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Upper Cervical Chiropractic: Atlas Orthogonal


Research over the years has shown that many physical ailments in various parts of the body derive from imbalances or misalignments of the cervical spine, particularly of the upper cervical spine (the upper neck, particularly where it meets the skull). The human body naturally tries to maintain a balanced, upright posture and center of gravity. In the ideal position, the head (which is 7-10% of the body’s total weight) sits squarely atop the upper cervical spine, with the bottom of the skull at right angles to the top of the cervical spine (called the “Atlas”). This is where the term Atlas Orthogonality comes from (“Orthogonality” means the quality of being at right angles). In this ideal position, there is no impingement on the nerves which come out all along the spinal column to control every organ and part of the body.

The rest of the spine is designed to support this structure in a relatively straight line when viewed from the front or back. When viewed from the side there should be natural curves forward at the lower back (lower lumbar spine), outward through the mid-back (thoracic spine), then forward at the lower cervical spine. These natural curves help balance the body’s shifting center of gravity as it changes with body movement. However, if the upper cervical spine becomes misaligned for any reason, the body often tries to maintain its center of gravity by misaligning in opposite and compensating directions lower down the spine. This, in turn, multiplies the negative effects of nerve impingement throughout the body, lowering the immune system’s protective power and making it easier for a person to fall ill in addition to feeling pain. The good news is that, if this misalignment is corrected by a properly trained chiropractor, the nerve impingement is allowed to heal itself and the body’s functioning and strength can return.

Out of the many thousands of chiropractors in this country, only a very small number are specially trained and skilled in the precise and complex art and science of Atlas Orthogonality. Ralph M. Lemongello, Doctor of Chiropractic, has been one of this rare group of specialists for over 30 years. He was the first to bring the specialized Atlas Orthogonal Percussion Instrument to New Jersey (see photo in our Virtual Office Tour). This extraordinary piece of medical engineering delivers an extremely precise adjustment of the Atlas bone without any physical contact with the patient: painless and hands-free!

How Does Misalignment (“Subluxation”) Occur?
Sometimes the cause is obvious: a fall, sports injury or auto accident with immediately painful and immobile results. Often, though, the cause is not so visible and may build up over quite a long period of time. Causes can be poor posture, poor sleeping posture, improper lifting or carrying of loads. Poor sleeping posture is a surprisingly common cause which can result from sleeping on one’s stomach or using a pillow which is either too low or too high, or sleeping on too soft or hard a mattress. In these slow onset situations, the patient may be completely unaware of the seriousness of the underlying condition because each day just shows a minor increase in unease or a slow, creeping loss of mobility in the body. Basically, over time, the body is teaching itself that abnormal alignment of the vertebrae and supporting muscles and ligaments is “normal”. Typically, pain in the neck, back, hip, arms or legs is the last symptom to appear. It is quite common that muscle spasming and soft tissue soreness is the result of the spinal misalignment and will not be resolved until the underlying problem is fixed. Remember also that pain medication only masks the symptom (it interrupts the signal from the body to the brain that something is wrong), it does nothing to solve the underlying problem.

How Does an Atlas Orthogonal Chiropractor Diagnose the Problem?
An Atlas Orthogonal specialized Doctor of Chiropractic uses several methods of diagnostic testing to very precisely determine the location, direction and severity of any misalignment. These methods include Scanning Palpation (to feel for abnormalities in the cervical region and also read the patient’s reactions to touch) and X-rays. X-raying the relevant areas is an extremely important step for the Atlas Orthogonist to visually confirm his findings and to pinpoint precisely where to make the adjustment and precisely how much adjustment will be needed to correct the patient’s misalignment. Follow-up X-rays may be taken as treatment progresses to confirm progress.

Dr. Lemongello uses state-of-the-art digital X-ray processing in his office. Not only are the resulting images of very high quality, but the equipment is so sensitive that only a fraction of the X-ray energy is required compared to the old-fashioned films.

How Many Treatments Will I Need to Resolve the Problem?
The answer depends entirely on the severity of the misalignment and on how long the problem has been developing. This is why the very precise diagnostic process followed by a skilled Atlas Orthogonal Doctor of Chiropractic like Dr. Lemongello is so important. Most patients did not get into their situation overnight: it would be very unrealistic to expect to get out of it overnight. With a misaligned spine, the muscles and ligaments which are intended to hold the spine properly in place have become weakened and stretched. So, the complete healing process is one of correcting the spinal misalignment and retraining those muscles and ligaments back to their correct supportive positions. In some cases, this can be accomplished with only a handful of carefully spaced visits. In more severe cases (especially where the problems have developed over a long time), a more extensive treatment program will be needed to resolve the issues.

Dr. Lemongello has been well known over his 30 years of practice as a minimalist: he will very precisely adjust only what needs to be corrected, and delivers his healing in the minimum number of treatments needed. Call (973) 696-0032 or visit us at 1501 Hamburg Turnpike Suite 303, Wayne, New Jersey 07470

See what Montel Williams had to say about Atlas Orthogonality in this episode from his long-running show:

Should you desire further information on Upper Cervical Chiropractic and the Atlas Orthogonal Method in particular, may we refer you to the following websites: The Society of Chiropractic Orthospinology, or visit: