NASA tech gives chiropractors a new tool for treating back pain

Spine specialists are using technology developed by NASA in space to help people with back and neck pain here on Earth.

When most patients think of visiting a chiropractor they think of manual manipulation, a quick crack of the neck or back, an adjustment of the spine that can open up tight spaces and relieve discomfort and pain.

“Traumatic events, text neck, computer work, sleeping wrong, all that adds up and the spine can get out of alignment. All these little nerves exit in between the vertebrae. If the vertebrae are displaced, it will narrow the exiting hole and cause a disruption in the nerve flow,” said chiropractor Dr. Steve Arculeo.

Tabatha Monk has undergone manual adjustments, but came in recently for something more gentle.

“I have sore middle back, some stiffness in the neck.” Tabatha Monk, patient:

The treatment starts with a scan. A sensor inside originally used to measure rivets in spacecraft and identify problems caused by vibrations was adapted for use in the human body. This device, called the Sigma Ultralign, helps Dr. Arculeo identify the problem spot. Then the computer software determines the rate of percussion, applying a repetitive tap to the problem area.

“It just feels like a light pressure. It’s actually a lot lighter than you would expect. And then it’s tapping. It’s like a little kind of tingling,” patient Tabatha Monk said.

It’s very gentle, and it’s very precise. And very accurate and the patient’s love it because they barely feel it,” Dr. Arculeo said.

Sigma Ultralign is covered by most insurance companies and Medicare, otherwise adjustments cost about $50 per session. Patients usually need anywhere from six to 20 visits.

You can learn more about Dr. Arculeo at