it will heal and get better. Upper cervical specialist Dr. Alfred Tomp says that’s what separates upper cervical chiropractors from general chiropractors. It is having that concept of the spine holding and not making any corrections. Dr. Tomp has adamantly tries to perfect his Blair technique and tries to get it better because that’s what precision chiropractic is all about. There has to be no room for error and you have to give every single patient the absolute best care possible to get that adjustment to hold.
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Precision Chiropractic with Dr. Alfred Tomp
We have Dr. Alfred Tomp. He is one of my mentors. I learned so much from him. He’s been a Blair Upper Cervical Chiropractor for 26 and a half years. He gets phenomenal results in his office. I’m very lucky to have him on the podcast. Dr. Tomp, how are you?
I’m doing great. Thank you, Kevin.
Dr. Tomp, you have a little unique story of how you got into Upper Cervical Chiropractic. Do you mind sharing that?
When I was in high school I was playing football at an all guy’s Catholic high school. I injured my lower back severely and it progressively got worse. It kept getting worse to the point where I was literally bedridden for about eight weeks. My parents took me from doctor to doctor. I saw a couple of different orthopedists. I remember trying to get in to see a therapist. They actually took me to an acupuncturist. This would’ve been in 1980. The lady does not speak English. It was a very interesting experience. I remember the pain dropping, but I still couldn’t walk. I needed assistance to get around or I’d crawl. I remember crawling around the upstairs.
You were sixteen years old at this point?
I wasn’t even sixteen yet. I was about fifteen. My aunt had a friend and I think she was dating him. He’s a Lebanese guy and his name was Dr. George. My folks still live in the same place and Dr. George practiced at the time up in Hollywood. He came in while I was lying in bed and looked at me. He did a leg check on the floor and then he said, “We need to get him to the office.” They carried me down, put me in the backseat of my mom’s car and drove me out to Hollywood. It was actually dark. He came out with an X-ray chair that we’ve got, rolled it out, popped me in that thing and took me in the back. I remember the clamps on my head. By the time he got me on the table and did the adjustment, within a few minutes the pain started to ease. I remember laying there and resting for a bit. I could feel my body shifting and changing.
When I stood up, I could put my arms above my head, which I hadn’t been able to do in months from the pain, because my spine wouldn’t go into extension. When I left the office, I remember grabbing a card and I saw the word chiropractor on the card. I haven’t even seen the word before that at age fifteen. I told my parents we’ve been going to the wrong doctors. We need to go to a chiropractor. Right next to my dad’s office was a chiropractor. I remember going in there and him taking these big X-rays, the full spines that I do now. I remember them being large when I was a kid. He wanted me to go there every day or every other day. He would come blowing into the room with the ceiling tiles coming up because he came in so fast. He cranked me one way or the other and then left. I remember lying there in the room going, “What am I supposed to do? Then the assistant came in and said, “You’re done. You can leave.”
At the end of the week, which was right after I got adjusted. I remember my leg was starting to drag and it was because he was doing general manipulation. He was pulling it out of my body basically. I told my parents, “This isn’t it. I’ve got to go somewhere else. This isn’t getting me anywhere.” Then I went to a doctor again, another set of films. One treatment and I’m like, “That’s not it. We got to see Dr. George.” They carted me up to see Dr. George. He was like, “Why did you let anybody touch you?” I probably didn’t hear the education he gave me. He was a quite spoken. He was practicing Upper Cervical technique called Grostic, which is a precursor to NUCCA. He put my atlas back in because it was out again. I could feel the adjustment slip out of my body. I’d go up to LA. It was literally 70 miles, get my atlas set, and come back. I remember being in college, I’d bring dates up there. “We’ll go to LA, I’m going to get adjusted.” It was a weird experience trying to have a couple drinks and eating a little bit after. My system didn’t take that very well.
I like to do nothing after an adjustment.
I learned a lot going through that. As a matter of fact, for any of the chiropractors out there in 1988, I was adjusted. I entered chiropractor school in 1987. I graduated at Chapman with a Bachelor’s in Biology and Chemistry then went to Los Angeles College of Chiropractic. There was no upper cervical work there. My chiropractor said, “Try to learn some Pettibon because they’ve got a little bit of that upper cervical analysis. He said, “These are the guys.” He pointed me to Ralph Gregory and Marshall Dickholtz and Alberti. Those were his mentors.
I was traveling to Monroe, Michigan twice a year while I was in chiropractic school. Back then we didn’t have to track our hours. I did whenever I could to go study upper cervical because it wasn’t being taught there. In 1988, I got adjusted by Dr. Ralph Gregory. He wasn’t crazy about Dr. George’s listing. When he adjusted me, I did feel even a bit clearer. That adjustment set my spine for about two and a half months. I also discovered that it was hard to find a Grostic doctor. I was getting NUCCA adjustments. The NUCCA doctor had at least ten years of experience that could hold the adjustment. Dr. George got it better and Dr. Gregory were the only ones that could get it to hold. In 1991, my oldest son was born. He was born with a suction extractor. I knew his atlas was subluxated from the force coming down the canal. I didn’t have the skill set. I had just taken the board. I didn’t even have a California license yet. A friend of mine said, “There’s a guy up in the desert, Dr. Walden Muncie who has taken care of thousands of babies. That’s where you should take your son.”
He’s a legend.
My main mentor was Dr. Muncie. I went and took William at two months old up there. He took five X-rays on the baby, put his atlas back in place, the colic went away. William started sleeping through the night and his skin color improved. It was like the night and day difference. The following week, I went up and got adjusted by Dr. Muncie. It was different than just an atlas. It was a double misalignment on the atlas and a C3 that Dr. Muncie cleared. That adjustment, thank God held in my spine for thirteen months. I never felt better. I already learned a bit of Grostic.
I was studying NUCCA very diligently. I’d also had studied some Atlas Orthogonal, which was Dr. Sweat’s work. The Orthogonal Upper Cervical Techniques, which was good for me because I can take some of those procedures and bring them forward. Some of the things that you saw in my office were things that I liked from the Orthogonal system that we moved in. I thought, “I like looking at pelvic distortion. It’s helpful to the analysis.” It was a great part of my journey to be able to experience all that. From that point forward, for the next ten years I took every seminar document he gave. I used to drive 108 miles from Rancho Santa Margarita to Lancaster, California one way through LA to get adjusted. That was literally where I would go.
Dr. Tomp, you mentioned a lot of the adjustments holding and not holding. Where does the healing take place? Is it the adjustment itself or is it when it stays put?
The adjustment doesn’t get people better. People always think the adjustment is what gets them better. It’s only when your body is in a state of not needing to be adjusted that it will heal and get better. There is a stimulation that happens from the adjustment. There’s a little bit of endorphin release so there’s a therapeutic benefit, but there’s no spinal correction. A spinal correction only happens in a state when your spine is cleared, not needing to be corrected. That’s what separates us upper cervical chiropractors from general chiropractors. It is having that concept of the spine holding, we’re not going to be making any corrections. It’s good news.
That’s very good news when a patient’s holding. Dr. Tomp, what’s interesting about your office is a strictly Blair Upper Cervical office, but you also have incorporated all the stuff you’ve taken with you over the years from the other upper cervical techniques. I spent two years in your office and I was seeing miracles happen every day. What do you guys attribute that to? What people do you see in your office? What conditions do you see getting better?
A big part of that is understanding the hold and patients in our office do hold well. That comes from during that ten-year period of time when I was adamantly trying to perfect my Blair technique and trying to get it better. I knew these masters because I was adjusted by Dr. Gregory and by Dr. Muncie. I knew that if I was going to be anywhere near where these masters were going to be, my upper cervical procedure had to be precise. There was no room for error. I’d go to other upper cervical offices and see a lot of stuff that was sloppy. It wasn’t exact, it wasn’t right on. Sometimes it works and sometimes it wouldn’t. Dr. Muncie used to say, “What if it was your wife? What if it was your child? What if it was your parents? You want to give every single patient the absolute best care possible to get that adjustment to hold. What was interesting was after about ten years of practice, I still had a group of patients who were not holding well and it was getting frustrating to me. They were out every week and I thought it wasn’t right to me because I’ve experienced thirteen-month holding.
When my kids were little my holding wasn’t that great, but it was always better than three, four or five months, I will hold an adjustment. Currently, thanks to Dr. Hoefer I’m holding over five years using some of our newest procedures. I started taking that subset of patients that weren’t holding well and I said, “We’re going to stop doing adjustments on you because for the longest time I thought it was me. My skill’s not good enough. I’m not making good enough corrections. I realized that a lot of times these joints get loose and sloppy and the soft tissues are not there, the patient doesn’t have the postural integrity to hold the adjustment. I asked Dr. Gregory, Dr. Berti, and Dr. Muncie several times, “How can you strengthen that weakness that’s there to get people to hold longer?” The same answer they always came up, “You can’t strengthen that weakness. You can’t do it. You try to strengthen it, it’s going to subluxate, and you’re going to make it more unstable.” About ten years into practice I came across some guys that were doing these corrective exercise work. I noticed that that subset of patients held better. I thought, “There’s a postural component.”
If the head’s more forward, it’s going to put more stress on the spine. They’re going to come out of alignment more quickly. I took that subset of patients that weren’t holding well and I started to do some very specific muscle work on them to get their spines to hold better. If they had anterior misalignments, we’d get in the front, we’d start clearing those muscles out. Technically it’s not upper cervical work.
Dr. Hoefer helped coined it well. It’s a supportive work. This work is designed to support the adjustment. We took that with the patients that weren’t holding and all of a sudden now they’re holding a month, two months, four months, and eight months. I started taking those procedures and applying them across the board. Once we started doing that, everybody started holding so much better, that’s what happened. We keep testing, refining and trying to get things as exact as possible. Dr. Hoefer brought a whole bunch to the practice ten years ago. She had the concept of bringing some energy work to the upper cervical work. She’s got her skill set and going to school at Palmer was good. You and I both went to LACC, so you understand what that’s like which is good because we had to go out and get it.
I had come to your office if I wanted to learn it at all.
That’s what I did. I hung out in upper cervical offices all the time like you do.
What’s funny too is which I think helped me out the most is every time I walked into your office I would walk around you were like, “What are you doing? Go look at the X-rays.” Your job is to go look at every single X-ray that walked back because I was there practicing the adjustment. I was getting good at my adjustments, but that means absolutely nothing if you’re pushing the bone the wrong way or you can’t find the misalignment on the X-ray. How important is the X-ray analysis to this work?
The X-ray analysis is crucial. We’re describing our work as that typical chiropractic techniques are very technique-based. They look at the condition of the spine and say, “We’re going to give you a whole bunch of adjustments.” Our work is analysis driven so the analysis tells us exactly what we’re going to do. We can’t make a precise correction unless we know exactly how to make that correction. Dr. Addington did some research years and years ago. He said, “Between the misalignments that can occur at C1 and C2, there are over ten million possible misalignments. You know that we apply it especially in our office, we go all the way down into the cervical spine if anything is active all the way down to C7. That’s specific to that person.
Dr. Tomp, how does somebody get a misalignment? How do people get sick and fall out of alignment? How does that happen?
The initial misalignment is always caused by a physical trauma. It could be something like my oldest son, which was a birth trauma. My other two, thank God, didn’t get knocked out from birth trauma. It could be from a fall. I’ve got a scar right in the middle of my forehead and I don’t remember this, but when I was little my dad tells a story. I was running along at two and a half full speed, tripped, fell the corner of the coffee table right in the middle of the head. I’ve still had the mark in the middle of my forehead. My dad through threw the coffee table away and got an oval-shaped one. That was my first subluxation. I also saw a birth picture of myself. My mom doesn’t remember my birth because back in 1965 they gas the moms and pull us out. I was probably knocked out from the birth process, football. It was a lot of trauma. I remember getting flashes of light from those head-to-head contact.
Being on special teams scared me the most because it’s high speed. I know I’m going to hit 50 yards in front of me. I’ve got a full head of steam and he’s got a full head of steam. I’m going to hit him as hard as I can. When we were taught, we used the center of the forehead. I don’t know what they teach. I remember the flashes of light. I got concussions. The car accidents are big. We X-ray our existing patients who got involved in a car accident and they’re like, “Why did we think we’re okay?” We look at their bodies and they’re in a different position. That position may not be symptomatic until years down the road because they’ve misaligned their entire spine. A lot of times in a totally new pattern.
Let’s say they’re knocked out of alignment as a child, they get into another car accident or something. Let’s say at age sixteen, they’ve got another totally new misalignment pattern on top of that, and then they get a concussion or some big trauma later on. They may have several misalignment patterns buried in on top of that. It’s always physical trauma that creates that weakness and that misalignment. Poor diet stress, bad posture, being on devices and computers and all that stuff that aggravates what’s already there. Whereas usually, that’s what makes people symptomatic and they think that’s the cause, but the cause is usually a trauma before that. You know in my office, Heather, does those phenomenal trauma histories and even digs those out. That’s important so that we know what the patient’s gone through before we’ve gotten to them.
What you’re saying is a physical trauma could cause the actual misalignment or subluxation. After that happens, we put back the person back into alignment, can an emotional stress trigger that and pull that person out of alignment?
I’ve seen that happen, especially when people go through like major grief or a major loss. It’s not uncommon to slip out. The way we teach it and the way we understand it is that we’ll put the adjustment back in, but you will lose the adjustment if there is ever a time when your internal resistance is lower than the external force. Two examples on the opposite ends of the spectrum. If you’re well-rested, you’re feeling great. Everything is good but car accident, it’s going to be hard to hold that thing or it may create a new one if it’s hard enough. Another case let’s say, you’re a college student, you’re studying for finals, you’re not sleeping, you run down and then you sleep wrong on your neck because you’re so run down. It doesn’t take much force, it’ll slip out.
Oftentimes we see this with a lot of patients. We put them back into alignment, they feel amazing, they’re doing great and then the healing process starts. Can you explain the healing process retracing and what some people experienced with that?
What happens is that if somebody’s been out of alignment for 30 years and we get them at age 45 and they’d been out of alignment since a car accident at age fifteen or sixteen, if they sprain their right knee, they injured their back a few times, during the course of this 30-year period of time of being out of alignment, the body can’t completely heal when you’re out of alignment. The neck goes out, the pelvis ships. Our bodies are masters at adapting. We’re in this compromised position, we get another injury, we pull our back from lifting something heavy. The body heals it, but it doesn’t quite heal it completely because your body’s out and you’ve got years of these not completely healed injuries in your body. Once you clear their spine, the body says, “This is fantastic. Usually, it feels great.” Then the next thing you know it opens up the closet with all the skeletons like, “Crap, look at all this shit in here. We didn’t heal correctly for all these years.” All of a sudden about every three months somebody goes in and starts digging that stuff out.
The cool thing is you can predict when it’s going to happen, you can tell your patients. People will say, “I injured this right knee years ago and it wasn’t bothering me that much, but it’s aching and it’s been sore.” It couldn’t heal well because the positioning of the pelvis and the nerve integrity to that need was not what it should be. That’s probably the easiest way to think of retracing. I think it was originally an observed phenomenon at the B.J. Palmer Clinic. Upper cervical work was first developed in the ’30s. They had medical doctors and they were examining patients. Then they had B.J. and those guys making the corrections. If you ever watched that, they had him on hospital gurneys and they were taking X-rays on them every two weeks. They were scanning them and they could get them clear and they would see these healing responses. That was the first time they started documenting it.
Dr. Tomp, does upper cervical have a great effect on stroke patients and some of the neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s? Have you had any experience with that?
It does help because it helps with cognitive function. If you look at the work from a Dr. Scott Rosa up there, not too far from where you’re at, he talks about a normalization of blood flow to the brain when you correct that atlas. When the atlas is out of alignment, it’s the head that’s not resting properly on the spine. That alters the flow of blood and it also alters the flow of spinal fluid through the brain, the CSF that makes the neurodegeneration worse. Once you get somebody in alignment their ability to heal and recover gets better. We do see improvement with that. A lot of times they start to feel better. They can start moving better. If you can get them to start exercising, you’re getting better blood flow to the brain, that always helps with those cases.
Dr. Tomp, you wanted to share a little case study with one of your patients. What was going on with your patient?
I’m about a year and a half in practice and my first front-office CA refers in her mom to come in. She’s had headaches and neck pain and pain down into her arm and really a pretty severe spine. I take pictures of her. It was the worst spine that I had seen at that point in time. At that time, she was about 42 years old. A huge reversal in the curve and she had been deaf since age fifteen. When I went in and I did that analysis and everything showed up, she had a huge C3, C2, and C1. Misalignments on all top three vertebrae and I was like, “Let’s see what happens.” I went in there and corrected all three of them and her hearing was restored right on the spot.
Tears were coming down her eyes. She is like, “I can hear.” I’m like, “It’s okay. Just lay and relax.” I didn’t know what to say. I’m thinking a crazy euphoric response. I didn’t know what it was. I’m like, “Don’t disturb the adjustment.” On our next visit, she comes in and she says, “I was sitting in the back of the church, I could close my eyes and I can listen to the whole sermon.” Tears are coming down her eyes. She was writing me letters. It was so exciting. It got picked up by a local newspaper group, the Rancho Santa Margarita News. That article ended up in a lot of chiropractic colleges. Dr. Harkins talks about it. If you read any of his posts, he’ll talk about that case. That was crazy. Literally, I was not in practice for longer than about a year and a quarter.
That’s amazing how it came back almost right away because usually, it takes some time for that. That woman got her life back completely.
A major change in her life. I still see her family, grandkids and great-grandkids now. The other thing too is I’ve got several patients that come in and tell me that they think they’re out of alignment and I go, “What is your symptom?” They’ll tell me,” I can’t hear in my right ear.” Once I put them back in, the hearing comes back. I’ve got multiple cases like that. You’ll get those.
There’s a huge epidemic going on right now with Meniere’s. One or two patients a week come in with the ear ring, vertigo, fullness, headaches, heart racing and all that stuff. Blair Upper Cervical does a really good work with that as well.
We get a lot of Meniere’s cases referred, a lot of dizziness cases, a lot of vertigo because when that upper cervical spine is not in the right place, that’s what happens.
The sad thing about when a Meniere’s patient comes into your office, not everyone but a lot of people who said they come in and they’re just almost hopeless because they had been told so many times that this is not reversible. You’re going to have to live with this for the rest of your life. Here’s the medication. Not every time in the first adjustment it goes away right away, although it does happen but it could be a wild ride back to health. We do have really great success with Meniere’s patients as well. Dr. Tomp, any other cases you want to share?
No. I’ve got hundreds of them but that was one that I thought that you’d find interesting if you hadn’t heard that.
I didn’t even know that one. That’s great. Dr. Tomp, where are you located and where can people find your practice?
We’re in South Orange County, we’re halfway between LA and San Diego. I’ve been in Rancho Santa Margarita for 26 and a half years. Our website is DrTomp.com. That will take you to our website with Dr. Hoefer, which is BlairChiropractors.com. Call the office, you can talk with any of the staff there. Heather is usually good on the phone. She talks with new patients a lot and she does the initial consult. We take care of all kinds of things. We see a lot of migraine headaches. We’ve got a few medical doctors sending us migraine cases, which has been pretty exciting.
Dr. Tomp, if you could share with the audience one piece of advice that you have taken with you over the years that has helped you and stuck with you, that you would like to share, what would it be? It could be anything.
I remember what Dr. Muncie always used to say that take care of every patient like it’s a close family member. If this was your wife, if this was your sister, your brother, how would you take care of them? What would you do for them and that’s what you do for all your patients. That was a huge bit of advice because it made everything easy at that point. A lot of times you’re worried about getting sued, litigation or all the things they teach you at school and they put a lot of fear in your head. It’s like, “I’m going to take care of you with the best that I can. If this is going on with you, like you’re my brother and if I needed to send you to a medical doctor, I would do that. Whatever I felt would be absolutely the best for you is what I’m going to do for you.” If you take care of people that way, you’ll be able to help the most amount of people.
Dr. Tomp, thank you so much for coming on and sharing your story. I appreciate everything you’ve done for me and I look forward to talking with you soon.
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