KA writes: “My mom who suffers from chronic back pain went to a homeopathic doctor who treated her back pain with a method called atlasprofilax. She said that she feels a lot better. Can you tell me if the Catholic Church approves of this practice that claims to realign the Atlas in the neck?”
After some digging, I have come to the conclusion that atlasPROfilax is just another untested chiropractic procedure about which even chiropractors do not agree.
For those who have never heard of it, an atlasPROfilax is a neuromuscular massage technique that focuses on the short muscles of the neck, known as the suboccipital muscles, that surround and stabilize the head joints. The atlas is the first cervical vertebra and, along with the second vertebra, form the join that connects the skull and the spine.
As this site explains, “The atlas (C1) not only carries the skull, but is also responsible for the suspension, equilibrium and management of the spine and human skeleton.”
Proponents believe that 99 percent of the human race suffer from some kind of dislocation of the atlas, resulting in a variety of aches and pains and miscellaneous health problems.
Some have gone so far as to allege that this nearly unanimous dislocation of the Atlas in the human race is the result of genetic tampering by aliens who were aiming to keep us under their control (I’m not making this up).
However, in 1993, Dr. Rene-C Schumperli invented a method to correct this misalignment with only one procedure which supposedly lasts a lifetime. The method involves no cracking, traction or rough handling but is comprised of a vibrational massage of the short muscles of the neck which naturally causes the atlas to return to its natural position.
Practitioners claim that the procedure entails no risk, but other chiropractors vehemently disagree.
For example, Michael Polsinelli, DC, of Mayfield Village, Ohio lists many reasons why he cautions people against receiving this procedure.
First, the literature on atlasPROfilax states that the atlas moves out of alignment the same way in every person but this is not the case.
“In the thousands of x-rays that I have taken, I can demonstrate that each misalignment is unique and individual to each person. This is backed up by decades of research by NUCCA [National Upper Cervical Chiropractic Association] and other upper cervical chiropractic procedures,” Dr. Polsinelli writes.
Even worse is how the procedure is performed, by delivering multiple hard thrusts on the upper neck. “If they are trying to move a person’s atlas in a certain direction, only a percentage of their clients will have their atlases misaligned in the direction they think it is. They could be moving the atlas in the wrong direction. . . . Unfortunately, these lay people are using range of motion and palpation to fool themselves into thinking that they are realigning everyone.”
Another chiropractor named Dr. Thomas D. Groover also weighed in on his website about examining patients who had undergone an AtlasPROfilax treatment and were actually worse off than before. One woman had a so-called “lifetime” correction via AtlasPROfilax but was later found to have a severe upper cervical spinal misalignment. Another patient, who received the treatment from a New Age energy healer who was known around town, had the same result after undergoing the procedure.
According to Dr. Groover, the State of Oregon Board of Chiropractic Examiners has published a document describing a complaint they received about Atlas Profilax and determined that the procedure is not safe and effective.
He concluded: “My opinion is that Atlas Profilax, more likely than not, does not correct the upper cervical spinal misalignment and may miss-align or worsen the misalignment of the upper cervical spine.”
In light of these findings, and as a person with considerable neck issues due to an untreated whiplash that occurred many years ago, I would not even consider undergoing such a controversial procedure for fear of making things worse.
As for the Church’s opinion, it does not weigh in on alternative methods but does caution Catholics to use ordinary means to treat any life-threatening or contagious conditions.