March 24, 2008

Chiropractic And You: Informed Is Better

To close out this miniseries on chiropractic, here’s something quick and hopefully helpful, to make you a more informed customer of chiropractic treatments, if you have already decided to go to a chiropractor, or do so regularly.

Here’s an article from a chiropractic practitioner called Chiropractic: Does the Bad Outweigh the Good?. A version of this article was published in the Skeptical Inquirer a few years back.

Check out the article, because it’s the type of balanced, critical attitude that chiropractors often lack.

As a group, chiropractors are fractured and cannot come to a consensus about whether they should let go of the mumbo-jumbo at the heart of chiropractic: the notion that “subluxations” cause disease. A subluxation, in chiropractic, is essentially an excuse for a spinal manipulation. People who have tried to get chiropractors to agree on what a subluxation is have been met with various answers from “they can’t be seen on an x-ray” to “buzz off, Dr. Skeptic!”

Chiropractic treatment can relieve some types of back pain. Unfortunately, there are a lot of chiropractors like the one I hear on the radio who try to push chiropractic treatment as a cure for other diseases, based on this subluxation theory of chiropractic which claims that subluxations affect nerves and they in turn cause ailments in the organs. Like asthma. And cancer.

It’s bullshit, pure and simple, and it kills people. And if your chiropractor ever tells you that he can help you with anything other than your back pain — even if it’s your headaches — your quackdar should go up and you should proceed very carefully from there, if not just get up, leave, and look for a real doctor.

I’ll leave you with a quote from another article called “Why Becoming a Chiropractor May Be Risky” which I found on an excellent database of critical chiropractic information. The article is by Dr. William T. Jarvis.

Chiropractic encourages self-delusion. One of the saddest stories I have encountered is that of a young chiropractic student with breast cancer who was so enthused over chiropractic’s possibilities that she decided to make herself a documented test case. She died an agonizing death from untreated cancer but never lost faith in chiropractic’s basic principles. Chiropractic has failed the most fundamental scientific requirements that it define itself, determine its clinical usefulness and limitations, and conduct basic research on its mechanisms of action. Yet its public-relations spin-doctors attempt to portray chiropractic on an equal plane with scientific medicine by stating that both have their place. They maintain that both medicine and chiropractic have failings (and therefore the two are equal). These comparisons remind me of an experience I had as a boy while ice-skating in Minnesota. At the rink that I frequented, novices would skate around the edge while Olympians practiced in the middle. When an elite figure-skater fell while trying to do a triple Lutz, an old man who was shuffling around on his skates said with a twinkle, “I also fall down when I try to do a triple Lutz!”

Because of the self-delusion at the heart of the practice, you’re going to have to rely more on your own judgment than that of your chiropractor. Be careful out there!

Posted by James at March 24, 2008 8:32 AM
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