By Cat Saunders
My dear friend and longtime colleague, Greg Ostergaard, M.S.W., first told me about NUCCA chiropractor Dr. Johanna Hoeller in 2002. NUCCA stands for National Upper Cervical Chiropractic Association.
The day Greg told me about Johanna, he and I were on a walk around Greenlake in Seattle. I’d known Greg for 20 years by then, and I trusted him implicitly. So I listened with rapt attention as he waxed poetic about Johanna and said that she had “fixed his neck.”
Now, you must understand two things about this. One is that I’d never heard Greg talk enthusiastically about any body worker in all the time I’ve known him. Second, it was highly unusual for him to use the word “fix” in regard to a physical healing process, because that just never happens.
Therefore, when Greg said that Johanna had “fixed his neck,” I stopped walking. “What do you mean,” I said. “She fixed your neck?”
Greg then described Johanna’s exacting X-rays and her equally exacting atlas-vertebra adjustment, which involves barely a discernible touch. Since I don’t believe in the “no pain, no gain” theory, Johanna sounded like the perfect doctor for me.
However, by then I’d already had 25-plus years of chronic and debilitating neck pain. I’d also spent many thousands of dollars spent on numerous conventional and alternative healing professionals. Frankly, I was skeptical that Johanna could help me.
After all, I’d worked with many other kinds of chiropractors. I’d been treated by many extensively trained physicians and osteopaths. And I’d worked with more alternative-medicine practitioners than I could remember. Even cranio-sacral work (which I love) never provided more than a few hours of pain relief, although it did offer other benefits.
In any case, Greg and I parted ways that day at Greenlake with my interest piqued, but with my skepticism intact. How many times had I gotten my hopes up, only to have them dashed again and again by treatments that provided only a temporary respite? The truth was, I wanted structural change. Plus, I didn’t want to work with anybody who would require endless treatments (and endless payments).
Greg assured me that Johanna did the bulk of her work in a handful of sessions over a few months, with only occasional adjustments afterward. That information piqued my interest even more. However, since I couldn’t afford Johanna’s services at the time, I tried to put NUCCA work out of my mind.
My efforts to stop thinking about NUCCA work failed. Finally, I realized that the reason I couldn’t stop thinking about Johanna was because I was needed to go see her.
My longtime partner, John Giovine, and two other close friends gave me a wonderful birthday present the following January (2003). They offered to pay for my initial sessions with Johanna. You’d think I’d have been hot to go, but I dragged myself into her office, grumbling with skepticism.
On the day I went back to Johanna’s to see my X-rays and get my first adjustment, I was in so much pain I could barely function. “Oh, this will just be another waste of money like all the other treatments I’ve had,” I thought to myself.
I know this will sound too good to be true, but I left Johanna’s office that day with my head held high. I walked and danced down the street through the crisp winter air singing and laughing. I was blown away because it felt like my head was on straight for the first time I could remember in my adult life.
This was amazing enough in itself. But I was also amazed because I saw the X-rays Johanna took before and immediately after my first adjustment. The structural change in my neck was astonishing! I’d never seen anything like it.
Before I stop waxing poetic about Johanna and her work, I’ve just got to tell you about her work with my partner, John. I’ve known John since 1983 and we’ve been together since 1987. In all that time, I’ve always known John to have a noticeable “swayback” at his lumbar region. In addition, his shoulders used to hunch over a bit, as if he’s carrying the weight of the world.
Even in John’s childhood pictures, the swayback at his lower lumbar region is visible. Since it was there from such an early age, I figured it was some kind of congenital defect. On top of this lifelong misalignment, John has been an import mechanic with his own shop since 1980. As a result of being 6’2″ plus bending over and crawling under under cars for many years, he developed degenerative disc disease (diagnosed by an MRI).
When I told John about Johanna, he was even more skeptical than I had been. Like me, he had been to countless doctors and tried many different treatments over the years. But nothing brought significant relief. In addition, he didn’t quite understand how adjusting the atlas vertebra could restore alignment of the entire spine and thus help his lower back. Even though he knew Johanna became a NUCCA practitioner because NUCCA had alleviated her own lumbar problem, John still didn’t believe her treatments could help him.
In talking with John about his skepticism, I realized that he was in the same position I’d been in before I first saw Johanna. So I offered to cover the cost of his initial work with her. Since he then had nothing to lose, he agreed to give it a shot.
When John came back from his first adjustment, I was stunned. The sway in his back was GONE and his shoulders were straight. In all my decades of work in the healing business, I’d never seen anything like the change I saw in John’s body that day.
With John’s permission, I spoke with Johanna about her work with him. She said that John would probably only need one other adjustment, after which his alignment would be stable. Since my own misalignment was one of the most difficult kinds to treat, I’d needed several adjustments during the initial phase of my work. Therefore, I was skeptical that John would need only two.
It was just as Johanna predicted: John needed only two initial NUCCA adjustments. Those two adjustments even enabled him to run again, which is one of his main passions. This came after years of being told by his physician that he should not run at all, due to the degenerative disc disease. To her credit, Johanna had told me before working with John that she would “get him running again.” She was right.
Because I’ve been so impressed with Johanna’s work, I interviewed her (see “Back Pain? Neck Pain? Be Sure Your Head’s On Straight“). NUCCA work restores the body’s own ability to heal itself by restoring the body’s alignment and therefore, its balance. Johanna would be the first to say that she is not the source of this healing miracle; the body is.
Johanna lives and practices in West Kelowna, B.C., Canada. You can contact her at (778) 363-8202 or firstname.lastname@example.org. If you don’t live close enough to Johanna to see this master of the NUCCA trade, please visit www.nucca.org to obtain a referral for a NUCCA practitioner in your area.
Cat Saunders, Ph.D., is a counselor in private practice in Seattle, Washington. She is also the author of Dr. Cat’s Helping Handbook: A Compassionate Guide for Being Human (available through Amazon). Contact Cat by emailing her or by calling 206-329-0125 (24-hour voicemail).