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I am a health practitioner who has been practicing in Australia since 1986. The question of spinal subluxations and their role in health complaints beyond localised pain problems still excites a good deal of controversy and hostility in the medical profession, at least within Australia and the US. For this reason I prefer to preserve my anonymity.
I have started this blog as a response to my own experiences as a patient. The blog is still a work in progress as the neurological and biomechanical implications of malalignment in the upper cervical spine are very complex and it is not easy to find a comprehensive information on the subject. Equally the spinal malalignments in question are described under different names by different professions.
My history is that for many years I suffered from back and neck pain, and sought conventional treatment through doctors and physiotherapists, but never really achieved anything better than temporary symptom control. Despite the treatment I received I was progressively deteriorating, and developing a wider range of symptoms that did not seem connected to my back or neck problems. By late 2009 I was so compromised by so many diverse symptoms that I seriously wondering if I would be able to continue working. Given that I was less than 50 years old at the time, this presented quite a problem.
In December 2009 I encountered an advertisement for a new mobilisation technique for the upper cervical spine called Atlas Profilax. I had the treatment shortly thereafter and was greatly impressed not only by the immediate improvement in my neck and back pain, but also by a range of wider health benefits- in particular improved alertness and concentration.
However, despite the claims of Atlas Profilax to be a one off treatment, my experience has been that considerable body work has been required to get full benefit of the correction of the subluxation. There have been significant issues with chronic dysfunctional movement patterns that need to be overcome as well as problems with arthritic change caused by years of poor posture.
As time has progressed it has also become clear to me that upper cervical malalignments may be primary or secondary to malalignment elsewhere in the spine or sometimes even to metabolic issues. However one issue that has become more and more clear is that upper cervical malalignments directly impact the information that reaches the brain stem and can cause serious down stream problems in brain function as our system struggles to cope with distorted information that does not match on the left and right side. There are also issues related to direct mechanical distortion of the brainstem and compromise of drainage of both cerebrospinal fluid and venous blood from the skull.
While this blog initially emphasized issues at C0-1 (the joint between the skull and the atlas) is is clear that C0-1-2 should be regarded as a functional unit and that issues of distorted information can arise from the positioning of any of these joints and the resting tension of any of the suboccipital muscles. This will be dealt with at greater length later.
It is clear to me now that in my case the initial problem was direct birth injury to the upper cervical spine. It is also clear to me that the ill effects of this injury would have been greatly reduced by timely chiropractic intervention. It remains a source of great frustration to me personally that I could have been spared 52 years of pain if my own profession had not been so willfully ignorant about the vital work that chiropractors do.
Unfortunately the conventional medical profession has been very efficient at suppressing information about chiropractic treatment and at slandering chiropractic by calling it pseudoscience. As far as I can see, this slander is completely unjustified. From my perspective it would seem that the only reason for maintaining it is the reason of maintaining the prestige and dominance of conventional medicine as the dominant player in the health market in Western nations.
My experience as I have researched the area is that far from being a pseudoscience, chiropractic is supported by a very considerable body of research. That body of evidence is not exclusive to chiropractic, but underpins virtually all manual therapy traditions including conventional physiotherapy. There has been extensive evidence collected by conventional medical practitioners, especially in Central and Eastern Europe.
The main problem with chiropractic research is that there has not been comprehensive enough research done on clinical outcomes, and the research that has been done has not been cross referenced adequately.
This caveat needs to be understood, however in the context of the funding models for clinical research- which have mostly been directed at molecular medicine and finding patentable drug products. This kind of research yields the greatest profits and so is far more likely to be able to access funding, so by definition any manual therapies struggle to develop a large enough research base to be impressive to doctors familiar with the large scale studies done in testing some medications..
Currently our medical understanding of what constitutes an evidence base does not allow for the massive distortion in the research effort created by the profit motive.
The National Institutes of Health are now developing new direction in research that emphasises the functional networks that influence brain function and connectivity, and is looking more intensely at treatments that offer the opportunity of building neuroplastic change in the brain. It is to be hoped that this new approach will support greater funding for the understanding of the feedback mechanisms between brain and body.