Hole-in-One Chiropractor

Chiropractor Ryan Alter of Delray Beach, Florida, was featured on TV as a miracle worker who cures migraines and other health problems with “a cutting edge technique” only offered by 250 practitioners around the world: Atlas orthogonal. You can see the video clips at http://www.alterchiropractic.com/

His machine looks like a drill press. It holds a little rod in a precise location at a precise angle, and it produces a tiny quick tap to the side of the neck. Patients comment, “He barely even touches my neck” and “You feel absolutely nothing.” That should be a clue.

He takes x-rays before and after. He draws lines and calculates precisely where to apply the tap so as to adjust the top bone of the spine, the Atlas, by half a degree or so. Afterwards, he draws lines so that the x-ray looks better. That’s not hard to do.

This is hardly a “cutting edge” procedure. It was invented by a chiropractor named Roy Sweat several decades ago. There is no published evidence to show that this procedure actually moves the Atlas vertebra or that it does any of the other things they claim.

Atlas orthogonal, NUCCA, and other upper vertebral chiropractic techniques are reincarnations of Palmer’s discarded “hole-in-one” technique. He fancied that if you fixed the top vertebra, the rest of the spine would magically fall into alignment, allowing all ailments to heal.

Not even chiropractors believe that!  That’s why there are so few upper cervical practitioners. I found these opinions on a chiropractors’ online forum:

NUCCA is extremely flawed biomechanically and can’t be taken seriously.

atlas orthogonal therapy was made up in the figment of roy sweat’s imagination, based on NOTHING, did you hear me, NOTHING.

I heard you.

If you think this is silly, read about the “No-Touch Chiropractor” at http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/?p=3.

This article was originally published in Swift, the online newsletter of the James Randi Educational Foundation.


Dr. Hall is a contributing editor to both Skeptic magazine and the Skeptical Inquirer. She is a weekly contributor to the Science-Based Medicine Blog and is one of its editors. She has also contributed to Quackwatch and to a number of other respected journals and publications. She is the author of Women Aren’t Supposed to Fly: The Memoirs of a Female Flight Surgeon and co-author of the textbook, Consumer Health: A Guide to Intelligent Decisions.

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