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  • Writer's pictureDr Justin Gauthier

What is NUCCA?

Updated: Mar 1, 2019

NUCCA is very specific form of Structural Chiropractic with a very specific goal: to realign the atlas (the top bone in our necks) to the correct position in relation to head above and neck below. That's the entirety of it at its core.

I’m writing this because I think NUCCA requires a introduction. Not because it’s a ‘new’ or ‘mysterious’ form of Chiropractic- it has been around for over 50 years- but because it is simply a lesser used form of Chiropractic. It’s estimated that less 1% of Chiropractors use NUCCA as their primary method of taking care of people.


There’s a few ideas. The most obvious and understandable is that it is simply more difficult than many other techniques. This article, from 1995, explains this idea more in-depth. Essentially, the difficulty in learning NUCCA is two-fold: learning the analysis, and learning the adjustment. Both of which require countless hours of training and sometimes years of experience to truly master without the correct instruction by experienced doctors. The analysis and adjustment each have an extraordinary level of detail and precision, coupled with just enough art to make NUCCA one of the more difficult techniques to master.

However, in my experience, and the experience of many NUCCA doctors, the outcome is more than worth the effort with regards to their patient care. The results NUCCA is capable of achieving by properly correcting the atlas are well worth the effort and often a life-changing experience for our patients.

As noted before, NUCCA is based on a simple premise: get the head and neck on straight. At its core that’s all it is. The means by which this is achieved, however, is what makes NUCCA so unique within the health care world and so desired by countless people around North America.

Crooked Posture

The reason this is our goal as NUCCA doctors is due to the neurological impact a misalignment of your upper neck can have. A misalignment of the upper neck area results in a global postural distortion, affecting every movement in our body and even how we stand. What you think is standing straight may actually be more crooked than you realize. Crooked in the long run doesn’t usually end well for the human body. Think of a 50 story building set on a foundation that is 1/2 degree off with a weak corner; It’s only a matter of time before gravity begins to takes it toll. The same principle applies to the human body. A human frame which is not perpendicular to gravity and whose muscle movements are not balanced is one which will break down much quicker than we would like.


So what does the process look like?

Your first appointment will be hours long! After a physical examination, we take very specific X-rays of the head and neck. We then analyze the films, measuring the misalignment present in the neck to 1/4” of specificity. This gives us the angle at which your specific misalignment needs to be adjusted. The adjustment itself is extremely light- about 5 grams of pressure behind your ear- and involves no twisting, cracking, or popping. Many patients don’t feel anything at all. After this, there is a period of resting before another set of the same X-rays are taken of your head and neck. We then analyze the films the same as before, to 1/4” specifically. At this point we have before and after pictures of your neck structure, and we can know exactly the change that has occurred and ensure it is now in a balanced position. Once your neck is in a stable position, your initial appointment is complete!

Most people notice a large change in their posture before anything else. Some people have relief immediately, others take time. Just like any form of health care, it is dependent on the individual. Your only job as a NUCCA patient is to hold your alignment for as long as possible. In doing so, you are giving your body the best opportunity to heal.

Going forward, we simply check you and your posture and only adjust when necessary. Many patients go weeks, months, sometimes even years, without needing another adjustment. A holding patient is a healthy patient.

If you'd like to read more in-depth about NUCCA, the NUCCA website has some great resources.

Additionally, if you have any interest in finding out more about NUCCA from myself in Medicine Hat, feel free to contact our office and schedule a complimentary consultation where we can address any questions you might have and determine whether NUCCA is something that may benefit you!

Dr. Justin Gauthier

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