NUCCA stands for the “National Upper Cervical Chiropractic Association.” The upper cervical area of the spine is at the very top of the neck, so NUCCA chiropractors look specifically at the relationship between the head and the neck.
The upper cervical area of the spine is very complex and has significant effects on the rest of the body. First, this area is in close relationship with the brainstem– where all nerves going to the tissues of the body exit the skull; a misalignment of the spine in this area can interfere with these nerves and send wrong signals in any location of the body. Second, this area is important because it influences the alignment of the spine; if the top bone of the spine is out of place, the rest of the spine will follow. An imbalanced spine negatively affects joints, muscles, and nerves throughout the body.
NUCCA is a gentle form of chiropractic that addresses what is most often the foundational problem of the spine. The top bone of the spine must be in place in order to achieve long-term balance of the rest of the spine. When other forms of chiropractic adjust elsewhere in the spine, but do not address the primary problem at the top of the spine in a very specific manner, patients will continually have to be adjusted because their spinal alignment will last for only a short time. The goal with the NUCCA adjustment is to hold for longer periods of time – weeks, months, and even years! The NUCCA adjustment is also very gentle – no twisting, cracking, or popping (see questions #6 and #7)!
The brain controls all the functions of the body – from the things we think about (like standing up, walking across the room, raising our hand) to the things we don’t think about (digesting food, heart beating, breathing) through nerve signals. The nerves exit the skull through the brainstem and pass through the spine beginning at the C1 vertebrae – a misalignment of this bone can affect nerves going anywhere in the body!
Meeting with the doctor is the best way to discover if you are a candidate for NUCCA care. Candidates for NUCCA care have a spinal misalignment that can be detected by posture imbalances. Misalignments are usually due to accidents or injuries/trauma that are considered either major or minor – falls, bumps to the head, car accidents athletic injuries, even the “natural trauma” of being born! Individuals who would like to find out if they are candidates for NUCCA care are welcome to have a free consultation or spinal screening evaluation by the doctor in our office.
During the adjustment, the patient will feel a light touch behind his or her ear. The feeling of the adjustment is very anticlimactic, in fact, many people wonder if the doctor did anything at all!
A “complex lever mechanism” that is best explained in physics terms, but here is the short version: levers are in multiple places in the body – the elbow or knee, for example. The top of the first bone of the spine is adjusted using a lever mechanism through 1). proper placement on the headpiece to use the weight of the head to correctly influence the top bone as well as 2). a very precise line of force delivered by the doctor that was revealed in the x-rays.
As mentioned in question #7, the precise line of force for the correction is revealed by the x-rays. NUCCA doctors spend a significant amount of time analyzing the x-rays to find out the exact misalignment pattern (there are around 10,000 possibilities!) for each person as well as the most appropriate plan to correct that misalignment. X-rays are taken after the first adjustment to verify that the correction looks just as good on the inside as it does on the outside; this check is another thing that separates NUCCA chiropractors from many other chiropractors – we can evaluate the exact percentage of the correction! NUCCA was the first chiropractic technique to start using filters, which eliminates unnecessary radiation. Therefore, a NUCCA x-ray series is less than 0.22 mrems of radiation. In comparison, a flight from LA to Paris is 4.8 mrems, and whole mouth dental x-rays are 310 mrems. The NAS (National Academy of Sciences) defines a whole body single exposure of 50,000 mrems (50 rems) to be a high exposure.
NUCCA work began officially in the 1960s but is still relatively unknown to the public. There are few chiropractors who take on the rigors necessary to become a NUCCA chiropractor. NUCCA research is becoming more visible to the public – the results of the Rush University study showing a reduction in high blood pressure following a NUCCA adjustment was featured on Good Morning America!
Have more questions? Want to find out if NUCCA care can help you? Contact our office at 815-398-4500 , and Dr. Philip R. Schalow or Dr. Hannah Orem will be happy to help you!
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