Discover the Treatment for the Most Important Part of Your Body That is Rarely Considered
In my humble, and unapologetically biased opinion, Atlas Orthogonal is one of the most important, but underutilized healthcare methods in existence. It has been the foundational treatment approach of the Liebell Clinic. It is an extraordinarily safe, painless, quick, easily received, and affordable treatment approach that begins at the upper neck (upper cervical spine). Math and physics are the basis for patients' health improvements, rather than chemistry (pharmaceutical drugs).
Atlas Orthogonal is not just for the neck; it is for the whole body. It is performed with using a specialized device that delivers a uses a split-second, single sound vibration (percussion wave) to the top of the neck. This improves the balance of the upper neck with the skull above and the spine below. Its purpose is to reduce interference to nerve function by restoring structural balance. Improving nerve function is often the key to getting out of pain and improving many other aspects of overall health.
Atlas Orthogonal is one of the easiest treatments to receive. It is painless and very quick. It is arguably the safest treatment for the neck—both within the chiropractic profession, and certainly compared to drugs and surgery. Each patient’s customized treatment is determined through an intricate 3-D mathematical analysis performed on set of x-rays that are taken with special techniques.
It is critical for you to learn everything you can about your treatment options. Popular medical websites provide some excellent support, but they also suffer from a painfully stunning lack of vital information. Nearly all sources neglect to give you the information that my patients and I are certain is the most important.
In this article, I will guide you through the scientific principles, history, and practice of Atlas Orthogonal. If promise you that if you read every word of this article and watch the videos, you’ll understand what it’s all about, and why it might be exactly what you need to get better.
I am confident that once you get the facts, you will see how logical the Atlas Orthogonal approach is. My patients have told me that once they experienced this corrective natural healing approach; taking pills and doing exercises became the strange thing… dare I say the alternative medicine!
Dr. Donald Liebell, DC, BCAO
477 Viking Drive #170
Virginia Beach, ViA 23452
Doctors use many ways to try to figure out what is wrong with the neck. There are 7 bones to consider, but doctors typically focus their attention to only the lower neck vertebrae (C5,6,7). This is the area where it’s easy to see bony changes, which are diagnosed as arthritis, degenerative disc disease, and spondylosis. These things can be seen on x-ray, MRI, and CT scans. In my experience, these observations of the lower neck are inaccurately blamed for people’s problems (my patients and I love to prove it wrong!).
Hands-on examination and observation of how well a patient can turn their head in different directions (range of motion) is expected. X-rays are usually the first choice for diagnostic images. MRI is done typically if problems are more severe, you’re not responding to treatments. These well established and useful medical approaches can be extremely helpful, but sometimes they are not enough to figure out what is really wrong. Obviously, if the diagnosis is wrong; the treatment is going to be wrong!
Drugs such as anti-inflammatory pills, muscle relaxers, and other types of pain medication are perceived as the normal or frontline way to treat neck problems. People are frequently sent for physical therapy (exercises, stretches, traction, and other techniques), or cortisone shots. This is the result of generations of mainstream medicine influencing public opinion. It is the business of medicine, not the logical and legitimate science of healthcare. When these treatments fail, surgery is usually the next thing considered.
But what could they be missing?
The upper neck is often the missing piece of the puzzle for many aches, pains, and other problems
While most of the medical world is obsessed with the bottom part of the neck… it is the TOP that should be getting most of the attention!
The medical term for the upper neck is upper cervical spine.
With Atlas Orthogonal, we analyze and treat the area that medical doctors (as well as most chiropractors!) continue to overlook. Most of my patients report to me a long and frustrating history of having had many tests and treatments from doctors of various specialties. Prior to coming to the Liebell Clinic, none of them ever considered their upper neck!
To be crystal clear, NO mainstream Western medicine (drug/surgery-based) equivalent specialty for the top of the neck exists. Upper cervical chiropractors are the experts. We are the only doctors who specialize in this area.
Atlas Orthogonal is the principle technique used at the Liebell Clinic; it is the foundation for patients’ success. It is a secret that should not be secret at all. I will show you why.
The occipital bone rests upon the top of the spinal column on the atlas (C1, or first cervical vertebra). The average atlas vertebra weighs 2 ounces. The human skull weighs between 9 and 17 pounds. This is the equivalent of a dixie cup holding up a bowling ball. It is no wonder the ancient Greek anatomists cleverly named it after Atlas, the god from Greek mythology, who held the world on his shoulders.
Below the atlas is the axis (C2 vertebra), which gets its name because due to its anatomy, it is the axis of rotation for the head. The first 45 degrees of rotation of the head takes place at the atlas on the axis!
Why is this important?
Many people with neck problems are given drugs, injections, stretches, exercises, hot, cold, electrical stimulation, and sometimes surgery. Medical attention is typically given to the area of symptoms. The CAUSE is often a distance away. For many of these cases, it is structural correction of the JOINTS of the upper neck that is needed to solve the problem.
The upper cervical region is one of the most important and neurologically complex areas of the entire body. No other area of the spine moves more than the atlas and axis. No other region bears more responsibility and function relevant to the entire body. It is the passageway for the central nervous system and blood vessels—connecting the brain to the body. The brainstem passes through the foramen magnum is opening. It is arguably the most significant nervous system structure because it is the connection center for the brain, cranial nerves, and the spinal cord. The brainstem is involved with movement, sensation, heart and lung function, and general consciousness.
The 2-ounce atlas vertebra supports the 9-17-pound human skull, like Atlas holding up the world
The nerve interference associated with upper neck and other spinal joint problems is certain.
According to Chang Ha Suh, PhD, an expert in spinal biomechanics (past Chairman, Engineering Design Department of the University of Colorado) imbalances of the head and neck cause complex changes to the health of the entire body. Spinal imbalances cause nerve malfunction. Dr. Suh’s research beginning in the 1970s proved that it only takes the pressure of the weight of a dime or quarter resting on your hand (10mm HG) to affect nerve function. That tiny bit of pressure on the nerves of the spine can cut its function in half by cutting into its electrical transmission.
That is not a small thing!
This fact of physiology was insisted to exist by chiropractors, for decades. Dr. Suh proved through sophisticated computer analysis of pre and post treatment x-rays that the Atlas Orthogonal Procedure reduces these imbalances. Chiropractors had long claimed that minimal pressure on nerves could have a significant physiological impact. This study gave credence to such claims.
The atlas vertebra (C1) and the axis vertebra (C2) are critical to health and function
Atlas Orthogonal was introduced in 1970 by its inventor, Dr. Roy Sweat of Atlanta, Georgia (1927-2022). He was the world’s authority on the upper cervical spine. Dr. Sweat was a genius and a gentleman, who dedicated his long and loving life to developing Atlas Orthogonal and teaching others. He was trained by Dr. B.J. Palmer (1882-1961), the developer of the entire chiropractic profession (Palmer Chiropractic College, 1950).
Dr. Palmer discovered, developed, and introduced the upper cervical chiropractic principles in a book published in 1934, which can be seen on my treatment room shelf. Atlas Orthogonal is the modern specialty, based on Palmer’s scientific work. It is taught through a university accredited board certification program. You’ll see the letters BCAO after my name. That stands for Board Certified Atlas Orthogonist. As of 2022, there are around 600 atlas orthogonists, in 6 countries, worldwide.
For 30 years, managing the delicate balance of the upper neck has been the primary approach of the Liebell Clinic. It has been the secret to my patients’ success.
Atlas Orthogonal is a whole-body, total health approach
Watch the official video of Atlas Orthogonal
from the Sweat Institute
Here's the video I made ages ago
to explain Atlas Orthogonal procedures
Orthogonal is a mathematical term. It refers to lines being perpendicular to each other (90 degree angles).
In the diagram, the line segments AB and CD are orthogonal to each other. With regards to the head and neck, orthogonal simply means your head is literally on straight!
Please do not think you are abnormal or broken if you have problems due to asymmetry. Humans are NOT symmetrical; we are born that way. Our internal organs are not the same on both sides. For example, the heart, stomach, pancreas, spleen are mostly on the left. The liver and the gallbladder are more on the right. Even though we have the same skeletal structures on both sides, we are not perfectly symmetrical. These imperfections or subtle asymmetries can indeed contribute to problems. It is not some freakish thing that has to occur from trauma or other physical causes.
It is a fact of life.
Orthogonal is the mathematical term for lines being perpendicular to each other (90 degrees)
Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine had much to say millennia ago regarding care of the spine:
· “Look well to the spine for the cause of disease.”
· “The natural healing force within each one of us is the greatest force in getting well.”
· “Illnesses do not come upon us out of the blue. They are developed from small daily sins against Nature. When enough sins have accumulated, illnesses will suddenly appear.”
· “When in sickness, look to the spine first.”
If you think that statements made thousands of years ago are outdated or unwise… Hippocrates was ready for you:
“Foolish the doctor who despises the knowledge acquired by the ancients.” - Hippocrates
The basis of Atlas Orthogonal is that EVERYBODY has a unique way that their skull and neck shifts off balance some of the time. The problems exist when the spine is staying off balance!
Human variation has no boundaries. We are all like a unique snowflakes. This is especially important to consider with Atlas Orthogonal mathematical analysis of the bones of the upper neck and base of the skull. Each person’s shapes, angles, nooks and crannies of bones, asymmetries, and differences are unique. Every person’s anatomy dictates a unique set of directions that it will shift off center. Once we do x-ray analysis to figure out what that pattern of misalignment each person has; it’s like figuring out the combination to a lock. Every person’s “lock” has a different combination. Once this combination is determined; it is the key to the lock for effective treatment. Dr. B.J. Palmer, the discoverer and developer of upper cervical chiropractic figured this out in the late 1920s. You can see this in the original book on my treatment room shelf!
One Size Does NOT Fit All!
Doctors do patients a massive disservice by forcing a one-size-fits-all model of healthcare. Specifically, there is NEVER such a model for how one’s spine should be! Every person has variations in bony structure; we are not clones of each other. Look at the incredible variation of form of the human race. We are as varied on the inside as we are on the inside.
We seek maximum achievable spinal symmetry with Atlas Orthogonal as its foundation. When the weight of our skull is level over the atlas… and the weight distribution of the entire skeletal frame below is as balanced as can be… better function and health is the result.
We must ignore any ridiculous notions of how people’s bodies are “supposed” to be, as the basis for quality treatment.
Yes—seeking orthogonal position of the head and neck is the goal. But it is not necessary to achieve perfectionto help people. Ultimately, the purpose of Atlas Orthogonal treatment is to reduce or eliminate interference to nerve interference, not to make the spine look prettier!
It is the harsh reality that we each have asymmetries, imperfections, variations, and genetic “raw deals.” We recognize that the best physiques have always been perceived as those which are most symmetrical. This is the case for athletics, physical beauty, and other human metrics. Symmetrical and structurally balanced bodies are less prone to injury and wear and tear. The atlas vertebra is the physical center of balance for the entire human body. Seeking the best possible balance of one’s head over the neck is an important health goal.
Hippocrates, the "father of modern medicine" knew the importance of the spine, long ago.
Attention to upper neck symmetry is so much more than for neck problems. Asymmetrical body balance from the top down can cause pain and problems in the hips, knees, and feet.
Asymmetrical weight distribution, by the simple undisputable laws of physics will result in problems. Our body weight ideally is distributed evenly to both feet. For example, a 150-pound person should carry 75 pounds of weight on each foot. But if this weight distribution is uneven… more wear and tear will take place on one side. That’s one of the evils of asymmetry. If you are supporting 80 pounds on one side, and 70 on the other; the stressors are uneven. Abnormal wear and tear on bones, joints, muscles, ligaments, tendons, spinal discs, and other structures is inevitable.
Asymmetrical wear and tear ultimately results in inflammation, nerve irritation, and a long list of common pains and problems, all-to-frequently blamed on things like old age, genetics, weight gain, etc.
Did you ever wonder why a person who needs a hip or knee replacement might only need it on one side of their body? Does the joint go bad because of wear and tear due to age? No!
The wear and tear is often due to asymmetrical weight bearing over time. Your right and left hip and knee are the same age! If a doctor ever tells you that one of your joints hurts because you’re old… remind the doctor that the one on the opposite side is the same age!
We can easily make other observations that prove the effects of body weight asymmetry. Just look at your shoes. Do your heels wear out unevenly? Or look in the mirror. Close your eyes and turn your head left and right, then stop in center and open them. Does your head look tilted more on one side? Was it easier to turn your head to one side than the other?
There are many symptoms associated with uneven weight distribution. The more you think about it; the more obvious the consequences of asymmetry become. Numerous problems with the spine, hips, knees, legs, and feet develop… from the neck downward. It is not that the upper neck is the sole cause of these problems, but rather that imbalance at the top can contribute to problems from head to toe.
You can hurt your foot or ankle, but it’s just not healing. Your head literally/mathematically not being on straight may interfere with its natural healing because of unbalanced body weight distribution.
Skull/atlas imbalance is not the only cause of body imbalance, but it seems like the most important one. It is also the one NOT considered in most medical circles. Sure, obvious things like scoliosis (sideways abnormal spinal curve), muscle imbalances, anatomically twisted pelvis or feet, etc. can be involved in body imbalance, too.
Body imbalances from the top of the neck downward can result in many pains and problems
With the Atlas Orthogonal approach, we are starting at the top. If the upper foundation is not as level as it could be—nothing done for the body below it is likely to be as effective as it might be. This is why so many of my lower back pain patients have gotten better. Improving balance of the head over the neck, combined with whatever lower body treatments are necessary is a true holistic approach.
Most medical evaluation is focused on the area of the symptom. For example, how often does a patient see a doctor for hip pain, but also have their upper neck evaluated? Physical exam, x-rays, and MRI are done for only the hip, in most cases, right? Plus, many times these tests are negative. Or some calcification shows up on x-ray, and is blamed for the pain as arthritis.
At the Liebell Clinic, if you show up seeking help for a hip problem, I evaluate everything appropriate for your hip… but I still look to balance the skeletal frame from the top down with Atlas Orthogonal.
No matter where your symptoms are, we must give you top-of-the-line evaluation treatment by literally taking things from the top!
Atlas Orthogonal has long been my foundational chiropractic approach, used in conjunction with various other techniques. My patients agree that it is one of the most cost-effective treatment approaches around (whether you have insurance coverage, or not). Atlas Orthogonal is covered by most insurance (Medicare has covered chiropractic since 1965).
It is an extraordinary means to helping people get better from a wide variety of chronic spine/nerve-related problems, naturally, painlessly, safely, and affordably. I am proud to have used it even for people who have had failed or minimally effective spinal surgery, including anterior fusions of the neck. If you have questions or you’d like to pursue Atlas Orthogonal, just give us a call or email.
When your head is mathematically & literally on straight, less pain and better health is the result
This video is an older version that explains the Atlas Orthogonal procedure
Watch the testimonial of Atlas Orthogonal success from 2-time Emmy winner and Super Bowl Champion Michael Strahan, co-host of ABC’s “Good Morning America.”
This is a good video for more
knowledge and understanding of the neck.
Watch Montel Williams describe his success with
Atlas Orthogonal with my New York colleague, Dr. Kerr
477 Viking Drive #170, Virginia Beach, Virginia 23452, United States
The Liebell Clinic has office hours one Saturday each month for special evaluations. Times and dates are variable month-to-month.
Copyright © 2021 The Liebell Clinic - All Rights Reserved. Donald Liebell, DC, BCAO. The information and statements contained in this website have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration, and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. The content of this website is for informational purposes only; it is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Your reliance on any information provided by Dr. Liebell’s website, any referenced parties is solely at your own risk. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard medical advice, or delay seeking medical advice or treatment, because of information contained in this website. This website expresses Dr. Liebell's health care views, and describes wellness-based, natural treatment methods, and must not be misconstrued as direct treatment advice—it is information only.