“No Drama” Pain Relief

Upper cervical adjustments relieve lower back pain.

It was Valentine’s Day, 1964. Actor Eric Barnes was at New York City’s City Center in the middle of a rehearsal for his next performance. When the director called for a dance number, Eric stood up to take his position, screamed in agony and fell to the floor.

Dr. Stephen R. Zabawa at Atlas Chiropractic of Sarasota treated Eric Barnes for low back pain by realigning his atlas vertebra.

“Something went out in my back, and I could barely move,” remembers Eric. “I was gritting my teeth. I’ve never been in such pain. Four of the other dancers came running over and decided to take me to get help.

“They ran outside, hailed one of those big Marathon cabs and as they were putting me into the cab, I asked them where they were taking me. They told me we were going to their chiropractor. I said through clenched teeth, Don’t take me to a chiropractor!

Eric wanted to see a medical doctor. In that situation, however, Eric’s costars were in charge, and they paid him no mind. They took him to the chiropractor anyway. Eric was flabbergasted by what the doctor was able to accomplish with his treatment.

“One hour later, I walked out of the chiropractor’s office pain free and standing absolutely straight,” he marvels. “I was totally bemused on my way back to rehearsal, and I thought to myself, Somebody has been lying to me. Chiropractors weren’t endorsed by the medical community at that time. But, I’ve been using chiropractic ever since.”

Eric continued to suffer occasional pain in his lower back. About ten years ago, while living in Washington, he discovered a different style of chiropractic care that uses very light pressure on the neck rather than whole-body manipulation to adjust the spine.

“I was astounded that such a technique could actually relieve my back pain, so when I moved to Florida in 2013, I looked for a chiropractor who used similar techniques,” Eric relates. “Fortunately, I found Dr. Zabawa at Atlas Chiropractic of Sarasota. Dr. Zabawa didn’t use his fingers, like the chiropractor in Washington. He used a small device to align my back.

“The device provided an extremely light touch on my neck, and when Dr. Zabawa was done, I immediately felt better. I felt lighter, and the slight headache I had was gone because there was no more pressure on my spine.”

Stephen R. Zabawa, DC, takes a unique approach to adjusting the spine to relieve back pain and other disorders. An upper cervical chiropractor, board certified in Orthospinology, Dr. Zabawa uses gentle, precise adjustment protocols known as Orthospinology and Atlas Orthogonal procedures to treat misalignments of the spine.

Atlas Aligned

The procedure Dr. Zabawa recommended for Eric, the atlas procedure, maintains the precise alignment of the atlas vertebra. The atlas is the first vertebra in the neck that connects the head to the cervical spine. When the atlas is misaligned, it affects the body’s nervous system.

“The nervous system operates everything in the body, so when there’s a problem with the nervous system, the body suffers ill effects,” states Dr. Zabawa. “When the nervous system isn’t functioning properly, the body doesn’t function properly.”

It’s all about balance. There’s a reflex in the body to keep the eyes and brain level. To do that, the spine will distort itself all the way down. If there’s a misalignment of the upper cervical vertebrae, the low back will compensate. The hips will torque and put pressure on the back.

“The atlas adjustment takes that pressure off,” observes Dr. Zabawa. “The head becomes balanced, so patients no longer have the torque on their lower backs. Many patients have no neck symptoms at all. They have low back problems, but adjusting the neck takes care of the back.”

In addition, posture is controlled by the balance of the head on the neck, so this balance is essential to good health. Misalignment of the atlas vertebra causes the spine to twist in an attempt to maintain balance.

This twist can pinch nerves and put pressure on the spinal cord or brain stem, affecting the nervous system. In turn, the pressure can cause a variety of symptoms and problems, many of which can appear unassociated with the cervical spine.

When a patient first arrives at Atlas Chiropractic of Sarasota, Dr. Zabawa conducts a complete examination to check for subluxation.

Subluxation is just a big word meaning two bones are out of position and you have nerve pressure,” defines Dr. Zabawa. “If there is subluxation and we’ve determined that a patient is a good candidate for the atlas procedure, then we take a series of extremely detailed, three-dimensional x-rays. Since the adjustment is highly precise, the measurements we take and the analysis we make are also meticulous. When I know the exact angle at which a patient is misaligned, I know how to adjust them.

“I was astounded that such a technique could actually relieve my back pain” – Eric

“We also do a leg length check. We put the patients on their backs and check if one hip is higher than the other and if one leg is shorter than the other. After an atlas adjustment, we check again. Typically, everything levels out.”

What makes upper cervical chiropractic unique is the gentleness of the adjustment, notes Dr. Zabawa. “Unlike other chiropractors, I don’t ‘snap-crackle-pop’ you. Here, you lie on your side and gently – it almost feels like a puff of air touching you – using one instrument, I realign your whole spine. An upper cervical correction is very controlled, so there is no pulling or jerking of such a delicate area.

“When I adjust the upper cervicals, I’m actually adjusting the full spine. Once the spine, head and neck have returned to their proper positions, interference is removed thus taking pressure off the nervous system. By removing that pressure, balance is restored to the body. It’s an effective approach without any extreme manipulations.”

Better, Longer

Dr. Zabawa firmly believes it’s easier to stay healthy than to get healthy. For that reason, he recommends regular maintenance visits for those with chronic conditions, such as Eric’s low back pain. These patients should also seek treatment at the first sign of symptoms so they can maintain an active lifestyle.

“When I get a treatment, I usually don’t have to go back for three months,” comments Eric. “But, I want to keep that atlas straight, so if I start to feel slight pain, I go to Dr. Zabawa. With his treatment, my spine realigns itself and doesn’t go back to its habitual position that causes the pain.”

At 83, Eric does not act anymore. He does, however, have a full and active life, thanks to the maintenance procedures he gets from Dr. Zabawa. With his atlas vertebra being put into alignment regularly, Eric feels back pain relief for longer periods of time.

“The pain is steadily getting better and better, and Dr. Zabawa is very good at keeping up with it,” he says. “I have yet to get a treatment when I haven’t gotten immediate relief. Even when I do get pain now, it’s very mild compared to what I used to experience.

“Dr. Zabawa’s practice is as scientifically sound as anything I’ve run across before, and all you hear is a little clicking noise when he’s working on you. The whole thing takes about five minutes, and you get up feeling fine. I’m a big supporter of chiropractic now, and I will tell that to anybody.”

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