Aussies 1, Chiros 0

By Phil Plait | October 25, 2009 10:43 am

A couple of weeks ago, a chiropractor lodged a complaint with the NSW Health Care Complaints Commission (HCCC) against the Australian Skeptics. Why? Because they had reprinted journalist Simon Singh’s article about chiropractic, which said that in the UK they were making bogus claims about how chiropractic can cure all manners of ills such as asthma and colic in babies, when it’s been shown it cannot.

Got that? This chiropractor, Joseph Ierano, complained against them because of someone else’s article! Brilliant.

The good news is that the HCCC just told the Skeptics they have dismissed the complaint. I’d love to report that, amidst howls of laughter, they said that Ierano’s complaint has no merit, his arguments were totally wrong, and not only has chiropractic been shown in many studies to have no efficacy against diseases like colic and asthma, it in fact can be a very dangerous practice.

Instead, however, it was dismissed because the Australian Skeptics group is not a health care provider, and is therefore not in the jurisdiction of the HCCC. So it was a technicality. That’s still good news, since the AS is not in any trouble, but as they say in that link above, they wish this could’ve been used by the HCCC as a larger scale means to investigate and publicly discuss the inefficacy of chiropractic in these cases. Too bad.

There is still a lot of publicity coming from this whole thing, since the British Chiropractic Association sued Simon Singh for libel due to his original article, instead of simply providing evidence that their claims were not bogus (and when they finally did try to support chiropractic, their claims were woefully off-target). The blogosphere erupted with support for Singh, as did a lot of mainstream press soon thereafter. A very cynical eye indeed has been turned to the practice of chiropractic of late. It’s long overdue.

From what I have read — including studies done by doctors as discussed in such books as Trick or Treatment and Bad Science — chiropractic’s only claim for helping is that there is some marginal evidence it can relieve lower back problems, but that’s it. It doesn’t cure toothaches, or anything carried by germs, or really anything else (excluding the placebo effect, which can be provided in any of number of other ways that don’t involve actual physical manipulation). And when the neck is manipulated, chiropractic can have serious side effects.

I am not a health care practitioner, but with what I know now, I would never go to a chiropractor. Some of them may understand the limitations of their practice, but clearly far too many do not. If you have some sort of health issue, go to your board-certified physician and ask them what they think of alternative practices, and ask them to be blunt.

We’re talking about your life here, folks. Don’t hand it over to someone who may not have a clear grasp of what their so-called alternative medicine can — and cannot — do.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Alt-Med, Antiscience, Skepticism
MORE ABOUT: chiropractic

Comments (49)

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  1. News From Around The Blogosphere 10.25.09 « Skepacabra | October 25, 2009
  1. GeekGoddess

    There is a reason there are no universities associated with a chiropractic college. Unlike most medical schools, pharmacy, vet, ophthamology, nursing…

  2. marko

    I think chiropractics have their place in the mix of medial treatments available. But their influence should be limited to the treatment of problems with the geometry of the body; back pain, knee pain etc.

    However, with all due respect; I think it’s narrow minded to say “I would never see a chiropractor” because if chronic back, neck or shoulder pain struck a chiropractor would be your best friend. Despite a few bad eggs such as these particular Australians.

  3. Why the hate? Seriously Phil, I like when you talk about astronomy and all, but this is a little overboard. Look I understand you may not like it, but it works for some people. I myself enjoy a good-

    What’s that? Chiropractors? Oh! I read that title as “Churros”.

    Carry on.

  4. Sharkweek

    Just to get this straight: party A complains about party B because party C wrote something about party D and party B reprinted it.

  5. BubbaRich

    A good chiropractor can be a good physical therapist. I choose good physical therapists who don’t tell lies about their work and abilities. I agree with Phil on this one, and my wife and I have had many opportunities to choose.

  6. Pisces

    Tried chiropractics for lower back pain once… didn’t do any good. There are ways to keep your back in good shape…..a chiropractor apparently isn’t one of them.

  7. bigjohn756

    My chiropractor is also an acupuncturist. He’s a casual friend of mine, too. I do not tell him what I think of either of his practices. I do go to him when I need an adjustment which seems to be every two or three years. He knows not to do my neck. He knows I will not submit to any x-rays. I once asked him about acupuncture; he did not recommend it to me. I think he may suspect my feeling about his business.

    And, that’s just it, he is in business. I put his business morality on about the same level as a car salesman or a mortician.

  8. Jay Fox

    After being broadsided by a drunk, board certified physicians could only offer serious narcotics for the pain. Chiropractic offered real relief without medications. That said, there were many chiropractors out there who couldn’t help, either. The best ones that I have found tend to be multi-disciplinarians, ones who study more than one alternative therapy. These practitioners see chiropractic manipulation as just one part of the treatment solution. It has been from practitioners like this that I have gotten the most satisfying medical treatment. I’m not saying that there is no place for board certified physicians. Far from it. Chiropractors cannot help with a serious infection, for instance. And a good one would send you to an MD pronto if that were the case. But chiropractic does have a place. If it’s not for you, so be it. But if my back is acting up again, don’t get in my way.

  9. GeekGoddess

    There is an actual profession that deals with muscle aches and pains – physical therapist. Some chiros ‘effective’ treatment is actually physical therapy, which they are practicing without actually being trained as a physical therapist.

  10. Nomen Publicus

    Sense About Science

    “Sense About Science is an independent charitable trust. We respond to the misrepresentation of science and scientific evidence on issues that matter to society, from scares about plastic bottles, fluoride and the MMR vaccine to controversies about genetic modification, stem cell research and radiation. We work with scientists and civic groups to promote evidence and scientific reasoning in public discussion.

    Our recent and current priorities include alternative medicine, MRI, detox, radiation, health tests, the status of evidence in public health advice, an educational resource on peer review and the public language of science.”

    They are currently running a petition about the Singh affair…

  11. agenoria

    Having read about chiropractic therapy in Suckers – How Alternative Medicine Makes Fools of Us All by Rose Shapiro and Trick or Treatment (which I just noticed is dedicated to the Prince of Wales LOL), I think Phil has very good reason to write as he does. I wouldn’t go near a chiropractor either. Even if I could afford to.

    BTW chiropractic isn’t in the index of Bad Science, though Ben Goldacre has plenty to say about homeopathy.

  12. BruceGee

    When my wife was a child, she had an accident doing a back somersalt in gymnastics where the back of her head touched her neck. It healed, but about every six or seven weeks she gets a blinding headache and is unable to turn her head. She goes to a chiropractor (the least wooish one we could find) who adjusts her neck, and she comes home floating on air and turning her head easily from side to side.

    This has been going on for over ten years with no ill effects. So I have no choice but to believe that they can actually adjust the spine with positive results, at least in some cases.

  13. Jearley

    I am against ‘alternative medicine’ but I also find a use for chiropractors in the area of low back pain. I do something to cause intense lower back pain once a year or so. It may be sweeping the patio, engaging in martial arts, or just picking up something in the wrong way. Whatever causes it, the pain is the same and it hurts badly.
    Two years ago, I went to my regular doctor, a chiropractor and a massage therapist, in that order. It took several weeks, and finally the pain went away.
    This year, I went a different chiropractor, on the recommendation of one of my trainers. This chiro was a no-woo guy and diagnosed the problem right away. One push, and my SI joint was back in place- it has not really been my back at all. He also told me how long it would hurt and that prediction was very accurate. Two days instead of two weeks.
    Anecdotal evidence does not count, but look at it as a data point. In their place, I find that a good chiro has a part in treating some sorts of back problems, as Phil said. If this new chiro can fix me again the next time this happens, I will be pretty confident in his ability to work on this kind of condition.

  14. I go to a chiro for back pain, particularly if I have done something silly like portaging a can0e. But I choose my chiros carefully – I tell them straight out that there is no evidence for any claims of woo, and I won’t be coming three times a week for the next six weeks, thank you. If they can’t deal with that, I find me another.

  15. Blizno

    I’ve been going to a chiropractor for years because my spine was bent like a paperclip thanks to a lifetime of adventures. I had three spots in my spine that gave me constant severe pain. Where the spine should curve gently to one side, my spine yanked sharply to the other side.
    My chiropractor found them easily without my prompting. After several visits my spine now curves much more like a human spine. I can now sit in a chair or a car without savage pain.

    I don’t buy for a second the “God’s healing energy travels along the nerves” component of chiropractic. I agree that unless a major nerve bundle leading out of the spine is being very badly strangled by a twisted spine, chiropractic will do nothing to heal sickness. It is good, however, for straightening badly twisted spines, such as mine used to be.

    My chiropractor also works on my arthritic big toe joint. For years I limped on the side of my right foot because the toe joint was rigid. Now, that toe bends and flexes like it should. I can hike again.

    My assessment of chiropractic: for magical curing of diseases – fail. For improving badly misaligned bone joints – sometimes succeed.

  16. Pseudonym


    A good chiropractor can be a good physical therapist.

    Yes, they can. A chiropractor could, in principle, do some of what of physical therapists, massage therapists and physiotherapists do.

    However, it would still constitute, at least morally, practising without a licence. If you wouldn’t accept therapy from an unlicensed physical therapist, you shouldn’t accept therapy from a chiropractor.

    (Of course, if they were also a qualified and licensed physical therapist, that would be okay. I wouldn’t turn down a qualified and licensed GP just because they also had a certificate in acupuncture.)

  17. NoMorePain

    I went to a chiropractor out of desperation from intense pain due to a pinched neck nerve. First visit, pain cut in half, and gone after four visits. It was a combination of spinal manipulation, massage, and heat therapy. I went in a skeptic and came out convinced that at least SOME chriopractors know what they are doing to help the body heal itself.

    I have heard countless stories from friends and coworkers who were helped by chiropractors. I never thought I’d visit one either, but I’m grateful I did. Don’t you know better than to judge ALL chiros only on the nutty ones who trumpet bogus claims?

  18. Joel

    I also thought this was a post about Australian defeat of tasty desserts. Other than that I have nothing to contribute to this conversation.

  19. Andrew

    Never EVER go to a chiropractor. You’ll end up with a severed vertrebral artery around your cervical neck region. Always go to a registered physiotherapist for any orthopaedic/back/muscle problems. You have no idea how many dodgy chiros end up doing serious damage to people through manipulating the bones in the neck i.e. it shouldn’t be done at all!

  20. Luc

    Chiropractors in Asia are often more skilled if they’re not fakes. Though they do not really call them chiropractors and many of them do not have a proper certificate, it is a skill passed down often by tradition and family. I wouldn’t trust a western educated chiropractor, personally, unless they have been schooled by Asian houses. I dislocate a bone in my right foot quite often and I get healed almost instantly after care. With the exception of lingering pain for less than a week with ointment of course.

  21. Michael Kingsford Gray

    @marko, and all of the accomodationists to bizarre woo that has been conclusively proven to be WORSE than useless:
    The Chiropratic religion relies utterly on infantile garbage, such as ‘subluxations’, and is a total fraud.
    Phil is correct to hammer at these criminal cargo-cult clowns, and until they go the way of the dinosaurs, I say: more power to him.

  22. Damon

    @bigjohn: “My chiropractor is also an acupuncturist. He’s a casual friend of mine, too. I do not tell him what I think of either of his practices. I do go to him when I need an adjustment which seems to be every two or three years. He knows not to do my neck. He knows I will not submit to any x-rays. I once asked him about acupuncture; he did not recommend it to me. I think he may suspect my feeling about his business. And, that’s just it, he is in business. I put his business morality on about the same level as a car salesman or a mortician.”

    It sounds like your Chiropractor is simply nice enough to accommodate the hopeless cynicism and anti-intellectual arrogance you carry with you wherever you go. My personal Chiropractor would kindly put you in your place. With the charts, data and testimonials to back it up. No x-rays? I assume you are trying to get pregnant or something? That’s cute, but when your health starts to exponentially decay (in a very short while, judging by the dialectic of your post Gramps) sooner or later you’re going to have to let your doctors show you what is wrong with you to help you get better. But hey, keep blindly and arrogantly brushing off professions and techniques( like acupuncture) that you haven’t even tried out for yourself. It’s your body, you’re welcome to stay as unhealthy as you like.

    Chiropractic works just fine. Otherwise there wouldn’t be Chiropractic Clinics everywhere you go. Just like with regular doctors, it’s about sifting through the chaff to find the one that fits your sensibilities. A couple bad eggs in Australia and the UK is great for Phil’s soap-box, but in the real world (see: not on the internet) Chiropractors are a pretty mainstream, well-accepted part of the medical and physical-therapy community. It sounds like you’ve found the right one for you, though I get the impression that he probably considers you even less than a “casual” friend. I wouldn’t blame him. Why reserve anything more than a resentful businessman’s morality towards someone as totally unappreciative as yourself?

  23. CB

    I’m with you on everything but I would downplay the use of the terms “yay” and “mancrush”.

  24. Gonzo

    All the pro-chrio comments here just repeat anecdotes – which ARE NOT evidence. (note the caps lock) NOT NOT NOT!!

    It’s time for these people to start producing evidence or just disappear. I’m so sick of coddling nonsense. Stick it to these ignorant fools Phil!

  25. Gonzo

    Chiropractic works just fine. Otherwise there wouldn’t be Chiropractic Clinics everywhere you go.

    Also, that is one of the most illogical, convoluted statements I’ve ever read about chiros. Sheesh, there are psychic palm readers everywhere you go to, doesn’t make it true or real. Try some critical thinking backed by facts. Oh, wait, who needs facts when biased assumptions will do. Glenn Beck, is that you?

  26. I see McDonalds’s everywhere I go, so that must be good for you too. Thanks for the advice Damon! I’ll send you my cardio bill.

  27. Brian Davis

    “Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away.” -Philip K. Dick

    I suspect the reason Phil regards this as serious is two-fold. First, chiropractors can do real, serious, physical harm. That’s important – heck, that’s enough to warrant this type of response. But to my mind, that’s secondary – after all, we also let people drink, smoke, and do abusive sports, etc.

    Perhaps more importantly, allowing this sort of wrong thinking to go on encourages others to think it’s all right – that it’s a valid way to go about understanding reality, and making rational informed decisions. It’s not. And if people think that it is, and they start (or in our case continue) running the world this way, well, we all suffer. Including Phil, me, and a lot of other people who have learned how to tell reality from fantasy, belief from evidence.

  28. Gadfly

    I tried mainstream medicine for trouble with my back and neck with no positive result. I also went to three different chiro’s with no help. Desperation led me to a fourth who was brilliant. I would have to say there is definite value to it but a lot depends on the personal talent of the chiro.

  29. Ginger Yellow

    “Just to get this straight: party A complains about party B because party C wrote something about party D and party B reprinted it.”

    It’s even sillier than that: party A complains about party B to party C – even though party C has no jurisdiction over party B – because party D wrote something about party E and party B reprinted it.

  30. kevbo


    “My personal Chiropractor would kindly put you in your place. With the charts, data and testimonials to back it up.”

    Forget about the charts and testimonials, as those aren’t relevant, but that data you speak of? It’s too bad that the BCA doesn’t have access to that. It would certainly speed up their litigation against Mr. Singh!

  31. TheBlackCat

    In fairness, the Singh article only dealt with chiropractors treating non-joint related issues like cholic and bedwetting. There is at least some evidence that chiropractors can be effective at joint problems, although no more effective that other, safer treatments as several here have already pointed out, so his articles did not deal with that. In fact they might have a case if he had claimed that chiropractors were not effective at treating back problems, but since he never claimed that bringing up those sorts of treatments is not relevant.

  32. BruceGee

    I’m the one above whose wife has been going to a chiro for ten years. I’ll add that I’ve been a regular reading this site for a long time — it’s not like all of us who are arguing in favor of it just were told to log on by our chiropractic overlords.

    Also, I have a few points to make about anecdotal evidence and skepticism. For one thing, there’s nothing wrong with being covinced by anecdotal evidence WHEN IT’S YOUR OWN ANECDOTE. For instance, I don’t believe in alien abductions — but if I, personally, was abducted by aliens, and was able to convince myself that I had not dreamed or hallucinated the entire experience, then I’d be forced to revise my beliefs. I’d understand if you chose not to, though.

    Also, not all anecdotal evidence is of the same value. If someone says that lemon grass tea cured their cancer, we are right to dismiss their evidence, as there’s no way of telling whether or not the cancer would have gone away without it. That’s what scientific trials are for. On the other hand, if someone says that they take lemon grass tea every time they get asthma, and the asthma always clears up within fifteen minutes, and when they don’t have access to the tea then it lasts for several hours, then I think we can provisionally agree that the tea clears up the asthma, at least for that particular individual.

    Finally, just because a few people are injured by chiropractors is not proof that they’re all bad; conventional medicine messes up frequently as well (hence the malpractice industry) but that doesn’t mean it’s worthless.

  33. Fiona Morrison

    GeekGoddess, I think you’ll find there ARE indeed universities associated with chiropractic. Try Macquarie University’s Master of Chiropractic Degree for starters. The reason that so much misinformation about chiropractic is bandied about is that people repeat things they’ve read on the web without checking them. Whether you’re for or against, check your facts. The internet can help with that too, if you look.

  34. what the heck

    “I tried mainstream medicine for trouble with my back and neck with no positive result. I also went to three different chiro’s with no help. Desperation led me to a fourth who was brilliant. I would have to say there is definite value to it but a lot depends on the personal talent of the chiro.”

    At least Gadfly persisted in finding someone to help him. Most of you post with the attitude of “eating one bad apple equals all fruit is bad” when it comes to chiropractic and then you go to biased websites and books to back up your uninformed presumption. You have one bad experience and that is it or even worse, you know nothing about the subject and yet think you are an expert and display your ignorance. Neither medicine or chiropractic is good or bad, they both are inexact sciences attempting to treat a human body that neither profession knows much about (sorry to disillusion you folks). And the biggest problem for either practitioner is that most patients will not take responsibility for the condition they are in and expect the “magic cure” in pill form or one magic manipulation that does not inconvenience them and in one visit that somebody else pays for.

    To those of you that throw out irrational fears of neck manipulation, please be advised that the number of incidents related to chiropractic manipulation is statistically insignificant according to the research and that the number of artery dissections occurring after visiting a family doctor are much higher and in any event the condition was progressing long before visiting the GP or the chiropractor. Going to stop going to your GP? (that would be as stupid as are the irrational fears of going to a chiropractor)

    By the way, chiropractic education is associated with universities in Australia, the US, Spain and other countries and your ignorance shows when you compare chiropractic with physical therapy; PT’s can’t interpret x-rays, can’t make a diagnosis, have no clinical lab training etc, etc. PT’s do a great job in helping people with significant disabilities and injuries, but they are limited by law and training.

    Not that my post will change any minds, but it is really amazing how willing people are to display their ignorance of a subject in this kind of forum. Analogy would be just reading “liberal” literature and then considering oneself an expert on “conservatism” (or in some cases looking at a picture on the cover of a liberal magazine and then being an expert on conservatives).

    Carry on, and I am sure you will.

  35. Erin F.

    Here’s an anecdote:

    I went to a chiropractor a few years back, for chronic lower back pain. After attending a “mandatory” evening meeting to tell me how chiropractics can cure everything, because keeping the spine healthy keeps nerves healthy, keeping you healthy, I started getting adjustments about 3 times a week. X-rays showed a “subluxation” in my neck, which was obviously a horrific thing, and needed immediate care, and all my requests regarding my lower back were pretty much ignored. Finally, an adjustment was performed, where I had a strap placed under the back of my head (with the doc holding the ends of the strap), my legs hooked over the exam table, and the doctor pulled. At first the gentle stretch felt good, but when he JERKED the strap, I felt two things pop, lower back, and shoulder. I nearly cried.

    The next day, I could barely move my neck, and my back was incredibly stiff and sore. The day after that, a long time family friend told me of his experiences with a chiropractor, which ended in cortizone shots, and several painful surgeries. He no longer has full range of motion in his neck, and can barely bend over, due to the damage the chiro inflicted. He begged me to stop seeing the chiropractor.

    I returned the gear to my chiro the next day, and stopped seeing him.

    Now, here’s the odd thing. My friend’s wife still sees a chiro on occasion, but he is the type who knows what he can and cannot do. He took one look at my friend, and was the one who said “I will not touch you, I can’t help you”, and regularly sends people to specialists when he knows he can’t, or shouldn’t, help. I will never see a chiro again, but I don’t think they’re all bad apples, so long as they realize they aren’t the gods of medicine a lot of them seem to think they are.

  36. Chet Twarog

    Michael Shermer’s latest eSkepic has an excellent article about chiros.
    I told a couple of friends who were going to chiros that chiros were quacks. One had some minor damage done by a chiro he’s seen. But guess what, they still sometimes go when they have aches. There’s no getting through to some people.

  37. 26. Gonzo Says:

    Chiropractic works just fine. Otherwise there wouldn’t be Chiropractic Clinics everywhere you go.

    Also, that is one of the most illogical, convoluted statements I’ve ever read about chiros. Sheesh, there are psychic palm readers everywhere you go to, doesn’t make it true or real.

    What I thought of was Payday Loans, there are dozens of them within a few miles of me (live in a ‘low income area’), but that doesn’t mean that they are a better idea than loans from a bank or credit union. Ironically, one of the Payday Loan shops right around the corner from me had a Hollywood Video go out of business, and it was replaced with a Pawn Shop!


  38. ndt

    What the heck, medicine is a science but chiropractic is not. The ideas it is based on have been demonstrated to be false. There are no such things as subluxations.

  39. el jefe

    I see a chiro every 2 or 3 weeks due to serious trauma that my back went through after a crazy lady hit me when I was riding my old motorcycle. I went through over a year of physical therapy and was handed a recommendation to see the very same chiro that my wife used to go to for neck pain and headaches (related to the back, not some weirdo associations).

    I try to stay away from heavy pain pill use and the good doctor helps a ton. I would not be going to any doctor repeatedly if the results weren’t as good as they are. The doctor has even recommended a type of exercise that I would have never thought of to strengthen my back and keep things in check. When I row (yes, like a boat) regularly and often I do not make appointments, unfortunately I don’t always have the time for it, I get lazy like everyone else.

    A definite selling point for my chiro is that he has told me that if he didn’t feel like he could help with my problem that he wouldn’t treat me. He chided me after a four month hiatus from treatment because I had cut back rowing and needed adjustment. I truly get the feeling from this particular doctor that he would be elated if I only came in to visit for the holidays because I no longer needed treatment.

    All that said, I think most chiros are quacks and snake oil salesmen and only started chiro because the used car lots wouldn’t take them. I have known far too many people who have continued to see a chiro for years only to be told that the reason they are still being treated is because they are asking for appointments. My chiro does confidence counseling as well but has never pushed whack job neo-holistic crap that I hear is floating around these days.

  40. what the heck


    Please give up your comic books and read something published about chiropractic by a member of the majority of the profession. The profession has advanced beyond 1895 and so should your research into the subject. “bone out of place” “subluxation theory” is not a mainstream chiropractic concept anymore. Look into viscero-somatic and somato-visceral reflex arcs. Look into look into the innervation of joints and sympathetic and parasympathetic reflex actions. Mechanical dysfunction does impact function.

    Medicine TRIES

  41. Ian

    A true scientist does not discount things that can not be explained. They leave it as an unknown that has not been reasonably explained yet. I have found that things that Western Medicine discounts such as touching/chiropractic approaches and acupuncture work in a variety of situations. The danger of such close mindedness is that these things do work, even though Western Medicine does not have a way to definitively measure it. There is more to healing than just drugs and surgery.

    I have had two very distinct events that I have personally had resolved by a chiropractor. Both times I took muscle relaxant drugs for my back and neither time did they do anything useful other than make me pass out. Both times took a chiropractor doing a variety of things such as heat therapy, muscle movement and some stretching that I could not do by myself. After each of these I was “cured” effectively. I know some people that haven’t been helped by chiropractors with the same symptoms I have had.

    Does this make it bad medicine? No. Is it a tool that doctors can use? Yes. Does it work 100% of the time? No. Do drugs work 100% of the time on everyone? No. Have I found many M.D.’s who are just as ignorant about the drugs they offer and the solutions they give? Yes. Are the M.D.’s that serve up these drugs blindly just as bad as the chiropractors that sell their services as a cure all? I think most would agree as Yes.

    That all being said I think this has been good article on the fact that some Chiropractors are Honest and have Integrity and know what they can/can’t do. You do your article some injustice by dismissing it as “false medicine” and “I would never go to one”.

  42. Amazed

    Incredible how easy it is to form opinions based on anectdote and then criticize others for using anectdotes. Some basic facts:
    There are almost 60,000 licensed doctors of chiropractic in the US
    – there is a large body of scientific, peer reviewed literature on chiropactic published in such journals as the Annals of Internal Medicine, Spine, Spine Journal, and many more
    – most literature demonstrates that chiro care is as effective, or more effective than standard medical treatment, particularly for conditions such as low back and neck pain, as well as headache
    – there are a few published studies on issues such as ear infections in children, bed-wetting, and even reducing high blood pressure (see Journal of Human Hypertension, as reported in WebMD (

    Granted these are not definitive studies, but they do provide evidence of efficacy beyond back pain, and indicate the need for more robust studies.

    The Council on Chiropractic Guidelines and Practice Parameters (CCGPP) has published comprehensive reviews of the scientific literature on the efficacy of chiropractic care for conditions such as low back, neck pain, lower extremities, soft tissue injuries, etc. Inquiring (read: not closed) minds can check themselves at US organizations including the US Agency for Health Care Policy research has concluded that chiropractic care is safe and effective.

    Speaking of safety: doctors of chiropractic (DC’s) pay the lowest malpractice premiums of any kind of doctor. Premiums are based on risk, and if the risk was really as bad as many of the contributors here believe, surely that number would be higher.
    Most uninformed critics cite the fear of neck manipulation and stroke. As “what the heck” notes, a 10 year study of the issue was published in Spine (the top orthopedic journal in the world) last year (SPINE Volume 33, Number 4S, pp S176–S183) and concluded that the attribution of these injuries to chiropractors was unfounded. They looked at EVERY stroke case in a certain Canadian province, and then checked to see if the pt had seen a DC sometime near the incident. They also looked to see if the stroke pt had seen a family practitioner before.

    What they found was that the incidence of stoke associated with seeing the MD was higher than that associated with seeing a DC. What is the point? Association versus causation. There is an association with stroke and chiro visits, but it is lower than that association with MD vists. Why? Because pts with evolving vertebral artery dissections, which can lead to stroke, have as their symptoms severe neck pain and headache. Whom do these folks consult? Their family MD or DC. Thus there is an association, but not causation. The sun coming up doesnt cause newspapers to appear on doorsteps, but it is associated with it.

    The authors concluded there is no increased risk associated with artery dissection and chiropractic care. Previous risk assessments put the risk at one in a million to one in 5.85 million adjustments. Contrast that to the use of ibuprofen, which kills 30,000 in the US annually and has an estimated risk of serious liver, kidney or gastrointestinal injury of one in 3000. Which is safer?

    Finally, yes, there are DC’s who promise ridiculous things, and are more in it for the money than their patients. That is wrong, and the profession is trying to rid the barrel of the bad apples. The vast majority of DC’s are hard working, ethical people who want to help others, and spend 7-8 years learning the science, art and philosophy associated with the profession, in order to serve their patients.

    One last thing: the chiropractic profession originated many of the interventions which would later become used by the physical therapy profession.

    I hope the injection of some actual facts doesnt deter the discourse.

  43. Gary Ansorge

    “I had, my friend had, someone I know,,,etc”. These are, each and every one, anecdotes and are not acceptable as EVIDENCE. Show me double blind tests or large scale epidemiological studies. THAT’S evidence.

    I once had a spontaneous mystical experience. So have thousands of others through out history. Despite its powerful emotional effects I must still say, IT AIN’T EVIDENCE for ANYTHING, other than the complexity of the human nervous system. It certainly isn’t evidence for god, or the validity of religion, yet people consistently refer to some other humans self reported experience as “evidence” of ,,,something,,,significant.

    I occasionally have lower back pain. Strained muscles will do that, Ya Know? It’s part of our evolutionary history. I deal with the problem with heat and specific exercises designed to slowly stretch the muscles. After a day or two, the pain dissipates. Gee, I must be a chiropractor,,,NOT.

    Anecdotes are not objective evidence. I love my children. That’s subjective and anecdotal. I raised, clothed, educated and would die to defend them from harm. THAT’S a little closer to OBJECTIVE evidence. I hope all those well meaning people who regale us with their personal, anecdotal tales of success with alternative treatment understand, they’re just spinning tales. Not one of those tales has any objective validity. The best that can be said for them is that they MAY indicate something we should check with experimental research to see if they have any connection with reality.

    Gary 7

  44. Ordinary Radical

    While I don’t have any first-hand experience with chiropractic treatments, those I’ve heard who claim a benefit have described something closer to physical therapy. I have always wanted to see the data that proves and explains how manipulating the spine has a dramatic effect of the immune system. It just doesn’t make sense if you understand how the immune system works.

    The one chiropractor I know socially, kept her children home from pre-school because they were administering the flu vaccine through nasal mist. She was scared the “live” virus would become airborne and infect everyone. So far, no one in attendance that day has come done with symptoms. As much as I adore her children, I almost wish they would come down with the flu, just so we can ask her how that happened.

  45. wade

    The last thing I read was that real science has shown that chiropractic treatment can provide tempory relief of back pain (unfortunately I can’t quote a source). A good chiropractor can give people like me some relief (I have a vertabrae slightly out of line, something I don’t think traditional medicine can do anything about without surgery) but a bad one can cripple you for life. Frankly I think it is safer to deal with the intermittent chronic pain with asperin and stretching.

  46. what the heck

    Interesting “wade Says” that you would think that ASA is safer than chiropractic care. A study in Spain published in 2005 showed an incidence rate of 21-24 deaths/million population due to gastro-intestinal bleed from NSAID’s and ASA, or 15.3 deaths per 100,000 users. I think I will stick with chiropractic myself it is much, much safer than ASA or any other NSAID.

  47. Soy incapaz de recordar cuando la

  48. DavisonG

    “It’s time for these people to start producing evidence or just disappear. I’m so sick of coddling nonsense. Stick it to these ignorant fools Phil!”

    … so charts, x-rays, and increased mobility don’t count as data when coming from chiropractors. Hmm… I suppose annecdotal evidence IS pretty useless, otherwise MD’s might ask how a certain medication makes a patient “feel”, which is an unscientific, unqualified observation based on their perceptions at the time… oh wait.

    “Show me double blind tests or large scale epidemiological studies. THAT’S evidence.”

    As soon as you (not YOU, but scientific community You) can quantify that a back/joint/mobility issue is caused by the same thing to the same degree in seperate people, I guess science will be all over that. But since a lot of shoulder/back/etc. pain is hard to isolate to a specific cause, Dr.’s just try to mask it with pain meds and hope it goes away. Surgeries are often a last ditch effort and are definitly NOT guaranteed to work.

    Do your research, check out the reputation of the WHATEVER medical professional you intend to see. I know, I know, it’s only that primitive annecdotal nonsense, but I haven’t noticed any full body scanning technology that gives you an accurate rating on the person’s abilities or training.


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