The Atlas Orthogonal Instrument Adjustment Technique

Gordon Rody, DC

I have been practicing the Atlas Orthogonal (AO) Instrument Adjustment technique since the “Percussion AO Instrument” was introduced to me by Dean Simmons, DC, of Tacoma (now deceased in 2019.) In 1983, I studied under him and later, under Jeff Finnigan, DC, of Olympia. Currently there are about 25 offices in Washington state that offer the AO Instrument adjustment, which is less than 1% of the DCs in this state. This technique is also known as the Sweat Instrument, since it was Roy W. Sweat, DC that invented it and pursued the FDA approval.

The Atlas Orthogonal Procedures are based on the original programs of Dr. John F. Grostic. Dr. B.J. Palmer was the first to state “The Atlas was the most important vertebrae in Chiropractic and the spine. Dr. Palmer started the “Hole in One” Chiropractic Program in which you adjust the Atlas only. In 1946, Dr. Grostic presented the Grostic Seminars in which he introduced Vectors to adjust the atlas.

Dr. Sweat studied under Dr. B. J. Palmer and Dr. Grostic and was an instructor of the Grostic Seminars. The first AO Instrument was introduced in 1970 by Dr. Sweat for chiropractic use only. The Roy W. Sweat Institute based in Atlanta, Georgia continues to research and teach the technique. AO doctors who specialize in this technique can become certified with the Sweat Institute and worldwide providers can be found on its website,

The Atlas Orthogonal Mission Statement is, “The goal of the Atlas Orthogonist is

to improve the health of the human race and teach them that their head should be straight on their neck”.

White and Panjabi state, in the Clinical Biomechanics of the Spine, “The C1-C2 articulation is the most complex and difficult one to analyze”. Adjusting the Atlas and Upper Cervical area is not a simple procedure.

Adjusting the Atlas is the most rewarding thing in the world. The greatest pleasure is to see people recover their health, enjoy life and extend life.

“Orthogonal” means at right angles. That means the head and lower cervical spine are vertical while the Atlas is horizontal. There are three circles that must be as close to Orthogonal or Neurological Normal as possible for the best function structurally and neurologically. The three circles are the Foramen Magnum, the central canal of the Atlas and the central canal of Axis. The cervical spine is measured from the x-ray views to determine the line of drive of the AO Instrument or “Vector Formula.”

There are five cervical views; the frontal, sagittal, horizontal, open mouth and AP cervical. From these views a 3D model of the subluxation pattern can be mathematically calculated into the Vector Adjustment Formula.

The adjustment

is done on the Atlas Orthogonal Table. The table has the AO head rest piece or “Mastoid Support” which can be raised or lowered to fit each patient with the patient laying on their side. The AO Instrument itself has a piston that strikes

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the attached stylus. The stylus is aimed with the Vector Adjustment Formula. The stylus does not go up or down, but the

The response from the patient is one of a very pleasant experience. This in part is due to the fact that the Atlas vertebrae only weighs 2 ounces. The Occiput, Atlas and Axis comprise a freely moveable joint, or Diarthrodial Joint. There are no intervertebral locks, such as in the C3 to C7 spinal levels. There is no cracking of the spine during the adjustment. I tell patients all chiropractic adjustments are good and all different techniques are good. Each technique does yield certain results. The AO Instrument Adjustment should yield a reduction of the subluxation of the Head, Atlas and Lower Cervical spine toward Orthogonal.

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