From the Top Down
Photo by Jordan Pysz.

Bruce Conner

Procedure on upper cervical vertebrae relieves low back pain.

It was while living amid Central Florida’s Chain of Lakes that 59-year-old Sarasota resident Bruce Conner’s tale of misery began.

“I started experiencing chronic backaches with muscle stiffness and sharp pain in my lower back,” Bruce remembers. “I can’t point to anything I did to initiate the problem except that while growing up, I had some kid-type accidents, like falling out of a tree and getting kicked in the head.

“It’s possible that some of those incidents jarred some of my vertebrae because there were times when I got a very intense pain in my low back that felt like a razor-sharp object, like a knife, was being stuck in my back. But most of the time, it was just a chronic backache that never left. The pain was a nine out of ten.”

The constant agony affected every aspect of Bruce’s life. Working around the house and doing tasks that require strength were painful for him to perform. His sports endeavors were also affected.

“Back then, I liked to play softball and bowl, but when I started having these back problems, I couldn’t do those things anymore,” Bruce describes. “At times, I had trouble just walking.”

Bruce tried various treatments, looking for relief. He went to a traditional chiropractor but wasn’t thrilled with the manual manipulation technique used by the doctor to adjust his spine. The chiropractor couldn’t give him an acceptable explanation for his condition, and the treatment failed to provide the results he sought.

“I then tried an orthopedic surgeon, who took some x-rays,” Bruce relates. “The doctor didn’t see anything on the x-rays that required surgery, but he couldn’t tell me why I was having so much pain either. I was getting to a point where I didn’t have any hope of getting relief from my painful low back problem.”

Then, Bruce heard about doctors in Clearwater who performed a procedure called an upper cervical correction. He decided to make the 90-minute drive there to find out what it was all about and whether it could help him.

“I was at my wit’s end, so I drove to Clearwater to talk to a doctor and have the upper cervical procedure,” Bruce states. “That’s where I met Dr. Zabawa, who was working at that clinic at the time. This was back in the mid 1980s.

“Dr. Zabawa’s adjustments were very gentle. I just felt a little bit of pressure over my neck. He uses a little instrument and just lightly taps. At first, I thought, This can’t be doing anything, but actually, it really works.”

Stephen R. Zabawa, DC, now has his own upper cervical practice, Atlas Chiropractic of Sarasota, where he uses this advanced approach to adjust the spine, which relieves back pain and other disorders.

An upper cervical chiropractor board certified in Orthospinology, Dr. Zabawa uses gentle, precise adjustment methods called Orthospinology and Atlas Orthogonal to treat misalignments of the spine.

The Atlas Adjustment

At Atlas Chiropractic of Sarasota, low back care begins at the top. Keeping the upper cervical vertebrae in alignment keeps the entire spine aligned, which results in relief from low back pain.

“The body has a reflex to keep the eyes, brain and nerves level,” Dr. Zabawa explains. “The spine will distort itself all the way down the body to keep the brain and nervous system level.

“The atlas is the first vertebra in the neck that connects the head to the cervical spine. If there’s a misalignment of the upper cervical vertebrae, the rest of the spine will compensate. The lumbar and thoracic vertebrae, pelvis and hips will torque, putting pressure on the low back, which causes pain.

“This twisting of the spine also creates interference in the spinal column. Pressure on the nervous system can affect other parts of the body, far beyond the back. The atlas adjustment takes pressure off by restoring the proper alignment of the atlas vertebra. This balances the head, relieving the spinal twisting down to the lower back, so I’m actually adjusting the full spine. That’s when healing can begin.”

The precision and gentleness of the atlas adjustment is what makes upper cervical chiropractic unique, Dr. Zabawa asserts. “Unlike other chiropractors, I don’t snap-crackle-and-pop you. Here, I make measurements and calculations from a series of x-rays we take.

“Over time, with Dr. Zabawa’s upper cervical adjustments, my back gradually got better, and the pain dissipated. . . . I’m virtually pain free now.” – Bruce

“An upper cervical correction is a very gentle tap in just the right place for your personal misalignment, and there’s no pulling or jerking of such a delicate area. It’s precise and gentle.”

The atlas adjustment procedure Dr. Zabawa performs restores balance to the body.

“It’s an effective, advanced approach without extreme manipulations. Patients may have low back problems, but adjusting the neck takes care of the back.”

“A Dramatic Change”

Bruce says his first upper cervical adjustment was “life-changing” and gave him hope he could actually recover and live a pain-free, normal life again. Those hopes turned into reality for him after a series of treatments.

“Over time, with Dr. Zabawa’s upper cervical adjustments, my back gradually got better, and the pain dissipated,” he reports. “Now, I’m at a point where I don’t really think about my back pain anymore. Where my pain used to be a nine, it’s now zero or one at the most. I’m virtually pain free now. It’s a dramatic change.”

Just as people maintain their cars, so they should maintain their bodies, Dr. Zabawa stresses. With that in mind, Bruce is happy to go to Atlas Chiropractic of Sarasota periodically for preventive maintenance adjustments because without the constant backaches, he is free to do many of the activities he shied away from before. For him, walking is comfortable again and so are the tasks around his home that caused him significant pain before.

“I don’t play softball anymore, but from time to time, I will go bowling with my coworkers,” Bruce notes. “I don’t worry about pain when I’m working and playing with my kids or doing activities around the house. This procedure has improved my life and overall well-being immensely.

”Dr. Zabawa is a very good upper cervical doctor,” he says. “His treatments are very effective. Over the years, most of my loved ones have been to see him, and we’ve all received great care.

“For anyone with the type of back problem I was having, I definitely recommend Dr. Zabawa’s upper cervical treatment. It’s been very effective and helpful for me.”

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