We have all been in a place where we suddenly feel pain out of nowhere; and many of us take this for granted thinking that we just woke up with it. In reality, this is probably connected to a trauma that happened ten or even twenty years ago. This is symptomatic of structural injuries where the interference process happens. Leading us to an exploration on that topic is Dr. John Stenberg of Zenith Chiropractic. He gives us a background on how does the nerve interference process happen. He also talks about nerve testing—when to adjust, when not to adjust, as well as some different avenues you can go down as a patient to make sure that you are in the right spot. So if you are a patient with some neurological issues, then you will definitely find his insights very helpful; offering great advices and an overview of the tools used to overcome pain from an upper cervical chiropractic point of view.
We have Dr. John Stenberg. Dr. John is a recurring guest on the podcast. He is an upper cervical chiropractor out of Colorado Springs, Colorado. On the podcast, we talked about everything that has to do with upper cervical chiropractic: what to expect your first visit, why we do all the different neurological testing we do, how we analyze your very own unique x-rays and CT scans to figure out what’s going on in your particular case. We go over the different types of conditions we treat, what to expect in care, what the first month is going to look like, how many times you should have to go in. We talked about the healing process, everything that goes into to upper cervical chiropractic because not too many people know about it. It’s a specialty within the chiropractic field and it’s very powerful.
We see a lot of miracles happen in our office so we want to make sure that we are delivering the best care to you and spread the good message. Also, we talked about how to find the closest upper cervical chiropractor to you. There’s not a lot of people that do it around the world. We talked about how to locate one and which technique might be the best fit for you. We also talked about chiropractic in general. If you move to a new area or you want to try out a different chiropractor, it’s very important to know what that chiropractor does because there’s about over 200 techniques and you want to make sure you find the right technique for yourself. Without further ado, please welcome Dr. John Stenberg.
Listen To The Episode Here:
Upper Cervical Chiropractic: What To Expect with Dr. John Stenberg
I’d like everybody to welcome back, Dr. John Stenberg. Dr. John, how are you doing?
I’m doing great, Kevin. I appreciate you having me back on. We were talking about some things off the air last time that are important for folks to understand as it relates to the chiropractic care and what we do and why. I’m excited to cover some of those bases for folks.
It’s very important too because there are so many different chiropractic techniques. I feel like a lot of people that just want to find a chiropractic locally, whether in you’re in America or Europe, it can be very confusing because a lot of people do a lot of different things. It’s great that we’re going to talk about nerve testing, when to adjust, when not to adjust and different avenues you can go down as a patient to make sure you’re in the right spot.
One thing that’s important to mention is that we’re both chiropractic patients too. We’re both Doctors of Chiropractic, we take care of patients in our clinics but it’s what we do for ourselves and our health as well. We have both perspectives to offer, the inside scoop. That brings some value to the table for sure.
If you’re a patient and you’ve got some pretty heavy neurological issues or even minor ones, whether it’s being headaches or just chronic neck pain or numbness and tingling, I feel like there has to be a certain measurement of nerve flow that’s going on in your body. Sometimes as we know, we get people back into alignment and they start healing from old injuries and that numbness and tingling can come back. If you’re not measuring nerve interference, you could ruin everything. Some people might have little flare-ups and they’re in alignment and we want to make sure that we’re measuring the nerve interference and that everything is going perfectly.
They even take it a step back for those folks because this is a common conversation that I have in the office with patients. I’ve been to a lot of different doctors and I’ve had a bunch of different testing, but nobody’s explained to me what my problem is and what the different options are in terms of solving it. The question behind that question is what types of problems do chiropractors work on in the first place, how do I know if I have that problem, if you can help me with it, and how it might be manifesting itself in the body in symptoms, which I like to refer to in the office as secondary conditions. For me, we’re always trying to work with a certain problem. We’re trying to correct that problem and there are a lot of side effects or secondary conditions that develop as a result of that problem, which is what gets folks in the door in the first place for exploring their different options.
I’m sure you’ve seen this before too. Many people come into you for one certain thing whether it be lower back pain, sciatica or headaches and then you start explaining to them what chiropractic is and they’re like, “I have tinnitus. I do have that numbness and tingling in my arm. I didn’t think you guys could take care of that.” That’s also nice to see and it also shows that we have to do a better job as chiropractors to show the people what we do exactly and what problems we can take care of.
There’s always a connecting-the-dots type of process, like understanding how the fall that you had down the steps when you were five years old or when you wrecked your bike and blacked out or when you had ten concussions playing football when you were a kid, the car wreck, how all that stuff has an impact on more than just the pain that you feel or the dysfunction in your neck or your back. There are health consequences of structural injuries. A lot of folks in their quest to get healthier, whether it’s treating a disease or they want to eliminate a symptom, what they’re trying to do is be healthier. It’s helping them to understand how that started to happen over time, how the body’s been compensating and how you’ve been accumulating wear and tear associated with certain injuries that eventually led to what you’re feeling. A lot of folks don’t think that there’s any connection between those things that they expect or experience commonly that are not normal.
People do have those injuries that happened ten years ago. They come in and we start talking about that and they’re still a little skeptical like, “That happened ten years ago.” A lot of people wake up with those symptoms and they think they just woke up with it. In reality, it’s probably a trauma that happened ten, fifteen, twenty years ago that hasn’t been addressed and it’s giving out. How does that work do you think? How does the nerve interference process happen? Sometimes all the nerve thing show up ten, fifteen, twenty years down the road.
One of the big reasons behind our ability to get results in those types of things is exactly what you’re explaining. It’s the fact that the human body is highly adaptable, so it’s used to and very equipped to overcome challenges. That’s what we’re trying to facilitate in people is their ability to adapt to the changes in their environment internally and externally. When you have injuries or things that happen to you gradually over time, the body does what it does, it adapts to those injuries. It works around them to the best of its ability and it continues to meet the demands of your day-to-day life. Over time, those compensations and those patterns that the body adapts to move and work around those injuries start to accumulate some wear and tear. Over time, the wear and tear that associates with those compensations will eventually start to cause irritation. Irritation will start to cause inflammation. Inflammation will start to cause a pain or a symptom somewhere.
That’s usually the first warning signal that something is wrong in the structure and the function of the body and that’s where folks usually start to explore their options. Whether or not it happened overnight, everybody feels good until they don’t. Everybody’s healthy until they’re not. We always want to figure out what was the first domino in a series of events that led to your body being at a lowered state of health. If we can start there and start rebuilding health from where you started to lose it, you’re going to stand a better chance of full recovery and not just a full recovery but doing better on the long-term.
John, let’s jump into what to expect with an upper cervical consultation. How do we measure the nerve interference? It’s very important to go through past histories of people, even falling off the monkey bars when you were a kid or banging your head on the coffee table or fallen out of the crib. We like to uncover all those little injuries because they do add up over time. When a new patient does come into the office, it’s very important to take a detailed history to know where they’re coming from. We have a lot of objective tests to help us measure nerve flow and the leg check to see what’s going on structurally. What’s it like in your office when a person comes in and they say, “I’ve got the headaches. I’ve got the numbness and tingling?” What is your first step as an upper cervical chiropractor to figure out what’s going on and get this person feeling better?
That’s a great question because that starts to explain the process to folks, so they know what to expect. It’s always a conversation. A consultation where we sit down and accomplish two major goals. Number one, I like people to be able to tell me their story, give it to me in their words. There’s something to having that opportunity to share what they’re experiencing and have someone make sense of it with them not just for them that’s valuable. The second part of the consultation is for me explaining exactly what we’re talking about, what to expect in terms of the problems that we can work with, how we measure those, how we monitor progress over time, what we expect to achieve and all that sort of thing. The process of the consultation and doing those two things is to decide if this is the best option for you to meet your goals or overcome your health challenges. That’s always the first step.
After that, we’ll do a comprehensive examination. What we want to look at are two main aspects of the way that the body works. It’s structural stability and functional integrity. The relationship between the two is what provides the avenue for helping people to feel and function better. That process looks at a few different things conceptually. We want to see the balance within the structure of the body, so that’s going to include both the localized view of the head and neck region or the upper cervical spine. We want to see if there’s any specific misalignments or instabilities or abnormalities in that region because that’s where we’re going to perform our adjustments and make our incorrections. We also want to see how that’s affecting the rest of the frame of the body because I always tell people where the head goes, the body follows. We want to see at certain landmarks the shoulders, the hips, the feet. We want to see if there are deviations away from normal balance in the structure of their body. That’s how we start to connect the dots between what’s happening at the head and neck and what you’re feeling at the lower back, for example.
A lot of chiropractors, in general, do something called palpation. What can be very useful? Even though we are upper cervical, I like to still feel the person’s neck to feel if there’s any tightness or tender knots because that could be an indicator where some of the problems are. As we know if you’re only doing that, it could be a problem because everybody’s joints and bone structure are different from one side than the other. What you could be feeling like a sore or tight muscle on that left or right side could be that person’s bone structure just being a little bit bigger or jutting out a little bit more on that side because that’s how they’re built. I’m sure you find this too a lot. It could be a big problem for chiropractors that aren’t taking X-rays. I know you see this with the CBCT scans.
I would say about two out of ten, maybe even three out of ten people that come in that we get X-rayed, their mastoid which is right by the ear is covering their transverse processes on C1. What that means is if you are just feeling a person’s neck and it feels like you’re touching the atlas C1, you could be on C2 because that bone structure is different on that person and you’re not on the right segment. What we know is being specific is everything in our world. You have to be extremely specific and that’s because you have to be able to take away the nerve interference. If you’re not taking any imaging, you could be on the completely wrong segment and making that person a little worse.
From a structural perspective, when we’re working in the region where the brainstem exists, we’re looking at the cranial cervical junction in the upper cervical spine or whatever terminology you prefer. To not look and see exactly what’s going on beneath the surface before you go in and start implementing adjusting procedures will be problematic for a lot of people because of what you’re saying. There are certain assumptions that we make when we don’t take imaging. Number one, that it’s safe to adjust in that area. Number two, that it’s easy to adjust in that area meaning we know where the bones are, how they’re shaped and where we can get access to contact them. Number three, assuming that there’s not more than one problem to consider in choosing the right adjustment for that person.
The reason why we do imaging is to provide the blueprint for what’s going to be an individualized, customized, conservative, precise, effective adjustment for that person. We always want to fix a problem without creating a new one. In our analysis or our system of structural analysis, we’re looking at the individual articulations or the knuckles of the neck in order to determine where is the problem, how has that problem developed mechanically for this person and what’s going to be the most appropriate, safe and effective leverage to correct that problem for this person. We’re going to assume nothing. Person-to-person, we’re going to let their body, their anatomy and their individual circumstances dictate the way that we’re going to do our adjustments.
Another tool we use is the leg length check, which is a very telling test. Usually, most people are walking around with one leg that’s not anatomically shorter. There’s a lot of compensation going on in the spine that’s hiking that hip up and causing one leg to be shorter. I have a lot of people that come to the office and said, “Somebody told me that my left leg is shorter than my right.” I love when those people come in with a family member, so I can show them. If their left leg is short, I have them turn to their left for the cervical syndrome test or to the right and their legs will balance out because of all the interference going on in your neck. That can cause the short leg. That’s another reason why upper cervical can fix the lower back pain. We can balance out the entire system just through a neck adjustment.
That’s such an important point to make because the spine is a continuous functional system. It’s all connected. The body works as a whole. It’s got certain bits and pieces that work seemingly independent of each other but in reality, it’s all connected and works together. For example, if you’re walking down the street in your normal gait cycle, your shoulders and your back are twisting. You’re taking steps as you’re swinging your arms. Your head is looking to see where you’re going and anticipate changes in the terrain. When we talk about a leg length inequality or a short leg, there are two different options. One of them, which is one of the bones in the leg. The shin bone or the femur could be longer than the other. That’s going to be a structural imbalance or an asymmetry that is not going to change with an adjustment per se. On the other side, the more common side is the functional leg length inequality, which is essentially like you described. It’s the muscles around the back that are contracting asymmetrically, meaning you have more muscle tone on one side than the other. You’ve got more imbalance on one side than the other and it pulls and twists the frame of the body, including the hips and the pelvis producing the appearance when you’re lying flat on a table of one leg being shorter than the other.
John, we do Tytron scanning that tells us the thermal pattern in somebody’s neck to see if they’re out of alignment. We do the leg check and we show the people that you do have some compensation going up in the upper cervical region of your spine. This is all well and good, but this means nothing to a lot of people. They’re like, “How do I fix this?” This all seems great but people are like, “This is great. Just fix it now.” What do we do now that we have all this information to help heal and get the person better?
For us, when we have a patient laying on a table and we’re analyzing and looking at the balance of the spine, the leg length can be a good measuring stick to gauge how the muscles of the spine and around the hips are contracting on one side compared to the other. You can have an instance where the legs are not uneven and you still require an adjustment and you can have instances where the legs are uneven and you don’t require an adjustment. It’s one piece of an analytical context, a bunch of different pieces of the puzzle that we bring to the table for each person to know when and how and when not to adjust. It is one that can be very reliable in terms of understanding the imbalance in the body. Also, to help connect the dots with how you’re feeling based on the way that your body is functioning and the balance or imbalance that it’s carrying.
A lot of people have the MRIs, the blood work and the CAT scans and they feel awful, but they’re all coming back negative. What they’re looking for, there seems to not be a problem but as what we know is when we say misalignments, we are talking legit millimeters. That could be devastating in the upper cervical spine. Although your MRIs, your CAT scans and blood work might show up negative, there could be a segment in your neck that is misplaced millimeters that’s causing a tremendous amount of pressure on your nervous system, which runs the show.
That’s such a good point because a lot of folks we see have had MRIs. They’ve had nerve conduction studies. They’ve had all kinds of testing and it’s like, “I don’t want more testing, I want a solution.” The important thing to consider is all of this testing that we’re talking about, it highlights the solution.
We do have an analysis of the entire cervical spine to help us visualize which way the misalignments are occurring and how to fix it. A lot of people have a couple misalignments in their neck and we don’t necessarily want to adjust. You may want to adjust as many as you find but in other cases, they might not show up until later down the road until we adjust them. It keeps coming back to the nerve interference, what to adjust and when not to adjust. People might have several misalignments in their neck, but we might want to adjust the atlas one day because that can clear out a ton of nerve interference and then on the next visit, you see what’s going on. That’s why it’s very important if you’re going to any chiropractor that they should have some tool that they’re using so they’re not adjusting the same segment every time or that segment might need to be left alone and let the healing begin. After we get people into alignment, we have a protocol to make sure they’re in or out or if they need an adjustment and they don’t.
This is big in the upper cervical world because a lot of chiropractors adjust every single time that somebody comes in the office. I had a guy come in who was feeling good. He was saying, “I feel good,” and then I was like, “You’re holding. You’re good and you don’t need a neck adjustment.” He was like, “What?” I was like, “No, you don’t need a neck adjustment today. You already have the nerve flow, the proper blood flow. If we gave you an adjustment right now, we would ruin everything.” He was shocked because he never heard that before. Then the light started going on and it started making sense. I’m sure you see that all the time as well.
I always tell people there’s a range between normal and full-blown pathology. When you’re getting those types of testing, they’re looking for the big stuff, the life-threatening issues, the full-blown pathologies. You’re allowed to be somewhere within that spectrum between normal and full-blown pathology and have a real functional problem that we can help improve upon. I always tell folks that if you’ve had that testing, if you’ve had those screenings, that’s good. We know that the big stuff is off the table, but there are definitely still problems that we can identify and work to improve that have been overlooked up to this point.
That’s exactly what the information that we measure and what we gather tells us if you have gone out of alignment, how that’s happened and what the best adjustment for you is going to be. That’s the blueprint for how we start to take care of people, which is what it’s all about. Those adjustment procedures are going to be indicated by how we test. We’re going to measure improvements as we’re taking folks through the process of adjusting and stabilizing them by referring to that baseline that we measured to make sure that we’re making the appropriate adjustments at the right time and that progress is happening.
One of the coolest things about the upper cervical adjustment is it continues to work weeks and months down the road. You can give a person one neck adjustment and it can hold, but they still continue to feel shifting throughout their entire body weeks and months later.
For us in the upper cervical model, we’re establishing priorities. We want to find certain problems that we’re going to work to correct over time and we’re definitely not going to take a shotgun blast approach that says, “Let’s work it all out and see how things come out in the wash.” We want to say, “We’re going to take a targeted approach. We’re going to start closest to the brain where some of those minor structural shifts, even to the degree of millimeters can become significant. Over time, we should be gaining stability meaning you don’t require adjustments every time you come in.”
Back to the consultation piece, that’s an important part of communication on the front end so that patients know what to expect, “More often than not, when you come in here and we’re checking you in performing a checkup, you’re probably not going to need to have an adjustment on that day,” and that’s great. That’s what we’re working on accomplishing. Everybody wants to go to the dentist and find out that they don’t have a cavity. Nobody’s excited to go to the doctor and find out they have a problem that needs to be fixed on that day. It’s a process of helping folks to understand how what we do is different in that way. Especially if folks have had conventional chiropractic care, they’re used to having something adjusted on every single visit.
That term, “holding the adjustment,” we have this saying that we like to use in upper cervical chiropractor which is, “Holding is healing.” We talked about this that it’s not the adjustments that make the difference, the adjustments, just get you back into alignment where your body can heal and function best. That’s where the changes start to happen. It’s when the body is at a state of optimal function so that it can heal. Dr. Jeff Hannah, who’s a Blair Upper Cervical Chiropractor in Australia, talks about this in one of his training modules, which is there’s no such thing as topping it off.
A lot of times, if your gas tank is down to half a tank, you can stop. You can top it off and add a little bit more, but it doesn’t work that way with adjusting in the way that we do. What we want to find is you’re in need of adjustment and that’s when we’re going to get the most value for each adjustment when you’re 100% in need of it. On those other times when things are still changing and adapting after the last adjustment that we made, you don’t stand to gain anything by jumping in there and doing another adjustment prematurely. There’s an important timing aspect of doing these adjustments that help people to get the benefits that they do because we allow the body to adapt to that change that we made fully before we go. It’s well-established.
This is something that we talk about in a consultation with a patient, but also on a day-to-day basis. A lot of times we’re introducing a lot of new concepts at the beginning of care. I’m sure you do this too, but I make sure to hit the high points, help them to understand why it’s important that we start the journey. Throughout the process, there are systems of education and communication so that on a more routine basis, we can reinforce a lot of concepts that we’re talking about. They’re not necessarily things that folks hear outside of the upper cervical chiropractic setting.
Upper cervical is great, but we’re also huge fans of chiropractic because it’s both how we got into the field. We didn’t find upper cervical right away. We’re a huge fan of the entire profession and there are many different chiropractic techniques that could also get people better. We both had phenomenal adjustments that have gotten us better. There are different avenues people can take. There’s sports chiropractic that focuses a lot more on muscle work, which is very valid. It’s a great profession. You just got to know what you’re going for and how they’re going to get you better. We’re specifically nervous system doctors, so you definitely want to ask a chiropractor that you’re going to, “How are you measuring the nerve interference? How do you know I need this adjustment or not?” because it’s huge and it gets you better results.
With folks who are evaluating their options and are looking for the right type of chiropractic approach for them or even just considering chiropractic care in general, understanding some of the different features related to the adjustment procedures and what you’re talking about, which is how we’re measuring and if we’re measuring progress on a day-to-day basis objectively, those are all important things to consider. I’m sure a lot of the folks you see are similar to my patients. They’re engineering types. They are folks who want to see objective testing. They appreciate that there are measurements that are taking place on a routine basis instead of relying on number one, how they’re feeling or number two, what I’m feeling with my hands.
We add all of those pieces to the puzzle. One thing that’s important to talk about is the actual adjusting procedures. We’ve talked a lot about how we work with the upper neck and how we work on identifying and correcting problems in the cervical spine, which is the neck. There might be some folks that are thinking, “That all sounds great, but I’m terrified to have someone crack or adjust my neck.” Touch on briefly what makes our adjustment different than the conventional type of neck adjustment that folks might be familiar with if they’ve seen those crazy YouTube videos where there are neck and back cracking compilations.
This is the reason why I found upper cervical chiropractic. I was in chiropractic school and a girl in my class was like, “My mom’s a chiropractor. I’ve been given adjustments my entire life.” I was like, “That sounds pretty good. I’ll let you adjust my neck.” I laid down, she gave me an adjustment, she twisted my neck around and the whole right side of my neck blew up. After the adjustment, I was like, “What was that?” Then she goes, “Was that it?” I was like, “You tell me, you just gave me the adjustment.” I was not doing well after that and thank God I found one of my friends, Dr. Brett Long out in California. He was like, “I might know one person that could help you.” That led me to Dr. Hall’s office in California. It was an awful situation but also a blessing in disguise.
I’m not saying all of those adjustments are bad but immediately after that, I was like, “How am I ever going to become a chiropractor? I don’t want to do that. I don’t want that ever done to me,” because we are chiropractic patients as well. That just doesn’t work for me. The thing about the Blair adjustment is it is so specific, it is so light and gentle. We use your own joint angles to figure out how we’re going to adjust and what direction to do it in. I’ve had people pop up off my adjusting table and be like, “That was it?” I’m like, “That was it. You’re good. Go home and rest,” and they start to feel better after that. It’s so light, gentle and precise. There’s no twisting, cracking or popping. It’s so fast that some people miss it. They’re like, “I didn’t feel one thing there,” which is amazing.
We use some specialty tables to accomplish those adjustments because people might be saying, “If you don’t twist the neck, if you don’t crack the neck, what is it that you do?”
You’re not laying on your back. You’re lying on your side.
We have what they call a side posture adjusting table, which means you’re lying on your side and your spine is in a total state of ease. It’s in a neutral posture. The same way we take your X-rays is the same way we want to adjust you. We don’t twist your neck up and the X-ray chair to get the image and we want to do the adjustment in the same way that we captured the imaging. It’s very comfortable to be laying on your side in that position. There’s no tension or discomfort introduced into the spine with the adjustment.
What I always tell folks is we want the neck to be in a state of ease. We want it to be in a state of relaxation, so when we perform the adjustment, we don’t have to use much force at all. A targeted specific force at the right place in the right direction will achieve a lot more than trying to blast through it with power and force. There are very similar types of reactions for new patients all the time where they think, “Is that going to do all the stuff that we talked about it doing?” We tell them, “Trust me. We’re going to retest afterwards. We’re going to measure if that made an improvement and if it did, things are going to start to change.”
What’s beautiful about the Blair technique is some people can’t lay down on their left side or they can’t be in certain positions. The Blair analysis is you can do the same adjustment on the opposite side. Sometimes we gently push it down or we could pull it up. Some people who have shoulder injuries are like, “I can’t lay on my left side.” We can flip you around on the table and do that same adjustment from the other side, which is a beautiful thing.
The versatility is what attracted me to this type of analysis and adjustment procedure because we don’t assume anything. We’ve got multiple options to be able to take care of folks in the way that is best suited for their circumstance. Whatever that circumstance might be, we’re going to have an option for you to get the most effective, accurate and precise adjustments.
The most beautiful thing about the Blair technique and what the chiropractic profession needs is if somebody tells me, “I’m going to a chiropractor office,” I have no idea what you’re going to get. There are so many different techniques. There are so much different things a chiropractor can do. As a chiropractor, that tells me nothing. It doesn’t tell me anything. What’s beautiful about the Blair technique is if you are following the Blair protocol and you are on the Blair website, most likely you’re doing good Blair work. I can take a patient from me in New Jersey and they say, “Dr. Kevin, I’m moving to Colorado. Do you know anybody who can help give me the same exact job adjustment and know exactly what’s going on?” That’s what’s great about the Blair protocols because I can send my patient directly to you and you can tell me if they’re holding, if they’re out of alignment, if they need an adjustment. You can replicate the same exact thing for that patient, which is huge because you don’t get that often in the profession.
There’s a lot of established protocols or adjusting procedures that you can follow. In the grand scheme of conventional chiropractic, which is the way that most chiropractors practice, their system is usually a combination or a conglomeration of things that work for them. That’s great and it’s great for their patients, but it’s not reproducible. One of the things that you’re talking about is the idea that we’re working within established protocols. They work. They’re tried and true. They’re tested and a doctor who does the same thing in a different part of the world can still get the same result with that patient by doing the same things. I’m sure you’ve had this experience too. We have patients who are traveling, they’re just passing through. They’ve moved locations and they know that this works well for them. It’s great for them to have someone else to step in and continue with their care in that way instead of having to try a new system or a new doctor all over again and see if it’s going to work for them. The reproducibility of it is extremely valuable.
There is a system of understanding who’s doing this type of work and there are referral networks for folks to find a qualified and vetted upper cervical doctor who is doing good quality work. There are avenues for referrals and there are avenues for finding someone in your area who is doing this type of work that’s conservative and precise. The Blair society has certainly been a big part of building our practices and establishing that footprint for us in our cities, in our areas that we are the go-to person here for that type of chiropractic. For patients who are maybe not in New Jersey, who are not in Colorado Springs, who are in different parts of the country or world, if you go to BlairChiropractic.com, there’s a directory of doctors who are qualified to do this type of work and they take good care of you. There are a variety of different upper cervical referral systems in place. If you’re not able to find a Blair chiropractor near you, if you were to get in touch with one of us, we’d be able to find you a precise and quality doctor in your area.
If you’re not sure and you want to know more information on that person on the Blair website or you just want to find more information, feel free to email me or Dr. John and we can reach out to that doctor or somebody who knows that doctor to find out if they’re a suitable Blair Upper Cervical chiropractor for you. If they’re on the website, they most likely should be.
The directory is a great option for folks to find someone in their area, but there are folks that aren’t listed on the directory as well. If you don’t see someone there in your area, it doesn’t mean that you’re out of luck. Still, reach out and make sure that you’ve exhausted all your resources before you give up on finding someone for yourself.
If you’re doing upper cervical work, I’m a huge fan. I have no problem referring people to NUCCA offices or Knee Chest. As long as it’s a reputable office, they’re doing solid upper cervical work. You are in good hands.
Upper cervical specific chiropractors, there are a variety of different techniques, systems that evaluate and do these types of adjustments, Blair upper cervical being the primary technique system that we utilize. We’re always looking for structural instabilities in the junction between the head and the neck that are creating neurological irritation. That neurological irritation is what’s often causing or contributing to the symptoms that they’re experiencing or wanting relief from. For us from a structural perspective, we want to find if that problem is happening in the upper neck. We want to know exactly how to correct it for that patient. We want to have tools and strategies in place so that we can measure progress over time, know when to do adjustments and when not to do adjustments.
The process should always start with a consultation. If you reached out to a chiropractor and they want to adjust you right away on the first visit and you’re not comfortable with that, know that you have the option to always have the conversation with the doctor about your experience. Tell them what it is that you’re hoping to improve upon and ask them all the questions that you have about their process. Every new patient or prospective patient or someone who is exploring chiropractic is entitled to that conversation. Most doctors will offer that free of charge in their office to help you understand what your options are.
For anybody out there, I’m not saying this is right or wrong but be wary of $5,000 packages, that you’re going to need 100 adjustments to get better. I’ve run into so many people who were like, “I want to try your technique, but I just signed up for this $5,000 package and they’re going to need to see me three or four times a week.” That’s another myth about chiropractic. You do not need to be in the office four times a week. If you’re doing solid chiropractic work, adjustments can start holding. Anything like twice a week for the beginning is good, but I don’t know about four times a week for a year.
That brings up a good point, which is what does the process look like? We’ve talked about a lot of the nuts and bolts, what we look for and when we adjust it when we don’t, but the timeline of care for upper cervical is something that would be an interesting conversation to have. I don’t know how you structure your care plans. We can talk about that, but the way that we program the care for any individual patient is going to be 100% dependent on their testing. We’re going to do a diagnostic process. We’re going to have an evaluation of chiropractic analysis and that’s going to guide the recommendations that we make for the patient. It’s not a one-size-fits-all approach. It’s going to be customized to your situation and your needs. We don’t apologize for the fact that it takes time to fix structural problems.
True healing takes time.
However, that doesn’t mean you need to be in the chiropractor’s office necessarily three times a week for six months. Our adjusting procedures and our goals are corrective in nature. We’re wanting to build on that process over time. Give me a generic understanding of how you approach care, whether it’s with the frequency or the amount of time that you would expect to make a significant change for folks.
It depends on the severity of the patient but generally, through all the analysis we do, I like to tell my new patients, “I will be seeing you twice a week for the first four weeks depending on how you do. If you’re doing phenomenal after the second week, and I’m saying you’re balanced and you’re in alignment, I’m probably not going to go the full four weeks of checking you twice a week like that.” The moment I feel like that person’s neck is stable, I want them out there living their life, not in the office. I want them telling people how good they feel and inviting more people in.
The goal is to get you out there living your life as soon as possible. I like to see people twice a week for at least the first two weeks. Some people need more attention, so we’ll go four. Also, what’s difficult about upper cervical is you have people who are traveling a very long way to see you because there’s not a lot of people doing the work. If somebody’s coming from far away, if they’re coming in on a Friday, I’ll say, “We’ll give you the adjustment on Friday. Why don’t you stay overnight? We’ll check you again in the morning. I know you’re coming from far away. I wouldn’t go any longer than two or three weeks if you can get back here.” Sometimes you only get one or two shots with this person and they’re flying back somewhere.
That’s also the beautiful thing about this technique is these adjustments can hold weeks to months to years. As a person and as a patient who was basing my life around doctor’s appointments three or four times a week, it’s not fun and there’s a different way to do it. In our office, what’s standard is twice a week for the first two to four weeks depending on how you do, and the goal is to get you out there living your life and functioning properly. The woman I took the practice over, Dr. Banitch, we had the same mindset where I watched her do her thing. It was very amazing because she was not driven by the money aspect at all. She was driven 100% completely on your health and how you’re doing.
A couple of patients will be shocked. She’s like, “Come back in two weeks,” and they’re like, “You don’t want to see me three or four times?” She’s like, “No, you’re doing excellent. Your body is stable. You’re holding, you’re good. You’re almost like you’re becoming your own doctor. Everything is stabilizing great. Go out there and start living your life.” It was amazing to see that and see the reaction on those people’s faces that the power was now back in their hands. They now have the power to heal themselves.
My process is very similar. I always tell patients that we need to also be collecting some data. We need to be understanding your particular situation and how you’re responding to adjustments. Even though we won’t be adjusting you every single time for those first several four to six weeks where we’re checking you twice weekly, we’re gaining some momentum. We’re trying to turn the tide in the opposite direction, but we’re also collecting some valuable data about how your body is responding. It’s important to keep those appointments even if you’re not necessarily getting adjustments. This is starting to paint a picture for you and your case about how we can start to judge long-term care. As you start to progress and we need to see you less frequently, whether it’s one time a week or every other week or once a month or however it becomes programmed, it’s important to be consistent in that short-term or immediate few weeks and months so that we can gather some important data.
There’s always a part of the process as well that incorporates, at least for me, some additional strategies that are going to help them not just feel better but maintain their stability over time. Once we get beyond that four to six-week window initially is when we start to introduce some “homework” or some additional strategy. I always start with simple cervical spine range of motion exercises where we’re retraining the muscles, tendons, ligaments, the capsules of the joints and the mechanics of the joints to operate more normally now that you’re in alignment.
You definitely want to wait until the neck is a little more stable before you start doing the exercises. I’ve had people who were doing phenomenal and they come in one day and they’re completely out. They’re like, “I don’t know what happened. I was doing all these neck stretches and I felt a pop.” I was like, “Some people can get away with that, but your condition is a little more advanced than most. Right now, we want to keep everything in place and those exercises might be throwing you out in the very beginning. You will be able to do them. We just have to get your neck in a stable position where it can handle that type of movement and strength exercises. You’ll get there but right in the beginning, let’s hold off and let the body do its work.”
You probably have these types of patients too. They’re super eager. Initially right off the bat they’re asking, “What can I do to help make my neck more stable?” I always tell them, “This is a process. I appreciate the enthusiasm. We’re going to get you those strategies but on the short-term, in this first block of care, let’s be conservative and just implement the adjustment procedures. We want to know what’s working so that we can then add the appropriate strategies to support what’s working. If we get too many different things going at once, massages, yoga, new exercises and stretches. It cuts down on that reproducibility, which is understanding for you in this circumstance, this is what worked well, and we want to do that again in a way that continues to build on the process.”
I’m sure you get some patients in there that lift some heavy weights and they ask you, “What can I do? What should I stay away from?” I don’t want them not to do anything, but I want to reiterate that holding is healing. The longer this stays in alignment, the faster you’re going to heal and the better you’re going to do. If you feel like there’s an exercise that’s going to put your neck in a compromising position, don’t do it because it’s going to throw you off. People innately know what’s going to knock them out, so listen to yourself.
It’s short-term changes to get long-term results. We’re always going to be focused on the long-term. We want to disrupt a negative trajectory, or we want to disrupt the process that’s going to progress over time and create more dysfunction. If that means you have to take a step back on the short-term so that your body can regroup and heal and start to make progress, that’s totally fine. Certain types of athletes struggle with that because they always think that more is more and the less is more concept sometimes can be a little bit hard to understand. Those who do that and give their body a chance to adapt to the changes that we’re making, they get better results on the long-term.
It’s always a process of communication. It’s important that if you’re an athlete or if you’re engaging in strength training, whether it’s CrossFit, powerlifting, different types of movements like that that include heavy loads, it’s important that your chiropractor understands those demands, the demands of that sport and can communicate with you about how to appropriately scale or adjust your training regimen so that it’s going to be supportive. We want everything to be working together. I always tell folks or athletes, “I’m not going to be the guy who tells you to stop working out. I don’t think that that’s beneficial, but we need to do it strategically.” That’s what you’re talking about.
Dr. John is going to be coming on the podcast and we’re going to be talking about upper cervical stuff. If anybody has any questions or topics that you want us to touch on, you can email Dr. John.
It’s DrJStenberg@Gmail.com. That’s my personal email.
You can email me at DrKevinPecca@DrKevinPecca.com. We’re excited to start doing these and if you have any questions, comments, feel free to email us.
I love feedback from the community. We want to know what questions you have about this process and about what we do. Our goal here is to provide some education. It’s not necessarily for short-term gain on our part. We want to provide some resources for folks to understand what their options are. Your feedback, understanding what your needs are and what questions you have is going to be super important for us to be able to provide that value. We’ll be looking for those questions, those comments. If there’s anything that we talked about that was unclear or that you thought sounded strange and you’d like some more information about that, let us know. That feedback is super important. We don’t want your question to go on answered because chances are there’s a bunch of other people that have the same question. You can be helping to support folks that you’ll never even meet by bringing that to the forefront.
Maybe in the next episode, we can touch on the different upper cervical techniques because there are about seven or eight there. It’s definitely worth jumping into and I know you’ve been exposed to a couple different ones, which will be beneficial. Dr. John, thank you so much for coming on. It’s always a pleasure having you here and I’m looking forward to getting back out.
Thanks, Dr. Kevin.
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