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3300 Monroe Ave Suite 213

Rochester, NY 14618

Upper Cervical Care

at One Life Chiropractic

“Look to the spine for the cause of all disease.” -Hippocrates

What is upper cervical chiropractic and how is it different from traditional chiropractic?

Traditional chiropractic care aims to improve health by correcting subluxations or misalignments through a variety of techniques. The adjustments are designed to improve the function of the musculoskeletal and nervous systems. By restoring movement through a specific adjustment the patient often finds pain relief or a reduction in symptoms.

Upper cervical care is a solution, not guess work. Instead of focusing on the symptoms and conditions, we work to correct the foundation, or root cause of the symptoms. The upper cervical procedure is unique because it frees the nervous system of interference by using a precise technique, correcting an upper cervical (C1-C4) misalignment. This is possible because of the precision x-ray analysis, prior to the correction that provides the doctor with the exact formula used for the correction. Upper cervical chiropractic can help you feel better regardless of your circumstances because your central nervous system affects all human function, therefore when it is inhibited, varying conditions or problems may result, but when it’s clear, optimal health and well-being can be realized.

Atlas Subluxation

Correcting the misalignment can help with a variety of symptoms and conditions. Take a look at the subluxated side of the image to the left. The subluxation (misalignment) is shown at C1 at the base of the skull. This subluxation can be as little as millimeters. As a result, you can see the line drawn underneath the skull highlighting the slight tilt of the head. Directly below you can see the effect this small misalignment has on the rest of the body. The shoulders are misaligned as well as the hips. The upper cervical adjustment simply corrects the misalignment at C1 allowing a domino effect on the rest of your body allowing it to self-correct. Many patients who make the switch from traditional chiropractic care to upper cervical often wonder why other areas of their spine and extremities are not being adjusted. Our philosophy is to be least invasive with this technique and to allow the body to heal on its own. This healing takes time.

The Exam

Your upper cervical and neurostructural exam is comprehensive, which means you should plan on your appointment being 60 minutes.

Plan for the following:

  • Posture Analysis
  • Neurostructural Thermal Assessment
  • Orthopedic and Neurological Tests
  • Functional Movement Analysis

How do I get started?

Regardless of the type of chiropractic care you decide to go with, we recommend giving our office a call to set up a new patient appointment or a free 15 minute consultation to see if we are a good fit for you!

My Treatment Options

After a thorough evaluation the doctor is able to give you the best options available for your condition. Know that you will be given an unbiased opinion based on the information we gather and we can explain objectively, how other chiropractors or health care professionals may address your condition and how the care we provide can benefit you specifically. Understand that there are very few Chiropractors that focus on our unique NeuroStructural evaluation and adjustments.
We offer wellness packages to keep you at your best. We will present an individualized care plan that takes you from where you are now to a healthier and happier you. The doctor will go over which plan will benefit you the most after your exam. We find that most of our patients who come to us looking for a solution choose to stick to the care plans set forth by the doctor to achieve the best results.
Above all, we want to educate you on all of your options and should you look elsewhere for a solution, know that we are always here to provide you with an unbiased assessment of your health. We will not solicit you in any way. If and when you are ready to get down to the root of the problem under our care, we will be here to help you.

Our Approach

NeuroStructural Chiropractic is a unique approach to chiropractic care that is rare to come by in Rochester NY. Dr. Jonathan Zwerka has taken several years to perfect his craft of correcting structural issues that improve many other problems stemming from this primary issue. Think of your spine as the foundation of a house. You may notice that one of your windows is drafty around the molding. You have a window guy come and fix it, but the next winter you notice the same issue and this time you are seeing water leaking in from outside. Instead of calling the window guy again, call the expert to take a look at your foundation. The expert takes a look around your basement and notices a crack in the foundation below the wall of the offending window. This time you have the expert address the crack in the foundation and voila! The window is fixed! It may have taken a little extra work, time, and money but resolving the primary issue of the crack in the foundation alleviated the secondary issue of the drafty window. Sounds great right? Well how do we apply this to your spine and your overall health?

The upper cervical spine is comprised of two bones, the Atlas and the Axis. Because this area is very mobile and unprotected, it is vulnerable to misalignments and injury. This part of your spine is the gateway for your brain to communicate with the rest of your body through the nervous system. Injury and misalignments can cause irritation, inflammation, and degeneration, causing miscommunication to the rest of your body. This is why you may have pain in your hips and knees, for example, but the problem stems from an upper cervical misalignment. By correcting this misalignment, you will find relief with the pain in your hips and knees. In other words, no message gets to or leaves the brain without being influenced by the condition of the upper cervical spine. Below we listed the vertebrae and the correlating organs and tissues affected by nerve interference.

  • C1: Blood supply to brain, head, pituitary gland, scalp, inner and middle ear, sympathetic nerve system, eyes, ears
  • C2: Eyes, optic nerves, auditory (ears), sinuses, tongue, forehead, heart
  • C3: Cheeks, outer ear, face, teeth, facial nerve
  • C4: Nose, lips, mouth, Eustachian tubes
  • C5: Vocal cords, lymphatic system, pharynx
  • C6: Neck muscles, shoulders, tonsils
  • C7: Thyroid gland, shoulder bursa, elbows
  • T1: Elbows, forearms, wrists, fingers, heart, esophagus
  • T2: Heart, valves, coronary arteries, bronchi
  • T3: Heart, bronchi, pleura, chest, breast
  • T4: Gallbladder, common duct, heart, bronchi
  • T5: Liver, solar plexus, circulation, stomach
  • T6: Stomach, esophagus, peritoneum, liver, duodenum, spleen, pancreas, large intestine
  • T7: Kidneys, appendix, testes, ovaries, uterus, adrenal cortex
  • T8: Spleen, stomach, liver, pancreas, small intestine, pyloric valve, gallbladder, adrenal cortex
  • T9: Adrenal cortex, pancreas, spleen, gallbladder, ovaries, uterus, small intestine
  • T10: Kidneys, appendix, testes, ovaries, uterus, adrenal cortex, spleen, pancreas, large intestine
  • T11: Kidneys, ureters, large intestine, bladder, adrenal medulla, adrenal cortex, uterus, ovaries, ileocecal
  • T12: Small intestine, lymphatic circulation, large intestine, urinary bladder, uterus, kidneys
  • L1: Large intestine, uterus
  • L2: Appendix, abdomen, thigh, bladder
  • L3: Sex organs, uterus, bladder, knee, prostate, intestine
  • L4: Prostate, muscles of the low back, sciatic nerve
  • L5: Lower legs, ankles, feet, prostate

Many people ask, “Why did no one find this problem before?”

Medical tests like traditional x-rays, CT scans, and MRIs show fractures, bleeding, cancer, infections or pathology. On the other hand, we are looking for a tiny misalignment (1-3mm) misalignment that can cause significant disruption to the nervous system. It is difficult to find these small misalignments with traditional x-rays which is why conventional chiropractors may have missed it. Every person is different which is why we use CBCT scans to be able to see into each joint and how it should be aligned with the bones above and below. There are a few cool things these scans can do. First, they show joint articulation between the skull and the top of the vertebrae in the neck. They also show exactly if those joints were properly aligned or not. Finally, they show the best way to correct the misalignment based on the patient’s own bone structure.

According to research, misalignment of the upper cervical neck can affect the venous blood and CSF flow to the rest of the body. This can play part in the development of neurodegenerative disorders such a Parkinson’s Disease, ALS, and even Post-Concussion Syndrome. It is fascinating how one small part of your neck can impact your whole life.

So by now you are probably wondering what makes upper cervical chiropractic care get such amazing results? Simply put we are not 100% positive but with our current understanding of anatomy, neurology and advances in technology we can identify 3 ways that upper cervical chiropractic care is beneficial to your overall health. Those 3 ways are mechanical nerve tension, brain fluid dynamics and dysafferentation.

Mechanical Nerve Tension
Your brain stem is the master controller of your entire body! It is the connection between your brain and your spinal cord. These are some of the first cells formed in human development and grow outward into the nervous system. Therefore that means every single nerve fiber has to pass through here and it can be a potential choke point of nerve transmission. So that means all sensation and motor functions come through here but what we are more concerned about is the autonomic division of the nervous system. The brain stem is what controls the autonomic nervous system (ANS) and this division controls all the automatic functions of the body you don’t have to think about like breathing, balance, coordination, heart rate, blood pressure, temperature regulation, digestion, immunity, hormones, sleep and much more.

The ANS is divided into two parts the sympathetic and the parasympathetic systems. The parasympathetic nervous system is what will cause the body to rest, digest and repair. This is mostly handled by the Vagus Nerve that innervates the smooth muscle of the trachea, bronchi and gastro-intestinal tract and regulates heart rhythm. The sympathetic nervous system is associated with the fight or flight response to stress. This is what kicks in when there is danger so the body will divert its resources to protect the body in the best way it sees fit. This is mostly handled by the Superior Cervical Ganglion that innervates the eyeball, face, nasal glands, pharynx, glands of the palate and nasal cavity, salivary glands, lacrimal glands, sweat glands, pineal gland, dilator pupillae, superior tarsal muscle, carotid body, heart and arterial smooth muscle. Both of these systems are controlled and coordinated in an area of the brain stem called Nucleus Tractus Solitarius.

Basically your brain stem is your life! This is why breaking your neck can be devastating and can have minimal to profound effects on one’s life even death! We are not talking about catastrophic injuries what we are referring to is called a upper cervical subluxation and it can be as small as 1-3mm or displacement. This misalignment is one that the body cannot self-correct and can be there for many years with or without any symptoms but upper cervical chiropractors believe this reduces the overall function of the nervous system. This can cause a very slight decrease in the information being transmitted through your brain stem. It’s a quite simple question really do you want your nerves, organs and body functioning at less than 100%? Even if that decrease is only 3% compounded over many years it can add up to having a profound negative effect on your overall health just like compounded interest on your mortgage adds up.

The good news is that your body has what is called dura matter and that is a thick layer of connective tissue that protects your nervous system. In the upper cervical region where the brain stem resides the dura is connected to the vertebrae to prevent crushing of your brain stem when you turn your head. The problem is if your vertebrae in this region are misaligned in any way the physical tension will pull on the dura causing adverse mechanical tension on your brain stem. Nerve transmission can be decreased up to 60% by just the weight of a dime and with all these moving parts in this region it is not hard to end up with a misalignment putting pressure on the brain stem. Since the brain stem is the master controller of the bodies vital functions any amount of pressure will not be good and can get progressively worse the longer it is there. This is why some people do not experience symptoms until later in life. However this is also why upper cervical doctors see such miraculous results in their offices. When the focus is on neural integrity not about pain and symptom reduction the treatment is geared towards expressing life to its fullest potential. The body is a self-healing and self-regulating system so it is always going to try and be well by being in a state homeostasis or ease. When things get off track and homeostasis is disrupted we will start to see symptoms and dis-ease. By decreasing nerve transmission by even only 1% you are hindering the body from maintaining homeostasis because the brain and the body are not fully connected. So when you visit an upper cervical doctor this is our focus is to locate the subluxation (misalignment causing nerve stress) analyze it then correct it using the proper vector correction. Then let the body do the healing because it is free of any nerve interference. This simple but powerful approach is why we see improvement in both organic and non-organic conditions not just musculoskeletal conditions. This profound effect is felt throughout the body and in all area because every fiber of our nervous system originates in the brain and travels through our brain stem. So any misalignment in the upper cervical region can have far reaching implications on the spinal cord and nerves. You cannot move your head without every fiber of your nervous system being pulled in some direction. Then let’s not forget that this all comes down to a choke point at the brain stem right where it enters the skull and connects with the brain. So this is why the upper neck is vital to every bodily function and therefore can be influenced by its alignment.

The alignment in the upper cervical region is key to balancing the head so the whole frame does not experience undue stress on the rest of the bodies frame. This can show up with symptoms all across the board like anxiety, brain fog, mental fatigue, post concussive syndrome, ADHD, hormone issues, digestive issues, sleep problems, migraines, headaches, neck/ back pain, extremity pain and the list goes on. Your body has what is called the righting reflex and what that does is it essentially want to keep the eyes parallel with the horizon and the body upright. So when there is a subluxation (misalignment) in the upper cervical region the head will not sit properly and the brain will do what it takes to get the body to compensate for this by doing things like dropping a shoulder or jutting out a hip. This is why people can sometimes appear crooked and why there are varying degrees of poor posture. Have you ever noticed that the better ones posture is the better their health is? It is not often that you find someone with poor posture and great health later on in life. This is because it can do obvious things like put undue improper loads on the frame causing degenerative changes, arthritis, disc issues, muscle spasms, extremity pains and so on. WOW all of this just from the alignment of 2 little bones under your head!

Brain Fluid Dynamics
This one is why I believe that upper cervical care had such a profound effect on my life even though I was considered “fine” by all my other doctors and even other chiropractic techniques. There is currently a lot of research being done in how the blood and cerebrospinal fluid flow in and out of the skull for brain nourishment and its effects. The arteriole system is what supplies the blood to the the brain and brain stem with a large portion of it coming in through the vertebral arteries. These arteries are deep inside the neck and travel through both sides of C1 through C6 so a subluxation (misalignment) could disrupt blood supply. This blood supplies your brain stem that is responsible for all your internal bodily functions. Also your cerebellum that is responsible for things like coordination, movement and balance. Lastly there are parts of the brain it supplies that are associated with things lie vision, hearing, sleep and memory. Due to the increased motion at the C1 and C2 region right where they enter the skull it is subject to more stress that can disrupt normal blood flow. This is why upper cervical chiropractors believe that by reducing these subluxations individuals have seen improvement with visual disturbances, inner ear problems, balance disorders, sleep issues and many other things besides just neck/back pain.

Next is the venous system and it is responsible for draining the blood from the brain, head and neck to return the deoxygenated blood back to the heart. The internal jugular vein travels with the internal and common carotid arteries and runs down the inside of the neck under some neck musculature so it can be subjected to some compressive forces. The vertebral veins travel with the vertebral arteries and are also subjected to the same possible subluxations (misalignments) causing disruptions in blood flow thus backing things up.

Lastly we are going to talk about the flow of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) and is effects on the brain. Currently we do not understand all the actions of CSF but we do know that it provides many functions. What we do know is that CSF does provide buoyancy for the brain, protection for the brain by providing cushion in the sub-arachnoid space, nourishment/cleansing for the brain and currently they are thinking also communication. CSF is produced by the Choroid Plexus located in the 4 ventricles of the brain and after leaving the 4th ventricle it will flow in 2 directions. First direction is up and around the brain in the sub-arachnoid space before it is absorbed back into the jugular vein to be drained back into the blood supply. The second direction CSF flows is draining directly into the central canal of the spinal cord and into the subdural space before getting reabsorbed by the venous system at the distal end of the spinal cord. So if there is any obstruction from a subluxation (misalignment) in the upper cervical it will affect the flow of CSF. The backup of CSF does not allow the brain to be cleaned from things like cellular debris thus leaving it congested leaving the potential for damage to the brain. There is a large body of growing research in this exact mechanism and how it has a possible impact in the development of neurodegenerative diseases like Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson’s Disease, Dementia, Alzheimer’s Disease, Concussions, Post-Concussion Syndrome, PTSD and many more. The good news is there are many positive improvements with these and many other conditions (see secondary conditions) after correcting the upper cervical spine and maintaining that correction to allow the body to heal.

As you can see fluid dynamics can have the same profound effect on one’s health just like the mechanical stress previously described. If the subluxation is present both of these will be affected just like the third thing we are going to discuss dysafferentation.

Just like the previous two ways this one has the same negative effects on your health if a subluxation is found in the upper cervical region. You probably already know how important the nervous system is as it controls all body processes. But can you now see how important the upper cervical region is on the health of your nervous system? Every nerve fiber passes through the upper cervical region so a subluxation can have an effect on nerve transmission. This negative effect on nerve transmission is called dysafferentation and simply put the brain is receiving abnormal input from its surroundings both internal and external. Your brain is constantly processing information pertaining to its environment both internal (cell life cycle, hormones, blood pressure, temperature, ect…) and external (the 5 senses) to regulate homeostasis the state of keeping the body balanced physiologically in other words more adaptable or healthy. Just like the best computer around if it is running to many processes or receiving corrupted data the computer will slow down or lag as they like to say garbage in garbage out. Same holds true for the nervous system since your brain is like this super computer because it is controlling numerous processes at once. However its information is totally reliant on proper transmission through the upper neck into the brain. This area of the body is where the brain stem resides and it contains a large number of sensory receptors which is the most important area of your entire spine! Therefore even the slightest misalignment can decrease the information the brain is receiving because the afferent pathway is compromised to some degree thus causing the less than 100% information to be received. The body will always try to heal and self-correct these problems but sometimes there is just too much stress and the body cannot fix these subtle misalignments especially in the very mobile region of the upper cervical spine. When this subluxation is allowed to be left uncorrected it will continue to allow your brain to receive abnormal information therefore garbage in garbage out (secondary conditions). Just like too many processes on a computer the brain will suffer from information overload your brain will adapt to the situation at first but as it is left uncorrected the abnormal signals keep coming. Eventually your body’s adaptability falls with this constant stress of working with corrupted data and not to mention the more and more demand we put on our bodies to get more accomplished throughout the day. Just like the compounded interest idea we talked about earlier working with corrupted data for months, years or decades can cause the body to become worn down leading to health problems such as our list of secondary conditions. There is currently research going into this very topic of adaptability and it is showing favorable results in balancing the nervous system especially the autonomic nervous system, processing of pain, posture, clearer head for thinking and coordinated movements for greater muscle efficiency.

In, conclusion to sum this article up current science supports the belief that adverse mechanical nerve tension and altered brain fluid dynamics compounded with abnormal information to be received by the brain (dysafferentation) that can happen because of a subluxation (misalignment) of your upper cervical spine will cause your nervous system to function less efficiently thus lowering your adaptability. When this is left uncorrected over a period of time your body becomes progressively less efficient causing you to become progressively more in a state of dis-ease or unwell. If this was a question of something your body can self-correct by doing things like stretching it would have happened long ago. So there you have it if this is not addressed there is no diet, exercise, supplement, medication or surgery that will correct the underlying root cause of it in the first place. Now I am not saying to do this instead of these other treatments but wouldn’t it make sense now that you have read this whole article that with your upper cervical spine in alignment these other treatment would then therefore become more effective because your brain and body are better connected? This subtle misalignment or subluxation has been studied for almost 100 years by upper cervical specific chiropractors. This is a neuromechanical problem that requires a physical intervention to reduce mechanical tension, restore normal fluid flow and improve your nervous systems processing ability. Upper cervical chiropractors appreciate the special relationship that these tiny bones have on your nervous system and this requires precision to correct. So to get the most detailed images we partner with another chiropractic office and utilize cone beam CT scans to get both 2D and 3D images of this area so we can get down to the finest detail during the analysis of your neck. We look forward to serving you and your family to make this community as a whole a healthier place to live!

You ask will this work for me? The answer is yes the body is a self-healing and self-regulating organism that innately wants to heal for self-preservation. The problem is we have two limitations as to how well it will work for an individual and those are time and matter. Healing take time, just like these things did not show up overnight it will take time for your body to heal properly and thoroughly so the person must have patience and enough time to heal. As for matter it refers to the building blocks we have within the body to facilitate the healing process. This can be affected by lifestyle choices so the better that this portion of one’s life is the better results they will see. So what are you waiting for? Call for a free neurological consultation to see if this is something that can help you live a better life and put out the best version of yourself to the world.

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3300 Monroe Ave Suite 213,
Rochester, NY 14618


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Tuesday: 9am-5pm
Wednesday: 12pm-6pm
Thursday: 9am-5pm
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