Dr. Amy Osenbaugh Porterfield standing by the Atlas Orthogonal Percussion Adjusting Instrument.
WIFE OF HUMESTON NATIVE CLINT PORTERFIELD SERVES MANY CLIENTS FROM CORYDON AND WAYNE COUNTY
When Dr. Amy Osenbaugh Porterfield, BCAO (Board Certified Atlas Orthogonist) was in high school, she knew she either wanted to be a doctor or a nutritionist. Her guidance counselor advised her there was no future in nutrition and she should pursue being a doctor.
“I was dating Clint Porterfield of Humeston, my high school sweetheart and my husband now,” said Amy. “I told him there was no way I could be a doctor, I wasn’t smart enough.”
Amy started college as an accounting major and went for a year. She wasn’t happy with it, so Clint told her “you’ve always wanted to be a doctor, why don’t you pursue that.”
“I said I don’t think I am smart enough,” said Amy. “He really encouraged me to pursue it, so I started looking into all the healthcare fields.”
Because she was interested in nutrition and natural health, she went pre-med but eventually decided to pursue chiropractic.
Amy said she had had some typical manual adjustments as a teenager and thought she would go into manual adjusting like every other chiropractor.
“I went all through my undergraduate work,” said Amy. “I kind of got into chiropractic before, where I grew up.”
Amy got into Palmer College of Chiropractic in Davenport after she got her Bachelor of Science, planning on going into manual chiropractic.
“I myself had a lot of mid back pain I had struggled with,” admitted Amy. “If I got it popped it felt better but it never went away. I always had pain and I was 20-years old.”
When she first got to Palmer, they paired her up with Dr. Greg Adams, who now practices in Indiana.
“As I was an incoming student, he was responsible for taking care of me. You couldn’t switch doctors so I was stuck with this Greg.
“He was specializing in the atlas, which is the top bone of the spine. I said to him, but my neck doesn’t hurt, I would rather you didn’t mess with my neck; the pain is all in the middle of my back.”
“He explained to me if the top bone is tilted, the second bone is tilted, the third bone is tilted and the fourth bone is tilted, so you’re always going to have the curve in the middle of your back and have mid back pain if you don’t get the top one level. So I had no choice but to stick with him and it changed my life!”
She couldn’t believe when within a couple of weeks for the very first time her back pain was gone.
“Adams would take a lot of time every time I would go in to educate me just how important the atlas was,” said Amy.
“All the nerves go from the head down, so every nerve in your body has to go through the atlas before it ever goes down your spine to get to your back, your heart, your lungs, your stomach or even the nerves that go down your leg.
“A lot of people talk about sciatic pain. The sciatic nerve starts in your brain and has to go through the atlas and through all the other vertebrae before it ever comes out of your lower back and down your leg.”
Amy said probably 85 percent of the new patients that walk into her office are coming to her with lower back pain, but she specializes in the atlas, the top bone. “You can’t get the bottom level if the top is tilted,” reiterated Amy.
When asked if the atlas area and orthogonal adjustment was all she did, Amy answered, “I first get the atlas level, yes I do look at the full spine with a very gentle instrument called the impulse, an impulse adjusting instrument. After I get the atlas level, then the second vertebrae comes level and the third comes level and the fourth, then your spine is straight, then I will go in with a hand held instrument and check to see now if there is any turn or twist in the vertebrae.”
“I tell my patients, the atlas is 95 percent of the importance of what I do. If I never get the atlas level, your hips will never be level no matter what I do to your hip.”
Amy said the only vertebrae in the spine that can make the vertebrae level is the atlas vertebrae. “Once it is level and the spine is straight, I can go in and gently take and look and see, now is there any twist left in your lower back or in your back.”
Admittedly Amy said several of her patients address her and say ‘Why doesn’t everybody do this?’ Her description to them is the atlas takes a lot of time and extra training. There are medical doctors out there, which pursue being a general practitioner. If someone gets cancer, or has to go to an ear, nose and throat specialist or something like that, then the general practitioner refers them on to a specialist.
“Not every medical doctor decides to pursue cancer, not every medical doctor decides to pursue dermatology,” said Amy. “I just decided general chiropractic wasn’t enough for me personally.
“Because I had so much personal success myself, I couldn’t do anything else, so I did post graduate work to study the atlas. I moved to Atlanta, Ga. for awhile and studied with the developer of the Atlas Orthogonal Technique and now I have been in Ankeny 19 1/2 years.”
Asked how much extra school was put in to become orthogonal certified in chiropractic, Amy said, “I have 100 hours of post graduate certification. I spent many more hours than that, but you are required to be board certified in the Atlas Orthogonal adjusting procedure. You have to have 100 hours postgraduate studies, take a written exam and submit a set of x-rays that are approved that you are certified.”
When she was a student at Palmer she traveled back and forth to Atlanta some, studying the Atlas work before she moved. While she was studying at Palmer, she would take seminars in Atlanta. They would come into Palmer sometimes to teach a course on atlas work but it was never part of the core curriculum, but every chiropractor has the option to pursue it on their own outside of the core curriculum.
“I think one of the big factors too is it’s very expensive to start a practice doing the Atlas Orthogonal Procedure because of the instrument and the X-ray equipment.
“Some of my peers studied the atlas some, but never got certified because they didn’t feel they could afford the equipment. I think every chiropractor out there knows the importance of the atlas; they just maybe don’t specialize in that area.” Amy pointed out she did not want to offend the chiropractors who are out there and was not saying what they are doing is wrong, just that she took it a step further.
“Patients will say to me after their consultation, ‘why hasn’t my other chiropractor looked at the atlas?’ I say to them it’s not that they are doing anything wrong, but you don’t want them messing with something they don’t feel comfortable with or can’t get to.”
Amy said the atlas is underneath the base of the skull. You can’t reach it with your hands, so when she adjusts she uses a tiny little instrument called the Atlas Orthogonal Percussion Adjusting instrument, which is painless.
When asked if Orthogonal Percussion was similar to the metal balls on Newton's cradle, a device that demonstrates conservation of momentum and energy via a series of swinging spheres Amy answered, “That’s exactly what it is, that is exactly how the orthogonal procedure works.
“I have one of those in my office and when a new patient comes in I show them how the five silver balls hang and when you let the one on the end go the middle ball doesn’t move. The middle ball is what touches your skin and the ball on the end that moves is the atlas, which is exactly how it works.
“The part of the orthogonal instrument which touches your skin doesn’t move, it doesn’t hurt and you don’t even know anything happened. After the first adjustment, when I feel the neck, which I do before and after the adjustment, patients are always like whoa, I didn’t know you even did anything!”
Amy said the way she describes it to her patients is if you had a garden hose running through your yard with water in it and you grabbed a hold of the hose and kinked it, behind the kink there is still the pressure of the water trying to get through just like nerves trying to get through. When they get pinched, behind the pinch there is swelling, when she touches it, it is firmer just like the hose would be with the water pressure in it.
“So when I adjust the atlas, the atlas will move about a millimeter at a time,” said Amy. “So if a patient comes in and is off eight millimeters it will be eight adjustments approximately before they will be open.
“With the garden hose if you open it just a little bit on the kink and the water has just a little bit of room to get through, then the water pressure behind the kink is less. That’s how it is with the nerve; it’s a gradual correction. I don’t have new spines for sale. I just gradually move the ones, which come into my office back to being level. If you move the top one, it’s just like dominoes they’re all eventually going to fall and become level.”
There are four chiropractors in Iowa that do the Atlas Orthogonal work. Dr. Amy is one of them. Located in Ankeny, she has patients coming from as far as Sioux Falls, Kansas City and Peoria, Ill.
“Ankeny is a nice centralized location for me,” said Amy. “I don’t do any advertising, it’s all word of mouth and it’s fun to be able to do that! People will come to me and say ‘why didn’t somebody else tell me about that?
“I am not on the insurance list. Some people may look on it for their Medicare or something and see what doctors are on the list. I have been doing this almost 20 years and patients have always paid us times service and we always give them a receipt when they leave. I don’t know who is getting reimbursed or who’s not. In my eyes I am providing a service, I want to help everybody equally. I don’t want to know, I just want to take care of my patients.”
Asked what it would cost as a new patient to come in and see her, Amy said they never charge for consultations and schedule one hour for a new patient visit. She sees two new patients a week. She sits and visits with the patient about what they are going to do. She takes four pictures of the atlas. X-rays are $50 a piece. Most adult patients need full spine X-rays, so usually they do seven X-ray’s on the spine and then an exam, so a new patient visit is usually $400, then after that an office visit is $55.
Amy admits with the referrals and new patients, sometimes it takes a week to get in and sometimes it takes a month to get in. Her hours are Monday and Thursday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Tuesdays from 12p.m. – 8 p.m. Her evenings are booked up for a long time. She doesn’t take new patients in the evenings; she takes a new patient on Monday and Thursday. Tuesday nights are for patients that have been with her for a long time, as she knows how much time it is going to take. Amy wants her new patients to know not to come in expecting evening appointments.
Amy said when new patients call for a consultation they tell them to go to their website, atlaschiropractichealthcenter.com/ before they come in so they have more of an understanding of what they are doing.
When asked about the nutritional supplements shown on the website, Amy said, “It kind of turned full circle for me. I really wanted to be a nutritionist, but thank goodness my guidance counselor talked me out of that, but I love nutrition and I do a lot of continuing education, seminars, wellness care and nutrition so basically my office is a health food store. I’m not out there, I’m always with patients, but it has just evolved from 15 years ago someone saying ‘what’s a good multivitamin’ so I kept it. Then it went to what’s good fish oil or what’s a good vitamin D, or can you get me oil of oregano. They ask me for stuff and I say yes, I’ll bring it in, so it’s just evolved into a health food store. We have people who aren’t patients come in just for nutritional supplements.”
Amy does two nutritional consultations a week, meeting with the person for one half hour or an hour depending on how much they want to spend on the appointment.
“A lot of times it is patients, but it doesn’t have to be, or they just want that special time with me just to talk about nutrition, not a chiropractic appointment.
“We will do what we call a nutritional consultation. They will bring in what they are taking, ask me questions and I really enjoy that too, I would love to do more than that, but right now I just want to be a mom and be here as much as I can for my kids and their activities. I see myself doing a lot more of that in the future."
Amy and Clint have two kids, 17 year old son Walker, who will graduate from Indianola high school this year and 11 year old daughter Ivy, a fifth grader. Both kids want to pursue Orthogonal Chiropractic in the future.
When asked if her kids would go into practice with her, Amy answered. “I would like that, but they could go to Palmer and fall in love with someone, because there are people from all over the world who go there, but the plan is yes, they would come in together which would be an ideal situation for them because they could help each other and cover for vacations and stuff. I only take one week off a year, I don’t have anybody to cover for me, so I would love it and that’s the plans.”
When asked if she sees herself doing this in another 20 years, Amy laughed, “Yes, my kids have told me I am going to run the front desk, I think I just got shoved out. By the time Ivy gets done with Palmer I will be about 60 so I have no problem starting to back down at that time. I don’t foresee myself totally gone, I am tickled they want to follow what I do.”
Amy’s advice to others is to, “follow your dreams! As a high school student I never thought I could do it, to go to school be a to be a doctor of any sort. It’s not about intelligence it’s about desire!”