What Is Orthospinology?

Orthospinology is a sub-specialty of the chiropractic profession, focusing on aligning the upper cervical spine. It is one of several upper cervical procedures utilizing radiographs (x-ray films) of the top two bones of the neck and the base of the skull (the upper cervical spine) to determine a misalignment or subluxation that may create irritation of and thereby, interference to, the functioning your nervous system.

Through a cascade of adverse physiological events, this misalignment may manifest in a variety of unhealthy consequences due to the special characteristics of this area of the spine. The anatomy of this region of the spine is unique in many ways. For example, there are only two vertebrae in the spine with names; the first and topmost, or C-1 vertebra, is called the Atlas, because as in Greek Mythology, he held up the world, or in this case, the eight to twelve pound world known as your head, and the second, or C-2 vertebra, is called the Axis, because it is the axis of rotation of your head and much of your neck.

This area is also the most mobile of the spine and is without interlocking joints, meaning that traumatic forces, such as falls, repetitive motion or motor vehicle crashes, can easily misalign the upper cervical spine. These traumatic events can occur in childhood, as early as the birthing process, when the head is pulled to birth the child, or in subsequent childhood traumas such as in learning to crawl, walk or ride a bike. Skiing, skateboards, boats and wake-boards, football, soccer, basketball and baseball all contribute to a child's likelihood of becoming misaligned or subluxated, not to mention the ubiquitous trampoline and failed gymnastic endeavors. The ever present cell phone, cradled between the ear and shoulder producing extreme head tilting, or the chronic forward head posture so common when young people text, may also cause, but more likely, exacerbate misalignments of the upper cervical spine. Those less fortunate to have had motor vehicle trauma or moderate to severe blows to the head are at increased risk to suffer from the adverse health consequences of the Occipito-Atlanto-Axial Subluxation Complex or simply put, the misalignment of the upper cervical spine.

What Happens When the Upper Cervical Spine Misaligns? 

When a misalignment of the upper cervical spine occurs, the central nervous system can be stressed in a variety of ways that can cause negative health consequences. The chiropractic profession is founded on the principle of spinal misalignments or subluxations compromising the functioning of the nervous system. When the nervous system is compromised, the ability of the body to self regulate and self heal is also compromised because the nervous system is the master coordinating system in our bodies. Misalignments of the upper cervical spine effect the spinal cord, and therefore the central nervous system directly and that is why it is so critical to be specific and gentle when trying to correct these misalignments and why, if left uncorrected, many health problems linger.

How Does the Upper Cervical Misalignment Affect My Lower Back?

While the upper cervical spinal subluxation or misalignment can have broad health consequences, the majority of chiropractic patients are motivated to seek chiropractic care due to neck and back pain, particularly lower back pain. When the upper cervical spine misaligns, the spinal cord deviates from its neutral position within the spinal canal causing irritation to the region of the upper spinal cord that regulates the tone of the lower back and pelvic musculature.This irritation creates tighter muscles on one side versus the other creating an unlevel pelvis and distorted posture. The pelvic distortion or body imbalance thus created can result in lower back, hip and leg pain, degeneration of the inter vertebral discs and spinal joints, spur formations as well as compensations up the spine effecting the head and neck area. When the pelvis becomes unlevel, the weight of the pelvis and trunk is distributed unequally to the weight bearing joints of the spine and lower extremities, accelerating osteoarthritis. For this reason, people commonly complain of spinal and extremity pain on one side and most hip and knee replacements are done unilaterally. In turn, the unlevel pelvis can alter gait patterns leading to hyper-extension injuries, chronic muscle pulls, sprained knees, ankles and foot problems such as fallen arches, plantar fasciitis, bunions and bone deformities. These injuries tend to illicit greater pain on one side and generally, the same side as the back and neck pain.

Medical and chiropractic research illustrates the direct connections between the upper cervical spine and the cerebellum for postural control. The position of the head and neck is constantly regulated by information sent from the upper cervical spine to the brain. This information is analysed and conveyed back to the spine to facilitate proper muscle tone and joint control to enable the body to function properly in response to our spatial environment. Other regions of the brain, as well as the Cranial Nerves may also be affected by abnormal imput from the malpositioned upper cervical spine. Without proper information into the spinal cord, cerebellum and brain-stem, the body becomes structurally imbalanced leading to spinal dysfunction, premature degeneration and pain. Using a common computer analogy, its a "garbage in, garbage out" situation.     

What About Headaches, Migraines, Vertigo and Facial Pain?  

Reduced blood supply to the brain and alterations in Cerebral Spinal Fluid circulation have recently been demonstrated to improve after upper cervical adjustments as evidenced on upright MRI studies. This research is helping to explain why upper cervical doctors have had such success with patients suffering from a variety of head complaints such as; Headaches; Migraines; Trigeminal Neuralgia; Vertigo; Blackouts; Seizures; TMJ pain, Sinus Congestion and Drainage Problems; Ear Infections and Congestion; Brain Fog; Visual Acuity and variety of other head symptoms including "tics" and tremors.



As mentioned previously, Orthospinology is a sub-specialty of the chiropractic profession. The next logical question might be...

What is Chiropractic?

Chiropractic is natural health care based on three scientific principles:

  1. The body is a self-healing organism under the control of the nervous system.
  2. Spinal misalignments cause abnormal input to the nervous system. This phenomenon is referred to as the Vertebral Subluxation Complex.
  3. Abnormal input to the nervous system creates bad posture or Body Imbalance, resulting in postural distortions that may manifest as head, neck and back pain, numbness, tingling, and pain radiating into the arms and legs, as well as compromised general health.

Chiropractic is the science of detecting and correcting spinal misalignments that cause irregular input to the nervous system, restoring balance to the body and its systems. Normal health is the natural result.

A misalignment of the upper cervical spine produces direct spinal cord irritation creating tighter muscles on one side of the body. No other area of the spine can produce this type of cord compromise. The muscular imbalance manifests as uneven hips and shoulders or Body Imbalance, altering movement and irritating spinal nerves and joints producing pain, numbness and tingling sensations. 

Because the upper cervical spine connects to the brainstem, a misalignment there may also disrupt brain to body communication leading to symptoms such as headaches and migraines, sinus problems, vertigo and blackouts, seizures,TMJ and facial pain as well as fatigue, immune compromise and general health deterioration.

Even before symptoms manifest, this misalignment, called the Vertebral Subluxation Complex, may be limiting your body's ability to function at the highest level creating an internal environment conducive to the development of disease.

 The Body's Communication Network

nervousThe nervous system works like a telephone network carrying messages between the brain and the body. When the nervous system is working correctly, the body has the proper information to heal itself and maintain the balance of all your systems.


static croppedIs "Static" Causing an Imbalanced Body?

Static on the telephone line interferes with the messages being sent and received.  If the nervous system has "static" (irregular input), the messages between the brain and the body will be interrupted. A misalignment of the vertebra of the spine may cause distortion, and body imbalance results. When a Vertebral Misalignment causes the nervous system to initiate imbalances of the body systems, it is known as a Vertebral Subluxation Complex, or in simpler terms: loss of body balance.

adjustmentDetecting and Correcting the Cause

Upper Cervical doctors are trained to determine exactly how the upper cervical spine has misaligned in your neck and the set-up and exact angle necessary to correct it. Once the Vertebral Subluxation Complex is corrected and the "static" removed, the body can return to a state of balance.

Working as a TEAM

A winning team requires cooperation from each member. The role of the Upper Cervical doctor is to restore spinal integrity and body balance. Your role is to balance the other parts of your life... good nutrition, physical activity, enough rest, and a positive attitude. Go team!

About the Orthospinology Sub-Specialty

Based on the original work of John F. Grostic D.C. that began in 1939, Orthospinology has been practiced by a select group of chiropractors since 1977.Ongoing research clearly demonstrates the profound effects of the Upper Cervical misalignment and its correction on optimum health and wellness.

cuttingedge shImaging and Analysis

 The Orthospinologist uses the latest advancements in imaging and computer software to visualize the upper cervical spine. Diagnostic images are carefully analysed to mathematically calculate the vector necessary to gently produce the spinal correction.

Focus on Body Balance

When the body is balanced, it can return to a state of normal and optimal health. Body imbalance results from irregular input to the nervous system. The Orthospinologist will check to see if your body is balanced on every visit. If it is not, a spinal correction will be given. Are you balanced? Are your children?

The Orthospinolgy Difference

 The Chiropractic Orthospinologist utilizes several methods to determine if irregular input to the nervous system is removed after the spinal correction is made.


Orthospinology Spinal Adjustment


Orthospinology Spinal Adjustment




The pelvic muscles are not balanced, resulting in a functional leg length inequality of 3/8".




The pelvic muscles are balanced, resulting in equivalent functional leg lengths.

Gentle Enough for the Whole Family

gentleSHThe Orthospinology spinal correction is gentle enough for an infant with colic or a grandmother with arthritis. Orthospinology is effective care for spines of all ages. The gentle correction is made by a chiropractic adjusting instrument or by the doctor's hand.