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  • Writer's pictureDr. Brandon J. Van Seters, DC

What is Upper Cervical Chiropractic?

Upper cervical chiropractic focuses on misalignments of the upper neck. The upper neck consisting of C1 (atlas), C2 (axis), and the skull. Upper cervical chiropractors observe the theory that the misalignment in the upper neck is the primary misalignment of the spine.

NUCCA upper cervical chiropractic orange county

How does upper cervical chiropractic work?

"It is speculated that the atlas misalignment affects the nervous system through altered weight bearing on the occipital-atlanto-axial joints, thereby stimulating joint mechanoreptors. Resultant reflexes may create a functional leg length inequality (LLI) and observable postural asymmetry. Researchers suggest joint mechanoreceptors are densest per surface area in the cervical spine. Seaman (1997) formulated a neurological mechanism that implies joint complex dysfunction creates symptoms through joint mechanical receptor dysafferentation. UC misalignment correction may have the greatest potential in modulating afferent input into the central nervous system via this mechanism, which is measured as a decrease in symptoms." (1)

So what does that really mean?

The design of the upper neck makes it most vulnerable to misalignments from accidents and injuries. When these small misalignments or shifts in the upper neck occur muscles stretch and tighten. The nerves in these muscles tell the brain that they have stretched. This causes the rest of the spine to tighten and get stuck in a stressed position to balance the head and neck in its new misaligned position.

How does an upper cervical adjustment work?

Upper cervical adjusting is based on specific upper cervical x-rays. Based on those specific x-rays measurements are made and calculations are done. These calculations as well as accounting for the unique biomechanics of the upper cervical spine an adjusting approach is determined. Post x-rays are vitality important to determine if this adjusting approach is correct or if any changes need to be made moving forward.


1. Woodfield HC 3rd, York C, Rochester RP, Bales S, Beebe M, Salminen B, Scholten JN. Craniocervical chiropractic procedures - a précis of upper cervical chiropractic. J Can Chiropr Assoc. 2015 Jun;59(2):173-92. PMID: 26136610; PMCID: PMC4486989.

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