A study conducted at the University of Chicago hypertension center found that a special chiropractic adjustment to the Atlas vertebra can significantly reduce high blood pressure. The eight week study of 50 patients – 25 receiving a proper adjustment, and the other 25 receiving a sham adjustment, none on medication – showed that those who got the real procedure saw an average 14 mm Hg drop in systolic blood pressure (the top number), and an average 8 mm Hg drop in diastolic blood pressure (the bottom number), greater than those receiving the sham adjustment. The study leader George Bakris, MD stated, “This procedure has the effect of not one, but two blood pressure medications given in combination. When the statistician brought me the data, I actually didn’t believe it. It was way too good to be true.”
The procedure calls for adjustment of the C1 vertebra, also known as the Atlas vertebra because of the way it holds up the head, referencing Greek mythology and the titan Atlas holding up the world. "At the base of the brain are two centers that control all the muscles of the body. If you pinch the base of the brain - if the Atlas gets locked in a position as little as a half a millimeter out of line - it doesn't cause any pain but it upsets these centers," says Marshall Dickholtz, DC, the chiropractor who performed the procedures on the study group. He goes on to state, “if people have high blood pressure, there is a tremendous possibility they need an Atlas adjustment.” The subtle adjustment is made by the chiropractor gently using his hands to manipulate the vertebra.
Chiropractic adjustments may not work for every patient to lower high blood pressure. Bakris is now organizing a much larger clinical trial to determine who can benefit from the alternative of chiropractic care versus medication. The program is a work in progress, but may help to identify other conditions to be treated through an Atlas adjustment.