Reconditioning your body is not that complicated. The goal is to always help you feel good so you could lead a better life. Let’s dive into this episode as Dr. Jeff Scott discusses how to hold your upper cervical adjustments. He is a Doctor of Chiropractic at Montclair Upper Cervical. Holding is healing. But how can you do that? Dr. Jeff shares the best health practices you should consider including your sleep position, the type of pillow you use, exercise plans, and more.
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How To Hold Your Upper Cervical Adjustments! With Dr. Jeff Scott
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In this episode, we have my associate, Dr. Jeff Scott. This is our most frequently asked question in the office, "How do I hold my upper cervical adjustments for a long time?" That is the most important aspect of upper cervical care because, as you know, we say holding is healing. The longer you hold that adjustment, the faster you are going to heal. We decided to make an entire episode on this topic. It's a great episode. I'm glad we did it. Dr. Jeff and I are going to have more conversations like this on the show. If you have any questions you want us to hit, let us know. Enjoy this episode. Thank you so much.
Thanks for hopping on, Jeff. How are you?
I'm doing well. No worries. I'm always happy to be on the show.
For those who don't know, Dr. Jeff Scott is the other upper cervical chiropractor at Montclair Upper Cervical. In this episode, we have a very important topic. What is upper cervical is all about holding your adjustments. As you know, we say holding is healing. We don't want to give you an adjustment every time you are in the office.
We want to do it as few times as possible and have it stay in place, so your body starts to heal. You get the 100% nerve flow and blood flow back, and your body starts to heal without us. That's what it's all about. That's why the upper cervical was such a beautiful thing. Dr. Jeff and I have many patients that hold for a very long time. We want to share with you some tidbits on how to hold your adjustments as long as possible because that's where you are going to get that full healing effect.
The most important thing after an upper cervical adjustment, Dr. Jeff and I are going to go over some dos and don'ts. We tell everybody to give your body the best chance to heal right after the adjustment. First of all, after we adjust people, we don't want them to get up off the table right away. We want to keep them there. We lay them on their side right after the adjustment for 3 or 5 minutes. We want them to be completely still and let the adjustments sink in. After that, we swing them up. We rest them in our backroom for about twenty minutes. After that adjustment period, we go over the dos and don'ts to help you hold that adjustment.
Dr. Jeff, what do we always say 48 hours aftercare? What do we want you to do? What do we want you to stay away from to give your body the best benefit of healing? It's because, at that 48-hour mark, your head is going to be in a different position. Your posture is going to be different. Your muscles and ligaments are not going to be used to their new position. We want to keep it there. What are some of the things we share with our patients to stay away from over the first 48 hours?
The first thing we usually ask patients is like, "Do you have any exercise plan in mind that you have been doing?" We try to educate them on taking a couple of days off, allowing the body a chance to rebalance itself and adapt. The big thing we always say is overhead activity, especially with exercises like pull-ups, chin-ups, lat pulldowns, and shoulder press. We have patients who are into fitness and are doing heavy barbell work, even something like shoulder flys or shrugs. We tell patients to avoid those because any of those movements do a lot of pulling on the neck, trap, and even the cervical erectors and the deeper muscles as well.
What you just said before was you want to have your schedule clear after your first upper cervical adjustment. It may be possible to hold your adjustment after doing a workout because your body is used to it but like we said, holding is healing and we want it to stay in place. If you go and do a heavy workout two hours after we give you your first adjustment, the body is so used to being in its old position it might go right back to the way it wants to be and you are going to erase your first adjustment.
We always say, "Have your schedule clear most definitely the first day after your first adjustment, and to be safe, 48 hours to give it some time to sink in because we want it to stay there." Those are some things to not do after the first adjustment but we don't want you not doing anything. It is important to keep movement. The way our spine gets its nutrients is a process called imbibition. There's not a direct blood supply to the spine. The way our discs stay hydrated is through movement.
When you move around your spine, the discs soak up fluid and stay hydrated. When you sit down all day at a desk or traffic, you are compressing the discs. Think of it like a sponge. The sponge is being compressed, the fluid is draining from the sponge and your discs don't stay hydrated. Movement is key.
You can go for a walk and keep everything moving but for that first 48 hours, you just want to be relaxing and walking around. We don't want you to lay in bed all day because that's not good for it either. One other big question we get from a lot of our patients is, "How should I sleep at night?" What do we usually tell them for sleeping?
We always start by asking them what their normal sleep position is. It's either the back, sides or stomach. People usually rotate between those. Depending on what the patient says, we try to educate them a little bit like, "On your back is the best. The sides are second best either of those is ideal." We also will tell patients, "It's not going to be the most beneficial for your neck if you are sleeping on your stomach with your head turned to the left or right for six hours on end."
We start with the sleeping position and ask them, "How many pillows are you using?" We then try to educate them that, "If you are using a lot of pillows and have your head kinked up or rocked down, that's also going to put some tension on the spine and the muscles." We want them to be as neutral as possible when we are giving them an adjustment on the table.
Another question we get a lot is, "What pillow should I be using?" Pillows are a very personable thing. What I find comfortable in a pillow, you may hate. What's the goal for you to fall asleep and be comfortable and wake up well-rested? What we find comfortable on a pillow, you may not like. If it's keeping you up at night, it's not a good pillow for you. We usually recommend whatever is going to keep your head nice and neutral while you are sleeping.
What Dr. Jeff said before, you don't want your head tilted up or down, nice and neutral, whether it's a memory foam or Tempur-Pedic. There are so many different pillows out there. We recommend whatever is going to keep you nice, comfortable, neutral, and help you fall asleep. Another thing we say is to try not to fall asleep all twisted up on the sofa, watching TV with your head in a different or weird position. That's going to put some stress on the neck, especially after your first adjustment.
We like to say, "Sit up nice and tall on the couch and be very conscious of your posture for the first couple of days." Now, that we have talked about the first 48 hours, let's talk about what you can do and jump back into after your first adjustment. Jeff, what do we say to new patients that are active, work out a lot, and want to continue their fitness care?
We take that 1 of 2 ways. It depends on the severity of the case and the symptoms the patient is having. For patients who are active or have mild to moderate symptoms, it's causing disruption in their lives but it's not severe or more of the severe neurological symptoms where it's impacting their life. We will tell them like, "You can try going back and continue your exercise."
We have talked about some of our jiu-jitsu patients or mixed martial artists who have been in that environment and are used to that. They might be okay to return because their neck, ligaments, and muscles are used to having that tension and strain on them. Someone who has been working out for years at a time might be able to get away with it a lot sooner because their body already has that neuromuscular conditioning.
For patients who are a little bit more severe, after we have given them some time to allow everything to mold around the newly corrected spine, we say, "Start off light. Start with the resistance band. Build up that neuromuscular conditioning and that tone. Let the muscles adapt to their new position and proprioception and how they want to respond." It's because when you first start doing that and getting back into exercising, you might get fatigued.
Nowadays, with the amount of resistance bands and things along those lines, you can get pretty heavy resistance just from the bands alone. Recondition the muscles, let the body get back into it, and start adding back in the weights, usually lower weight and higher reps, and then build back up to what you are comfortable with.
That's a good point. We have a lot of jiu-jitsu patients, fitness trainers, and people who like to lift and throw around some heavy weights and have been doing it for a while. We are not going to tell those people to just stop working out completely for six weeks, especially if they don't have a lot of neurological issues going down. Maybe they have more musculoskeletal. We want those people working out. We don't want them not doing anything. We want them going for more repetitions.
What I find will probably throw you out is if you are going for your max outs and your whole body starts to shake and convulse, that's putting a lot of pressure on the neck. You don't want to do that but you want to stay active and tone everything back up. Your first workout back after an upper cervical adjustment, everything is going to be in a new position, so you want to get those muscles used to their new position. Start off very light. Whatever exercise you like doing, do with the resistance bands first to retrain your muscles. That's where your head wants to be without throwing it back out of alignment.
Here's a little side story. When I first started upper cervical care, I would get adjusted and thought I needed to strengthen my neck right away. My neck felt unstable and weak. I said, "I need to start strengthening my neck." I was doing chin tucks and isometric neck presses from the physical therapy exercises I was given. I would come back into the office and they would say, "You are out of alignment again." I said, "Why is that? I'm not doing much. I'm just doing isometric neck exercises." The problem with that is what we talked about before.
The muscles and ligaments are trying to mold around your adjustment. When you start directly affecting the neck musculature, it's going to put a lot of stress and want to go back to where it used to be. You are going to be able to do everything you used to be able to do and even better because everything is now balanced. The spine is where it needs to be. You are going to be able to lift more weights and handle more stress on the spine. You’ve got to give it its necessary time to stay put and be there.
From what Dr. Jeff and I see, depending on the case, it’s in between 4 to 9 weeks it gets locked in place. We have people that get pretty locked in the first week. If you want to test it, test it but keep in mind the longer this holds in place, the faster you are going to heal. As Dr. Jeff said, if you are having a ton of neurological symptoms, you’ve got to think to yourself it's not worth jumping back right into that heavy weightlifting because you feel good when you are in and feel like death when you are out. Think about the long run. Once it starts holding, you are going to be able to do everything you wanted to do and even better. Is there anything you want to touch on that, Jeff?
It's pretty much everything that you said. The goal here is to get those neck adjustments to hold as long as possible. We want people to be active and fit. It might be a matter of titrating what's necessary to allow the neck to get back in place, which is the goal to get you feeling better, and then starting to layer on activity because the body is reconditioning itself. It's no different than someone learning to run a marathon or trying to play a sport. There's time that you need to take to recondition. Your body is going from one set that it's used to and now it's got to recondition and recalibrate itself to this new position. That takes time.
We have a lot of patients that come into our office and think they have ligament instability. They think they are not going to hold their adjustments. We find that not to be the case. We get a lot of questions about prolotherapy, PRP, Platelet-Rich Plasma therapy, and stem cell therapy. Those are all great options. They are going to strengthen your ligaments. On the flip side, it's a pretty penny to get those injections, and you may not need them.
We are not even thinking about prolotherapy or PRP until eight months into care. We have had people that we didn't think it was possible that there would be holding 6 to 8 months or a year into care because the beginning was a little bit of a bumpy road. They weren't holding their adjustments well. The ligaments take the most time to heal. I usually say, "Give it 8 to 9 months before you even consider a PRP. It's a great alternative to strengthen the ligaments but you may not need it. Upper cervical might be able to take care of the rest."
The difference there is it's a lens that we are looking through. It's the idea of saying like, "If you have a car and you are constantly replacing those spokes on the car, if the axle is wobbly, broken, and is not moving properly, you are always going to have the extra strain on the wheels because the foundation of that car is not working properly."
With the neck, if you've got different joints and bones that are shifted out of place having 1 ligament slack and 1 ligament taut, you can get all the prolotherapy you want but if that underlying foundation is not at some point addressed, you are risking having to do it again in the future. If you are going to invest in that, you want to make sure that if you are given those ligaments and those structures the chance to heal that they are in the best position possible.
You made me think of another good point. Some patients come to us from the physical therapist's office for deep tissue massage. What those practitioners are doing is great but they are not taking care of the neurological issues that the patient is having, even some of the muscle tightness. You can rub on that muscle all day long but if you are not getting the proper nerve innervation to that muscle to tell it to release, it's never going to let go. That's why people say they get some relief after physical therapy and massage for an hour or two, maybe even a day but it always goes back to that certain tightness. First and foremost, you’ve got to get the neurology functioning properly to tell everything to release.
A lot of people come in and say, "I have tried acupuncture and physical therapy. Nothing seems to be working." You then get the neck put back in place, and the acupuncture and physical therapy start to work well. Sometimes, it does take a team of people to get people functioning back on track. First and foremost, get that upper cervical neck region clear because that's where you are going to see a lot of amazing things happen. We usually tell people not to get any deep tissue or neck work done, probably 3 or 4 weeks, maybe even 6 weeks into care. We have our own process of handling that.
After we get people adjusted and start holding for about a week, then we start doing trigger point therapy and light specific neck work because, as we have seen, some people get very sore. After an upper cervical adjustment, the muscles at some point, are going to want to try to pull it back to its old alignment and the neck is not going to let it. Soreness and tightness are pretty normal after a first neck adjustment.
That's where we come in with the muscle work the next week very specifically and gently. We try to calm everything down. Jeff, you see people get the range of motion back after that neck work. It's not much. We are not digging in but it's enough to cause those muscles to relax and restore the range of motion.
We do a good job of phrasing it as, "This is support work." Our goal is to get that neck alignment in place and holding, so the body can heal without interference. We then are going to decide when patients are healing and if there's something that we can do to help that process and facilitate them continuing to hold. If that means helping to get rid of some muscle tension that might be pulling or aggravating them a little bit, we are very strategic with that.
One more thing I wanted to jump into that's so important is what to expect in the healing process 6 weeks, 3, 6, 9 months or a year into care. If you are under upper cervical care, these adjustments continue to work long after we give them. This goes on with the same premise. Holding is healing. You hold your adjustment. You are going to continue to heal 6 weeks, 3, 6, 9 or 12 months into care. We like to emphasize that in the first six weeks, rapid healing takes place.
After your first adjustment, it may be the best you have ever felt in a long time, and then the healing process starts. It's a little bit of a roller coaster up and down. When the healing process does kick in, you may get some of your old symptoms, injuries or illnesses. Dr. Jeff, it's cool that you are right in the middle of experiencing some of this stuff now. You are probably about 3 or 5 months into care now. You have had a couple of ups and downs that are pretty wild. Tell them about the throat, tonsils, and the tension headache you’ve never got. Healing can be uncomfortable. Dr. Jeff had a lot of good days but also some weird things have been happening that are healing neurologically.
The most consistent thing has been shifting muscle tension, whether it’s from the suboccipital down or the traps, having shoulders feeling rotated and not feeling rotated. There are two of the more interesting ones. One night, the back of my tongue felt like it swelled up. It probably didn't but it was a weird feeling. I'm like, "What's going on?" I was about to go to bed. I'm like, "I will keep an eye on this." I talked to you the next morning. You had something similar happen. I had a tension migraine, which I had never had before in my life. It's a lot of interesting things.
It's shifting muscle tension, going through every now and then, and having a low-grade headache. There's some interesting stuff going on with the hips and the low back as posturally everything continues to work itself out. There are a lot of interesting things. What has been beneficial for me is continuing to have that awareness of like, "There might be some weird things that happen that's not a regression. It's the body working through some stuff."
That's one thing I try to articulate to the patients. It's like, "If you are having tightness, that might be okay. That might be your body working through something." The tightness can be irritating but it's a little bit of trusting the process. Your body has its own agenda. I have mentioned it to you. A patient's body is far smarter than me, you or any healthcare provider. It's got to have its own agenda and knows what it needs at that time. It's trusting your body to take care of itself and realizing you might have some hills and valleys. Over time, those hills and valleys are going to get better and better.
For me, I had a lot of ups and downs in the healing process. One thing was I used to get chronic sore throats. My throat would swell up for a day or two and I didn't feel sick. It was just my throat. Two days later, it would go away. I remember one day I woke up and my left trap was burning. It completely felt like it was on fire. Six hours later, it was completely gone and I felt great. There are a lot of ups and downs as the nerves start to heal. You get a lot of crazy weird sensations that happen.
Another thing we didn't touch on was fatigue. After an adjustment, a lot of people get very tired. They can be a little bit more fatigued 2 or 3 weeks after their first adjustment. Although you are struggling to stay awake for the day, it is a very good thing because there was a lot of pressure on your system that we adjusted. The body wants to relax and heal. The body does a lot of healing while it sleeps. If you are feeling fatigued after an upper cervical adjustment, try not to fight it because your body wants to rest, sleep and heal.
I remember towards 5:00 or 6:00 PM for the first week or two, it was a struggle to stay awake. I was constantly tired. Two weeks later, my energy levels leveled out. After the six-week period, you still get some peaks and valleys. It happens like clockwork. Every three months, your body starts to go through another healing phase. It rests after the first 6 weeks and then 3, 6, or 9 months in, you hit these little repair cycles that last anywhere from 3 to 6 weeks. Your symptoms aren't as bad as they used to be but you may feel some things you haven't felt in a long time.
A good way somebody put it for me was like if you have an injury and your body starts to heal it naturally like a clock, it gets all the way around to 10:00 and then stops. It then moves on to the next thing. When upper cervical care happens, it remembers the old injury. It takes it from 10:00, finishes up the healing process, and moves it all the way around. Your body, especially if you were an athlete, had a lot of trauma, whether physical, mental or emotional stuff, your nervous system remembers everything.
You are going to heal through a lot of injuries. Past emotional stuff even comes up. I found myself crying for a couple of weeks for no reason. I was not upset or anything. When you finally get out of it, you are like, "What was I crying about?" It's like, "That happened to me a long time ago. I completely forgot about it." Not only is it physical. There's a lot of mental and spiritual healing that takes place too. Overall, it heals you. It takes your structural and mental health to the next level. It is one of the most amazing things that's ever happened to me in upper cervical care. I can't thank the profession enough.
It's pretty amazing and brilliant what happens when you give the body the opportunity to heal itself. It was BJ Palmer who said, "The body needs no help, just no interference." You remove the interference, and you allow that internal wisdom that governs your body to do its thing. Your possibilities are endless. We have had patients who, right away, have started to feel better. We have a couple of patients who have taken closer to a year or maybe a little bit more.
At some point, if you are patient and let your body do your thing and you create an environment where your body can do its thing, it's going to happen. That's pretty incredible, especially when you think about some people who have been dealing with these things for 5, 10, 15 or 20 plus years, given your body that time. We are not saying it's going to take a while. We are not saying you are going to be in misery for eight months and all of a sudden, the light bulb is going to switch. You will start to feel better. You might have more good days. Your bad days might be a little bit less intentional as frequent.
If you give your body time, eventually, it's going to get through some healing blocks that you have to deal with. That's when the magic happens. We have had patients who come in for vertigo, trigeminal neuralgia, and other symptoms. You have heard what they said, "I still have some ringing in my ears but my low back pain is gone." That was something completely secondary and subconscious to them at the time. Now, the body took care of that. That means that the low back was a higher priority in the healing process than the ringing. Once it works through stuff, it eventually will get to the ringing.
It will be better right away. We also want a good benchmarker for upper cervical care to let you know where you are at. Give it at least three months or take a couple of months but the three-month mark is a good position to let you know where you are at. There's so much information to comprehend under upper cervical care. When I first started care, I had so many questions. If you want Dr. Jeff and me to make another episode on another topic relating to upper cervical, we would love to. It helps us reach more people and explain it a little bit better.
If you have any questions about upper cervical care, you want us to make any videos or give you a little bit more information on a certain topic, contact us. We will try to make more of these episodes at least once a week. We would love to hear from you. Thank you, everybody, so much for reading. We are Blair upper cervical chiropractors at Montclair Upper Cervical. We are here for you. We offer free consultations. Reach out to us on Instagram @DrKevinPecca. We are pretty active on that. Jeff, what's your handle on Instagram?
Don't forget about the show on iTunes and Spotify. We have so many great episodes on upper cervical care, different upper cervical doctors, and amazing life stories that have been healed and given their lives back. Be sure to check that out and read for weekly episodes. Thank you so much, everyone, for joining us.
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About Jeff Scott
My name is Dr. Jeffrey Scott, and I am a Doctor of Chiropractic (D.C) at Montclair Upper Cervical. Growing up I always knew I wanted to do something where I could help others, where I could change someone’s life for the better. I was fortunate during my high school and college years to be introduced to the holistic side of health care by a close friend and mentor. He opened my eyes to a whole new way of thinking and impressed upon me the bodies immense capacity to heal itself and function optimally. Armed with this knowledge and experience, I elected to pursue a career in the field of chiropractic. I am grateful for the opportunity to help improve the lives of so many people each and every day. I look forward to serving my community and improving the health of others through Upper cervical care.
Dr. Jeffrey Scott “Nature needs no help, just no interference” – BJ Palmer
I was born and raised in central New Jersey. I graduated from Bridgewater-Raritan High School and have a degree in Biology from the University of Connecticut. I earned my chiropractic degree from Palmer College of Chiropractic in Davenport, Iowa. I am a very active individual, and enjoy working out, as well as anything related to sports and athletics. My free time is usual spent with family and friends, and enjoying time by the ocean whenever possible.
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