Changing Someone’s Mind on Chiropractors

A few weeks ago in one of the classes I am teaching, a student revealed to me she is attending school to become a physical therapist. I made a comment to her about how important physical therapists are to medicine and the very difficult education physical therapists have to go through to become one. I also asked if it makes her upset when chiropractors practice unlicensed physical therapy considering all of the hard work she has to put into her attaining her degree. Her response was, ” Oh, no. I love my chiropractor.”

The skeptical community has done an excellent job showing the total scam job chiropractors have put over their customers and insurance companies. From a 2007 episode of Skeptoid, here is the foundation of chiropractic practice:

The cornerstone of chiropractic is something they call a subluxation. The first and most important thing to understand is that a chiropractic subluxation is a completely different phenomenon from an orthopedic subluxation, which is a real medical condition, and is unrelated. [T]he current definition [of subluxation] is “a complex of functional and/or structural and/or pathological articular changes that compromise neural integrity and may influence organ system function and general health.”

Basically, a pure or traditional chiropractor believes that the nervous system works just like a set of garden hoses for a “fluid” of what Daniel D. Palmer called innate intelligence. If you get a kink in the hose, you simply realign the spine and can cure any disease. In 1895, that might have seemed reasonable, but in 2011 we know quite a bit about the nervous system to know that is not how it works.

I would guess my student probably has a chiropractor that falls into a much more modern category of chiropractor, one that generally follows medical practices and then adds the modern woo of chiropractic subluxation. Really, what most of these chiropractors are doing is practicing physical therapy, but without any formal training. However, they still perform the chiropractic manipulations within the practice, which can negate any of the positive effects of the unlicensed physical therapy.

The other scary thing about these chiropractic adjustments is that they do carry some risk. Actor Kevin Sorbo of Hercules fame recently revealed that he experienced both an aneurysm and strokes after a chiropractic adjustment. These are rare occurrences. We could make the argument that there is some temporary relaxation relief and any temporary relief (OTC medication, hot tubs, etc) carry some small risk. And in any medical practice, mistakes can happen. While both points are valid, the chiropractic subluxations have never been shown scientifically to provide any actual relief. If one does a risk/benefit analysis of chiropractic subluxation, I would choose not to get them.

It seems there is no easy way to change people’s minds on chiropractors. This should be an easy choice to make. You either see a chiropractor where you get someone practicing physical therapy without a license, or see a physical therapist who is practicing with a license AND has requirements to keep up with continuing education and the latest research in the field. Seeing a physical therapist for your sports injuries, back injuries, or other minor muscular-skeletal issues would seem to be the best bet in curing what ails you.

Let me be clear that some people probably do get relief from the treatments they get from their chiropractor. The issue I am taking is that chiropractors are not trained as physical therapists and do not get the same education as a physical therapist. They may be doing an “ok” job with their general medical knowledge, but having a chiropractor do physical therapy is like having a dentist do tonsillectomies. I’m sure some dentists could do it, but because their training is not in that area nor are they licensed or required to keep up their knowledge on those surgical procedures, you have a much greater chance of getting a substandard product.

As with any article on medicine by someone who isn’t a medical doctor – talk to your doctor before starting, changing, stopping, or otherwise modifying any medical treatments.

Perhaps the change needs to come from physical therapists themselves. If they marketed themselves like chiropractors with nice storefronts and big ads in the newspaper and yellow pages, maybe people would choose to spend their medical dollars with them – a scientifically-based, fully licensed medical practice. Maybe those chiropractors that do good work in physical therapy should be offered some path to become genuinely licensed as physical therapists. It is important that we properly train, monitor, and license our medical professionals. It is important we use the proper medical professionals. How do we spread the word?

About Eric Hall

My day job is teaching physics at the University of Minnesota, Rochester. I write about physics, other sciences, politics, education, and whatever else interests or concerns me. I am always working to be rational and reasonable, and I am always willing to improve my knowledge and change my mind when presented with new evidence.
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55 Responses to Changing Someone’s Mind on Chiropractors

  1. Guy McCardle says:

    Hi Eric,

    Well said. I’ve been wondering myself how the truth about chiropractic could come out to the mainstream. Like most people, I used to assume that chiropractors were real doctors who simply practiced medicine through physical manipulation. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

    I believe that physical therapists today have to have a PhD to practice. That is a lot of education and training compared to what a DC has to offer. I think that PTs should be instrumental in getting the word out. It would benefit themselves and their potential patients.


    • patrick determan says:

      Wow do your research PT schooling is 120 Credit hours. Chiropractic 310 credit hours. You tell me who has more schooling. Your ignorance is showing. Please send me your email I have a PPT presentation that I would like to share with you that was presented to a group of MDs at an integrative medicine presentation.

      • Patrick I don’t pretend to know the curriculum for either program. Truth is that # of hours are irrelevant. That is not an accurate measure of what information is being given or the quality of the education given. If The 200 extra hours are teachings about straight chiropractic classes focusing on flows of spiritual life force then I would say that the extra hours were wasted and not truly a sign of a better education.

        • patrick says:

          Your are so misinformed to think spiritual life force is taught at chiropractic colleges. So, yes you are right you have no clue what is taught in chiropractic colleges. So, until you decide to educate yourself about chiropractic and the curriculum you should not speak against them. Please, send me your email. I will send you the presentation and links to chiropractic curriculum. Education is a cure for ignorance.

          • So much anger I think you need to reverse your subluxation. The Sherman college of chiropractic no longer exists? Is it like the recently closed penn college of straight chiropractic? Or are you denying that very recently straight chiropractor schools exist? Or are you denying the historical teaching of subluxation in chiropractic schools? Insulting people angrily and calling someone ignorant when you don’t like what they are saying is hardly a valid argument. You are showing your desire to suppress valid points that upset you not proving your point. What make you think I was speaking against chiropractic? Simply because I am pointing out in general that hours are meaningless.
            Your Proving my point with your link, which includes naturopathic doctors. Demonstrating over 3000 hours in academic nonscientific quackery, and comparing it to 2600 hours of medical school education. hmmmmm… ND vs MD and by your logic Naturopathic doctors must be better since they have the most academic hours. Shee-ya Right!
            This is hardly proving your point that hours of education are the predicting factor for the quality of education.

          • patrick Determan says:

            Please take a look at this link on pubmed.

            I am not mad just frustrated that a NP thinks he has the qualifications to question the efficacy of chiropractic. I now understand why your ignorant it’s because of your inability to understand how the nervous system functions. If you are going to say that you have an extensive knowledge of how the central nervous system works. Please send me the curriculum of your Nurse Practitioner program that shows your extensive neurology education. I have searched many programs and have yet to find one.

            If you think that your allopathic ways are evidenced based please refer to the website If you need this undereducated chiropractor to explain the NNT to you I will.

            Here is a good article and I have a lot more of this to send you.

            Here is another great abstract to how bad our health care system is do to the allopathic care.
            The British Medical Journal’s “Clinical Evidence” analyzed common medical treatments to evaluate which are supported by sufficient reliable evidence (BMJ, 2007). They reviewed approximately 2,500 treatments and found:

            • 13 percent were found to be beneficial
            • 23 percent were likely to be beneficial
            • Eight percent were as likely to be harmful as beneficial
            • Six percent were unlikely to be beneficial
            • Four percent were likely to be harmful or ineffective.
            • 46 percent were unknown whether they were efficacious or harmful
            In the late 1970s, the US government conducted a similar evaluation and found a strikingly similar result. They found that only 10 percent to 20 percent of medical treatment had evidence of efficacy (Office of Technology Assessment, 1978).
            A 2007 study of over 350,000 children found that a shocking 78.7 percent of children in hospitals are prescribed drugs that the FDA has not even approved for use in children (Shah, Hall, Goodman, et al, 2007). If this isn’t shocking enough, a survey in England found that 90 percent of infants were prescribed drugs that were not tested for safety or efficacy in infants (Conroy, McIntyre, Choonara, 1999).

            “Quackery” is commonly defined as the use of unproven treatments by individuals or companies who claim fantastic results and who charge large sums of money. Although modern physicians may point their collective finger at various “alternative” or “natural” treatment modalities as examples of quackery, it is conventional medical treatments today that are out-of-this-world expensive, and despite real questionable efficacy of their treatments, doctors give patients the guise of “science.” Dana Ulman

            Dr. John Ioannidis, an epidemiologist at Ioannina School of Medicine, Greece is at the forefront of exposing the true credibility of medical research.

            Back in 2005, he showed that there is less than a 50 percent chance that the results of any randomly chosen scientific paper will be true, and there is a seemingly endless number of variables that can affect the outcome.

          • Eric Hall says:

            So Patrick – your argument is Chiropractic is good because real medicine is bad? You aren’t making a strong argument.

            Also, while education is one piece of judging qualifications, it isn’t everything.

            From the Palmer College of Chiro – Subluxation I:

            “Application of basic science principles to subluxation processes, pain syndromes, and the manifestation of autonomic/visceral symptoms will be discussed. Homeostatic mechanisms of the nervous system will be discussed relative to the subluxation complex, chronic pain & inflammation, neurogenic inflammation, and tissue healing. Clinical applications from the Palmer Tenets will be discussed.”

            And the “What is Chiropractic” section:

            “No part of your body escapes the dominance of your nervous system. Improper function of the spine due to slight misalignments-called subluxations-can cause poor health or function, even in areas far removed from the spine and spinal cord itself. Misalignments can also reduce the ability of your body to adapt to its ever-changing environment. Even the slightest malfunction of your spine may alter the regular transmission of nerve impulses, preventing that portion of your body from responding optimally.

            Chiropractic is a natural form of health care that uses spinal adjustments to correct these misalignments and restore proper function to the nervous system, helping your body to heal naturally. Chiropractic doesn’t use drugs or surgery. Rather, a chiropractic spinal adjustment-the application of a precise force to a specific part of the spinal segment-corrects the misalignment, permitting normal nerve transmission and assisting your body to recuperate on its own.”

            Tell me – does that sound like legitimate medicine, or does it sound like someone selling something?

          • Lulu says:

            You shoot yourself in the foot when you trash the whole medical system in favor of chiropractic.

            How many certified cases of appendicitis cures, broken bone cures, cancer cures, successful HIV treatments, heart disease treatments or encephalitis cures from chiropractic can you provide?

  2. Eric Hall says:

    Guy –

    I’m still trying to find the news article, but it isn’t a requirement at this point for PTs to have a PhD. There are some states that are moving towards making that a requirement. I’m not an expert in the field, so I can’t say for sure if that would be a good thing or not. But certainly the current requirement of a MPT, MSPT, or MS is not a light requirement.

    I’m glad you agree – I hope PTs become more vocal and more active in promoting their practice as the proper (I hesitate to use this word) alternative to chiropractic. It is the one with the scientific backing including better outcomes and better regulation. In the face of increasing medical costs, we should strive for the best outcome for the money.

  3. Mike says:

    What do you say to your doctor (family medicine or general practicioner) when he/she recommends you see a chiropractor? I commonly get the “Well my doctor recommended I go see one” when I talk about this with people. I also the same thing when bringing up accupuncture.

  4. Andiis says:

    Why do you want to change people minds on this topic. As a function of integrated health care I believe it has it’s place and has added to my sense of well-being. After a motor vehicle accident left my right side mashed ( medical term..) from ankle to collar bone, I spent many hours of unconscious surgery while the brilliance of the the orthopedic surgeon and his team painstakingly put each bone back in it’s place. It is to them that I owe not only my life but my mobility.

    When it came to pain management it appeared I had to look elsewhere, as surgeons don’t deal with that ongoing trauma. A brilliant young chiropractor with a Phd is health science took over that job and when surgeons suggested spinal fusion for an ongoing problem, he guided away from that course and today I have no pain. So again I ask, why do you want to change peoples mind? Are you so full of yourself that you believe you have ALL the answers for everyone?

    Get over or past your ego and let people decide. Below info to balance your lop-sided knowledge.

    “Subluxations, genes, gravity, the ego and life are all heuristic devices, “useful fictions” that are used to explain phenomenon that are far larger than our understanding. We use them as long as they work for us and discard or limit their application when they become unwieldy or unable to account for new observations…
    Critics of chiropractic have incorrectly assumed that chiropractic is based on the theory or principle that vertebral subluxations cause “pinched” nerves that cause disease.
    They have it backwards. Chiropractic is based on the success of the spinal adjustment. The theory attempting to explain the success of the adjustment (nerve impingement, disease, subluxations) followed its clinical discovery.”

    • ct0420 says:

      In response to Andiis:
      I’m glad you recognize how the orthopedic surgeon did for you. So often, alternative practitioners like DC’s use anti-mainstream medicine rhetoric to brainwash you into using them by default (a logical fallacy called “false dichotomy”). If you needed to go elsewhere for the ongoing pain management, you should have gone to a physical therapist instead. Just to clarify, are you saying that your chiropractor had a PhD in health science in addition to his DC degree? To be clear, chiropractic education is not a PhD, nor is it MD. It is a “doctor of chiropractic” degree offered exclusively by alternative medicine schools. These programs are not integrated with public colleges and universities, and they are “accredited” by agencies created especially for these alternative schools. The accrediting agencies were approved by the dept of education, largely due to political pressures, not so much based on its own educational merits or quality. In fact, chiropractic school is widely known as the easiest schools be accepted into. They do this because the schools are actually private businesses with the primary motivation of getting people to enroll, no matter how low their standards have to be.
      To answer your question, “why do you want to change people’s mind?”. Because it’s the right thing to do. If mentally ill patients stopped seeing their psychiatrist or psychologist in favor of a psychic, I would do the same thing. Not because I have a huge ego, because I care. I have no financial interest in these topics. I’ve simply devoted my life to critical thinking, and I attempt to employ accurate logic and reasoning in every aspect of my life. If I notice errors in other people’s logic or reasoning, I point them out. I don’t do it to be egotistical, I do it because it is helpful, and I hope that others feel free to point out errors in my own logic where they exist. So in my opinion, this isn’t a conversation about letting people decide between two equal and competing theories. The choices are not equal. When somebody tells you they hear voices in their head telling them to do harm to themselves, would say “well you can choose a psychiatrist or a psychic, it’s really just up to you”. That would be an inappropriate and potentially harmful stance. The discussion about alternative medicine versus conventional medicine is really not much different. I don’t know where you got that quote from at the end of your post, but genes and gravity should not even be in the same conversation as subluxations. I understand the point of the quote about “utility”, but it is simply wrong. First of all, our knowledge regarding gravity, and genetics was built using the scientific method which followed the growing mountain of evidence. The development of subluxation theory preceded any evidence for it. That is not science, that is dogma. Chiropractic “theory” initiated as a wild guess by a non-scientific layperson, at a time when our collective medical knowledge was in its infancy. Over the past hundred years, our scientific understanding has grown apart from chiropractic theory. In fact, chiropractic has been intensley studied, and the evidence simply does not support it. In addition, we know beyond a doubt that subluxation theory is wrong. Despite all of this, chiropractic theory has remained exactly the same, retaining their theories despite the evidence against them. That is simply not science, it is more like religion. And unfortunately, the general public isn’t well versed on the history of chiropractic, the evidence against it, or even what the practitioners actually believe. Many folks simply think that chiropractic is another, more natural “branch” of medicine. It is not. And combating ignorance and naivete does not make me egotistical or arrogant.

      • Kyle Floryan says:

        CT i understand your concern about thinking critically and ”educating” others, but on this particular topic I think you need to do a little more research before giving your opinion. Some chiropractic schools are affiliated with public universities. University of Bridgeport in CT.

        Your analogy of psychiatrists and psychics was adorable but also grossly incorrect. You cannot compare a chiro and psychic. One has the majority of evidence to support it, one doesn’t. Please refer yourself to the Cochrane systematic review of chiropractic and its effectiveness for LBP. It is no better or worse than medication, exercise, or physical therapy.

        You were correct about one thing though, chiropractic subluxation theory is wrong. It is key to remember the theory behind the ”pinched nerve leads to disease” is incorrect, but the term itself is used synonymously with the terms ”fixation” or hypomobile segment. Chiropractic has been shown to be effective for the following conditions for those who do not wish to take medication and increase functionality. Back pain, neck pain, headaches, pain in the extremities.

      • jim says:

        Thank you.

  5. Eric Hall says:

    @Mike – Without being in the room with your family member or knowing what was discussed, I am not sure how the conversation would have come up. If I had to make an educated guess, I would say it is that your family member(s) may have suggested that to the doctor they would like to pursue the chiropractic option, and many doctors seeing a low (although not zero) risk in the treatment agree to it rather than suggesting it. I am not a medical doctor, but the ones I do know say pain management is one of the most difficult areas of practice because patients don’t often follow their advice, want an easy fix, and doctors can be held liable for not managing their pain. So if a patient suggests a chiropractor, and they do get some temporary relief from their pain, a doctor may be quick to agree to it. Also, “treatments” are covered by many health plans with low co-pays, so it has a low cost to the patient. It also provides the doctor with an alternative to having to use another quick fix of pain medication. Let’s not kid ourselves – physical therapy is not always easy and requires commitment. Many patients do not want to take the time or tolerate the pain in the intervening time.

    @Andiis – I’m not sure where you found ego in any of this. If you can point to a specific point where I allowed my ego over science or reason to make my case, I’ll be glad to examine it.

    As far as your statement on what critics of chiropractors have incorrectly assumed is not correct. Chiropractic is not based on spinal adjustment or manipulation. That is part of their practice which certainly can and does overlap into physical therapy. However, chiropractic uses spinal adjustment to explain a wide variety of diseases that are unrelated to the spine, meaning they do adjustments at a high rate unnecessarily. Like any type of manipulation, it carries a risk, and doing them unnecessarily only increases that risk.

  6. Marshall Davis says:

    First, there are two types of chiropractors. The most common kind, at least from what I have seen where I live, are NOT the worst kind, ‘straight’ chiropractors. Also, your quote, which it seems came from another source, commits several logical fallacies.

    “Subluxations, genes, gravity, the ego and life are all heuristic devices, “useful fictions” that are used to explain phenomenon that are far larger than our understanding. We use them as long as they work for us and discard or limit their application when they become unwieldy or unable to account for new observations…”

    First, this is incorrect. Genes and gravity are understood extremely well and were the result of the merging of many lines of evidence. Although I do not understand ‘the ego’, I am sure that neuroscience understands this fairly well. Also, this entire first statement is an Argument From Ignorance. The second is how science works. Subluxations, unlike the rest of the mentioned items, has absolutely no evidence and was made up wholesale.

    “Critics of chiropractic have incorrectly assumed that chiropractic is based on the theory or principle that vertebral subluxations cause “pinched” nerves that cause disease.
    They have it backwards. Chiropractic is based on the success of the spinal adjustment. The theory attempting to explain the success of the adjustment (nerve impingement, disease, subluxations) followed its clinical discovery.”

    First, ‘pinched nerves’ is what all 3 chiropractors I have been to have stated, as well as almost every commercial, advertisement, and sign about chiropractic have stated. This is a blatant straw man argument. What clinical discovery? Placebo and the body’s natural healing mechanisms? Success of the adjustment? Where are the results of any double blind placebo controlled studies? I have also heard advertisements and seen signs for chiropractors that say they treat ear infections, sinus problems, and even sprained ankles. Evidence? Anyone? Beuller?

  7. Eric Hall says:

    Awesome! On Science-Based Medicine, Sam Homola (a chiropractor no less) wrote a great piece about how most chiropractors continue to practice woo. I recommend checking it out!

  8. DarcBird says:

    I’m English and I come from a society that doesn’t have to pay for individual health care. We pay for it through our taxes. This means that everyone pays for it and it ends up costing less over-all. When I had some problems with my back, I went to my doctor and he got me an appointment with a physical therapist. She worked on my back once-a-week for several weeks and I got fixed.

    I now live in the US and find that I have to pay out of my own pocket for the same service. (Either directly or indirectly through insurance.) Either way, it works out to be more expensive than if I were still in England – for one thing, the Insurance Companies take (or took, until Obama’s Medical Improvements come into effect) 20% – 30% just in “handling” fees. The other problem is that because fewer people can have the insurance, it costs more for the rest.

    OK, that’s my tuppence worth!

  9. Sarahvil says:

    Hello everyone. Thank you for letting me share my thoughts… I once thought that chiropractic care was for people with back pain and neck pain. MOST chiropractors focus on this and are very closely related to medical practitioners, in the sense that they are trying to address a symptom (back pain, neck pain, allergies, headaches, etc…). However, do you know how many times the chiropractic text books mention “back pain”? Zero. What I now have realized is that chiropractic was never intended to treat or fix ANYTHING. True chiropractic simply acknowledges that there is a healing power in your body (innate intelligence) and when this intelligence is compromised due to subluxations, the result is malfunction and eventually–disease. Subluxations are caused by stress; physical stressors, chemical stressors, and emotional stressors. If you would like scientific data to support this claim regarding the relationship between nerve health and body function, we can thank medical doctor Henry Winsor for his work on the subject. After graduating from medical school, Henry Winsor, MD was inspired by chiropractic literature to experiment. He planned to dissect human and animal cadavers to see if there really was a relationship between any diseased internal organ discovered onautopsy and the vertebrae associated with the nerves that went to the organ. As he wrote:

    “The object of these dissections was to determine whether any connection existed between abnormal curvatures of the spine, on the one hand, and diseased organs on the other; or whether the two were entirely independent of each other.”

    “There was nearly a 100% correlation between abnormal curvatures of the spine and diseases of the internal organs.”

    •Stomach Diseases
    All nine cases of spinal misalignment in the mid-thoracic area (T5-T9) had stomach disease.
    •Lung Disease
    All 26 cases of lung disease had spinal misalignments in the upper thoracic spine.
    •Liver Disease
    All 13 cases of liver disease had misalignments in the mid thoracic spine (T5-T9)
    All five cases with gallstone disease had spinal misalignments in the mid thoracic spine.
    All three cases with pancreas disease had spinal misalignments in the mid thoracic spine.
    All 11 cases with spleen diseases had spinal misalignments in the mid thoracic spine.
    All 17 cases with kidney disease were out of alignment in the lower thoracic spine.
    •Prostate and Bladder Disease
    All eight cases with kidney, prostate and bladder disease had the lumbar (L2-L3) vertebrae misaligned
    The two cases with the uterine conditions had the second lumbar vertebrae misaligned.
    •Heart Disease
    All 20 cases with heart and pericardium conditions had the upper five thoracic vertebrae (T1-T5) misaligned.

    Dr. Winsor’s results are published in The Medical Times, November 1921, and are found in any medical library.

    CONCLUSION: There is a health and disease relationship between the nerves and the function of the organs as they relate to the spine.

    Chiropractic is not voodoo. It is based on laws of healing. If you were to cut your finger, your body will heal (if it is working properly). You don’t even have to think about it. This is your body’s innate intelligence at work. If the nerves in your body are not able to work at 100%, the cells that are “fed” by those nerves will not be able to work at 100%. Over time, there are consequences to this disruption in communication. Christopher Reeve was a prime example of this. After becoming paralyzed, his organs eventually shut down because the messages between the brain and body were being severely disrupted. A true Chiropractor simply restores communication through the chiropractic adjustment. Now, like I mentioned, techniques vary greatly, and some are more effective than others. Some of the most advanced and effective techniques are neurological in their approach, and do not use manual adjustments to restore health to the nervous system. A few good ones are “Torque Release Technique” (created by medical doctor, Dr. Jay Holder, and well researched: and MC2.

    I am not a chiropractor, but a chiropractic advocate after seeing it change my husband’s life, our family’s life, and countless other lives over the past 3 years. The body is designed to self-heal and self-regulate. If subluxations are present, function is hindered. When function is hindered for extended periods of time, the body will eventually malfunction and the symptoms of this malfunction can include; pain, sickness, disease, allergies, asthma, headaches, depression, cancer, etc…etc… If the body is malfunctioning, we must ask…why? How do we help the body to restore function? When function is restored, the body will do everything that it can to heal. And in many cases, it DOES. This is why good Principled Chiropractors can see great results with numerous ailments. However, are THEY, the Chiropractor, healing the body? NO. They are simply removing subluxations, which are obstacles to normal functioning.

    I have nothing against physical therapists or traditional chiropractors, but receiving physical therapy or getting chiropractic adjustments WITHOUT removing subluxation, simply addresses symptoms. It does not correct the cause of the malfunction. It would be the same as walking around with a rock in my shoe and expecting a foot massage to correct the problem. The first step in healing is to remove the rock. The first step in allowing the body to heal, is to remove the subluxations.

    Thank you again for allowing me to share my thoughts. If anyone has any questions, or if you’d like help finding a good, Principled Chiropractor, please let me know. It has changed our lives, and I will do what I can to help others experience the same.

    • When medical science assesses a proposed treatment, it looks at the entire body of research. The evidence on chiropractic is clear. No compelling evidence has ever been found that either chiropractic subluxations or “innate intelligence” exist, or that chiropractic manipulation has any plausible therapeutic value. You can’t just cite one advocate from 90 years ago, when medical science was in its infancy; you would have to overturn the vast majority of decades of research.

      • Sarahvil says:

        Thank you, Brian.

        In the end, whether or not chiropractic care can be “proven” up to your standards, or any other person’s standards, makes no difference to me. What does matter to me is the evidence of changed lives. I hope you will appreciate this story:

        One of the first patients that my chiropractor saw was a 3 month old little girl. When she was born, she seemed perfectly healthy. However, it soon became apparent that she was not doing well. For some unknown reason, her kidneys began to shut down. The doctors did every test possible, and did everything in their power to help, but they eventually sent her family home, diagnosing their little girl with “failure to thrive”. They basically sent this little girl home, to die. Her parents were devastated, but were desperate to find help. Somehow, they found out about Dr. Jeff Algajer. Dr. Jeff practices “Torque Release Technique” and began with using a thermal scan (technology that was developed by NASA) to detect nerve interference in her body. The scan picked up quite a bit of subluxation, especially in the nerves that fed the kidneys. (Skeptics might say that Dr. Jeff knew where her ailment was, and somehow altered the test to show subluxation to the kidneys. I can assure you, that this is not the case. I would invite any skeptic to have the test done, or see how it is done yourselves.) Dr. Jeff and his chiropractor wife, Dr. Katie, began to adjust the little girl based on neurological reflexes that told him where she needed to be adjusted. They did re-scans every 12 adjustments, and the scans showed great improvement. However, the REAL proof was the fact that the little girl’s kidneys healed on their own. Today she is over 3 years old, and completely healthy. Her doctors have no explanation. This is just ONE example of the body healing after the removal of subluxations. That’s all of the proof that I need, and I hope that open-minded individuals will check into this further.

        • Jb says:

          This is exactly why I would NEVER let a chiro touch me or anyone I ever remotely cared about. Spinal adjustments on a THREE MONTH OLD BABY??!! Are you out of your ever living mind? I just read an article about a chiropractor performing spinal adjustments on children to reverse Autism. And to also treat ear infections. But the only way the treatments work is if the patients returns twice a week for the rest of their life. It’s disgusting to know there are quacks taking advantage of people who do not have the education to know this is junk science. Physical therapy is about treating a musculoskeletal condition and then giving our patients the tools to maintain muscle balance and flexibility on their own. We don’t want to see you for the rest of your life. I will hand it to the chiropractors–you have ONE HELL OF A LOBBY IN WASHINGTON.

  10. Floyd says:

    As someone who has lived with back problems going on four decades, and someone who has been treated by many medical professionals from general practitioners, to a neurological surgeon, and yes chiropractors. Based on my experience when my back “went out” – the general practitioners prescribed pain medication and 10-14 days of bed rest. My visits to chiropractors reduced the bed rest by 50% or more, however chiropractors cannot prescribe effective pain killers (in my case).

    As we all know the bills and such don’t stop because we’re down and the wife and kids are accustomed to eating regularly. For many years my solution was simply – make two appointments one with my general practitioner, who provided the needed prescription and the second with my chiropractor, this combination allowed me to return to work quicker with the least pain.

    The professional I most wanted to give a big bear hug to was the neurological surgeon who performed two surgeries on my back within a month. I cannot adequately express the joy of waking up in recovery and for the first time in decades, not having pain shooting down my legs like lightning bolts every time my heartbeat. I remained pain free for two years before five herniated disc, and compression fractures in two vertebrates caused pain to return.

    My problem with chiropractors wasn’t the service they provided me, but the fact many of them, but not all of them, sold one form or another of alternative medicine in an effort to either improve their bottom line or offer some sort of pain relief. These products proved to be nothing more than snake oil to me and in my opinion do not enhance the reputation of chiropractors overall.

  11. Sara in San Francisco says:

    This is fantastic information. Just recently, I was roped into a “health faire” at my place of employment. The list of guests and organizations that are attending the faire are primarily from places with names like, “The Full Body Wellness Center” or “Pure Focus Healing”. 4 of 5 of the attendees are chiropractors. A cousin of my co-worker makes a pretty good living peddling this crap. She goes so far as to place a “Dr.” in front of her name, despite the lack of earning her M.D. at an accredited institution other than the Thunderwood College of ______.

    When I received the list of guests, I decided to google some the organizations I am essentially endorsing, by being part of this wellness team. One of the guest’s websites goes so far as to claim that even ear infections and allergies are caused by the subluxation or your nervous system(?), a pretty big red flag. Here’s an excerpt:

    “””””We define chiropractic as the discovery and removal of the vertebral subluxation, which is interference that is taking place in your central nervous system (CNS). It is important to recognize that our CNS is the master controller of our entire body and it directly correlates to our ability to function and exist. People who are suffering from allergies, asthma, headaches, etc. are living in a subluxated state, but when we provide these individuals with an adjustment, we are able to remove the interference, and the condition dissipates. In addition, patients who are under regular chiropractic care (1-2x each month) actually prevent these situations from impeding upon their lives.”””””””

    I love how they combine real information with bogus “real sounding” information. It’s the baffle you with B.S. approach. If I really had a subluxated vertabrae, would I even be able to walk into the chirpractor’s office?

    I need to gracefully step down from the Wellness Team but I need to arm myself with information so that I can give an education reason why I don’t endorse the crap that is spewing forth.

  12. Louise says:

    I was turned off on chiropractic when I worked in a chiropractor’s office for a few months some years ago. Although there were many patients who swore that the adjustments relieved their pain, I was put off by the claims that chirooractic could cure or prevent any disease. I was also disturbed by the fact that a set of full body xrays were required before any treatment was performed. One woman came in with migraines and the chiropractor said he could treat her but would require a set of full body xrays. She declined. I later got the impression that the chiropractor never consulted the xrays. I suspect they were taken because they were lucrative and not for any diagnostic purpose, exposing patients to unnecessary radiation.

    But since so many people swear by chiropractic, especially people in sports, except for the verbiage and claims to cure disease, I wonder what they are doing that is different from physical therapy? How is the education different in this area? Chiropractors do study anatomy. I have been through a course of PT recently by a therapist who holds a Ph.D in physical therapy. She said she uses evidence based treatment and admitted that some things used by physical therapists are no more evidence based than chiropractic. She also didn’t require xrays. What is the evidence that PT manipulation and exercises work on skeletal and muscular pain? Is it any better than the evidence for chiropractic? Is PT just more accepted by the medical community but actually no better than chiropractic? I had good results from my PT but many chiropractic patients also say they have good results from chiropractic. Couid both be a matter of the placebo effect? Or are they both doing essentially the same thing? Would massage be as effective? I have heard good reviews of massage therapy, too, and most massage therapists do not have any medical training. Is there any repeatable evidence that chiropractic, physical therapy or massage has any positive effect beyond patient testimony? What are the differences?

    If PT indeed does have repeatable evidence of effectiveness it makes me wonder if there aren’t professional courses that chiropractors and massage therapists could take to make them at least nearly as effective as physical therapists. Maybe if chiropractors took the woo woo out of their therapy and concentrated on evidence, anatomical education and what actual PT does, they’d be more respected by the medical community. On the other hand, they could just become physical therapists. Better educated massage therapists without professional degrees could work with or as adjuncts to the well-trained professionals.

  13. Eric Hall says:

    Louise –

    In the mainstream medical profession, there is going to be a range of effectiveness in both the practitioner and in the treatment. I have had many doctors tell me I should try acupuncture for various pain and injuries (not my current doctor, which is one reason I see him). I had some dental surgery a few years ago, and I was prescribed a pain medication that was very ineffective (to which my surgeon quickly prescribed a different medication that worked much better).

    As far as your PT friend, the difference is in the understanding of the treatments, the risk/benefit of such treatments, and the science behind each treatment. If you go to a chiropractor with chest pain, likely they will take an x-ray and “adjust” your spine and send you on your way. If you go to a clinic with chest pain, they are going to rule out more serious ailments first such as heart conditions, infections, lung issues, gallbladder issues, etc. They may simultaneously take an x-ray or MRI of your chest to rule out issues with bone, muscle, organs, etc. Once major issues are ruled out or a musculoskeletal issue is discovered, the doctor will then send you to a PT to work on strength, flexibility, etc. Yes, sometimes the cause or cure for the pain is not easily found, so physical therapy may not be effective. But, it follows a scientific process of diagnosis.

    No matter how many courses a chiropractor takes, the entire basis of their education is based on complete nonsense. It isn’t going to change the way they treat patients. If a chiropractor is willing to take several courses in physical therapy techniques and practice as such, then they should be licensed as a PT and practice as a PT. My wife as a nurse takes continuing education every year, it doesn’t make her a doctor at some point.

    • Louise says:

      Thanks for your reply, Eric. I was leaning in that direction already but wasn’t sure whether Physical Therapy has any more objective evidence of its efficacy than chiropractic. I have never been to a chiropractor and have always been skeptical of them, though I have scores of friends who swear by them, many of whom are heavily into sports of all kinds. Has chiropractic established a foothold in the sports medicine industry? It seems to me as if it has, at least in California.

  14. Mud says:

    Eric, if you see a GP S/He will immediately rule out all of the above for nearly 10o% of cases by simple observation.

    A chiropractor does not afford treatment, it invents it.

    Chiropractors are vitalogists, practice vitalogy and will always deliver an invention that differs from CP to CP.

    I think the difference between CP’s is not effectiveness but personal invention.

    However saying all you did, I would change medical clinics unless you are one of the point percent patients who is (forgive the strine) fucking crook!

    I have had two medical chest x-rays in my moderately happy life..they were employment based x-rays under the 70’s and early eighties regimes. My mother insisted I saw a CP when I was a young teenager..The CP gave me about 5 x-rays.

    Work it out…CP,s used to over serve. If a modality required diagnostic doses at the drop of a hat for many/most patients then that modality should have been lost.

    Eric, I think you have understated the ineffectiveness of diagnostics of the CP. I realise you understand the ridiculousness of CP therapy no matter what class they consider themselves under the current battling regimes.

    No wonder they take critics to court in case idle Britain! Oh for a short wig in that country!

  15. Mud says:

    Jesus, at least acupuncture has a nice map they can draw on you to compensate if you are obese! no x-ray and no private touching! you wonder why folk even go to medicos!

    Forgive cynicism pls

    Its late, my personal homeopath wants his bowl filled and I am off to bed.

  16. Toya Bauman says:

    Too bad it’s nearly impossible to get a referral from md to pt.

    • Eric Hall says:

      If you feel you are in need of physical therapy, and your doctor doesn’t, then it might be time for a second opinion. If that doc concurs, then perhaps that isn’t the best treatment plan. But if you go to a chiro that doesn’t use good PT practices, you are only risking further injury.

      The interesting thing to note about your comment is – if the Chiros practicing good PT would just become PTs, the cost for everyone would be lowered.

  17. Anonymous says:

    My 3 year old can perform PT. Look at a book of stretches, it’s not rocket science. There is a reason you are not called doctor Mr. Hall.

    • Eric Hall says:

      I am sure all of the physical therapists who spend 6 to 9 years in school appreciate your feedback.

      • Louise says:

        I was impressed by the training my physical therapist had. She has a doctorate from a respected university. Also, I had no problem getting a referral from my MD. In fact, ahe suggested it. I would be skeptical of any MD who resisted referring a patient to PT unless there was some medical reason not to, which should be explained to the patient. People don’t need referrals to chiropractors, which may be part of he problem with them. They are not part of the medical comminity and that means that many safety measures are not in place with chiropractors–unlike PTs.

        • Patrick Determan says:

          You do know PT’s have a fellowship to perform Joint Manipulations something that chiropractors specialize in. So, you are ignorant to mock chiropractors when PT’s know the benefits of joint mobilization. They fight for the right to perform a grade 5 mobilization. I am a chiropractor. I have a 4 year degree in exercise science, 36 credit hour graduate program in Clinical Exercise Physiology and ten semesters of doctor of Chiropractic. 320 credit hours. You do know that DPTs only have about 120 hours of graduate course work. You do know that there are a lot of PT’s that practice with a Bachelors in Physical Therapy and many more practice with a Masters in Physical Therapy. How extensive is their education when a bachelors degree is all you need to practice Physical Therapy. I send patients all the time to PT’s and MDs there is a place for all of us.

  18. Anonymous says:

    What makes chiropractic so uniquely qualified as the world’s leading healthcare profession in the area of
    spinal health, spine-related functional ability, and spine-related quality of life is the unique focus on the
    science regarding both the importance of, and the relationship among, spinal motion, alignment, neurology,
    and health. What makes chiropractors so uniquely qualified as safe and effective practitioners are their years
    of unique training and focus on the assessment and correction of segmental spinal motion and related
    neurology and the importance of spinal conditioning and lifestyle.

    According to the scientific literature and every independent judicial and/or formal government inquiry ever
    conducted (New Zealand, Australia, Canada, U.S.A., U.K., Sweden), no other profession is as qualified, as
    well trained, as evidence-based, or as safe when it comes to restoring and maintaining spinal health,
    spine-related functional ability, and spine-related quality of life.

    “By the end of the Inquiry we found ourselves irresistibly and with complete unanimity, drawn to the
    conclusion that modern chiropractic is a soundly-based and valuable branch of health care in a specialized
    area neglected by the medical profession.”

    (Chiropractic in New Zealand. (1979) Report of New Zealand Government Commission on Chiropractic.)

    “On the evidence, particularly the most scientifically valid clinical studies, spinal manipulation (chiropractic
    adjustment) applied by chiropractors is shown to be more effective than alternative treatments for low back
    pain.” “Many medical therapies are of questionable validity or are clearly inadequate. Our reading of the
    literature suggests that chiropractic manipulation is safer than medical management of low back pain.”
    “There is also some evidence in the literature to suggest that spinal manipulations are less safe and less
    effective when performed by non-chiropractic professionals.” Professor Pran Manga Ph.D. University of
    Ottawa. The Manga Report. (1993) An Independent Report Commissioned by the Ontario Provincial
    Government in Canada

    “For patients with common or mechanical back pain and neck pain/headache there is now a change from
    extensive diagnostic testing, rest, medication for pain control and surgical intervention based on structural
    pathology as in traditional medical practice, to exercise, manual treatments, early mobilization of patients
    and education about the spine and lifestyle, based on functional pathology as in traditional chiropractic
    practice. This management approach is not only effective but highly cost-effective.”

    (Chapman-Smith, David LL.B. The Chiropractic Report. (2008) The Chiropractic Profession: Basic Facts, Independent Evaluations,
    Common Questions Answered. Vol 22 (5) pp1-8)

    “The chiropractic profession is assuming its valuable and appropriate role in the health care system in this
    country and around the world. As this happens the professional battles of the past will fade and the patient
    at last will be the true winner.”

    (Wayne Jonas, MD, Director (1995-1998), National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, US National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD)

    “Systematic access to managed chiropractic care not only may prove to be clinically beneficial but also may
    reduce overall health care costs.” “The increasing acceptance of chiropractic care as a source of
    comprehensive complementary care for neuromusculoskeletal problems is reflected in that the chiropractic
    field is the fastest growing among all doctoral-level health professions.”

    Legorreta et al. (2004) Comparative Analysis of Individuals With and Without Chiropractic Coverage. Archives of Internal Medicine 164 (18)

    “In addition, people who were mostly treated by chiropractors had, on average, less expensive medical
    services and shorter initial periods of disability than cases treated by physiotherapists and medical physicians.
    This clear trend deserves some attention considering that chiropractors are the only group of providers who
    explicitly state that they have an effective treatment approach to maintain health.”(Cifuentes et al. (2011)
    Health Maintenance Care in Work-Related Low Back Pain and its Association With Disability Recurrence.
    Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine pp 190-198)

    “Three perceived problems – the education of chiropractors, including the ability to diagnose; the lack of
    scientific evidence of effectiveness of chiropractic manipulation; and potential danger from manipulation,
    especially cervical manipulation – were answered and dismissed as unfounded.”

    (Chapman-Smith, David LL.B. The Chiropractic Report. (2008) The Chiropractic Profession: Basic Facts, Independent Evaluations, Common Questions Answered. Vol 22 (5) pp1-8)

    • Eric Hall says:

      Your comment starts with a very strong assertion – but your evidence doesn’t support your assertion. Perhaps you should look at writing something more coherent – as in show us how your statement is connected to the evidence.

  19. Wow, I think Eric Hall has come up with a spectacular solutiin for chiropractors that would boostbtheir reputatuins and their practices: also become a licensed Physical Therapist. Imagine being able to adveryisse oneself as a licenced chiropractor AND a licensed physical therapist! People would be beating a path to their doors.

    Of couse, the problem arises that when they take PT courses they might cmne to understand why chiropractoc is NOT evidence based medicine as PT is. Then they can bill themselves as licensed physical therapists who were once licensed chiropractors. . Their ads could say, “Ask me why I rejected Chiropractic.” Sounds like a win-win to me.

  20. Pieter says:

    Had seven sessions with a physical therapist for a shoulder injury – no improvement. After two sessions with a chiropractor freer movement and less pain in shoulder.

    • Eric Hall says:

      Perhaps two more sessions with the PT would have given you the same result?

      People often claim “natural” things cured their cancer, only to find out they had surgery and chemo first, then started the oils…but the oils did it.

      This is why anecdotes don’t serve as evidence.

  21. Jordan says:

    Some of what I read on here is terribly inaccurate.
    Spiritual life force being taught at chiropractic college!?
    I train in Canada, and we do not even use subluxation as a part of our training.
    We are taught very extensive anatomy, neurology and pathology in order to diagnose and treat musculoskeletal based complaints. We are also taught to immediately refer patients to an appropriate health care practitioner when they present with complaints that we determine not to be musculoskeletal in nature, such as when someone has a tumour that is referring pain distally.
    There are very wide difference between traditional chiropractic started by Palmer more than 100 years ago, and evidence based care that is very quickly becoming the norm.
    Have a look at this here before slamming all of chiropractic and grouping all chiropractors into quackery

    • Jordan
      Then the question becomes what role are you playing if your basing your practice on anatomy, pathology, and neurology. What is your role. Cheap under-qualified Neurosurgeons, or advanced physical therapists? What makes chiropractors distinct? I apologize for sounding snarky but I really want to know where you feel you fall. Because I work under a board certified Orthopedic Surgeon my practice is regulated by a expert in the field. As far as I know you work completely independently.

      • Jordan says:

        Stephen, I take no offense to your comments, quite simply I understand where you are coming from.
        The best answer is I do not have a perfect explanation for you, if I did, we wouldn’t be having this discussion in the first place.
        There is great debate within the chiropractic profession as to where we stand, unfortunately it is your very question that keeps the profession from leaving dogma behind. The pro-subluxation practitioners will not leave their 100 year old outdated philosophy behind due to a loss of a sense of self.
        I, along with the majority of chiros from my generation are more than happy to carve our own path based in science and allopathic healthcare.
        Simply put, our profession will overlap with medicine and physical therapy but it is not meant to try and be one or the other.
        Our understanding of the neuromusculoskeletal system is more advanced than your typical GP, whereas we can hold an intellectual conversation with an orthopaedic surgeon. ( in our cadaver lab, our instructors are made up of retired ortho surgeons, GP’s and DC’s,)
        Physical or physiotherapists are experts in rehabilitation for injuries, however if you go in for general pain, they are not legally able to diagnose, nor is exercise prescription always going to effective on it’s own. Finally, when you see a GP for say, back pain, as I did when I was younger.. you leave with a scrip for muscle relaxants, covering up the symptom and not the root of the problem.
        Chiropractors are excellent primary contact practitioners for general musckoloskeletal complaints. We are the most well equipped to assess for functional problems that may be the cause of pain, or potential degeneration of joints. We are able to use a hands on based approach to try and restore function to these problems, and relieve people of their pain, without medication. I’m sure we do not need to discuss the abuse of opiate prescriptions.
        The truth is, sometimes these complaints present as musckoloskeletal when in fact they are visceral, we are trained to recognize that and refer to their GP. If someone comes in with severe muscular atrophy, a physical therapist is certainly their best option. If someone has torn ligaments in their knee, they need to see a surgeon like yourself. In Alberta, DC’s can order MRI”s and make these diagnoses and refer accordingly. But not all pain requires surgery. Joint mobilization and manipulation can often help alot of general complaints where there is no severe structure damage. The strain on the traditional allopathic healthcare system currently is ridiculous, hence the increase in utilization of nurse practitioners. Chiropractors can take and read xrays to rule out more severe health care problems and help to relieve the strain of the traditional system. In Ontario it Is quite common for chiropractors to work in multidiciniplary settings in practise with physiotherapists and medical doctors.
        Where they do not, there are often good relationships built with GP’s, DC’s and physio’s to establish the best patient centered care. This is the future of chiropractic and where I belong.

        • Jordan says:

          To add, it’s not a free for all once we are licensed.
          The college of chiropractors of ontario are the regulatory body established by the ontario government that establishes standards and scope of practise. There is actually a current case against an ontario chiropractor facing a hearing for failing to refer a patient who’s care fell outside our scope of practise. There are severe penalties for abusing your license in this manner.

          • Noah Tellin says:

            Oh bollocks! I got lots of that subluxations cause diseases nonsense, anti-vaccine proselytizing and other garbage from a chiropractor in Ottawa, not too long ago. So much for self-regulation.

            My back has never been better since I stopped seeing chiropractors.

          • Jordan says:

            Unfortunately Noah, the regulatory college will only follow up with complaints made by members of the public, I assume to avoid a conflict of interest with chiropractors complaining about another chiropractor for personal gain.

            The reality, I admit is some of the chiros out there are garbage and scam artists, and any rational chiro will tell you that, I’ve learned during my most recent year of school that not enough is being done about it. The younger generation of graduates from CMCC will be part of the solution in the future. There is no one more annoyed by their visceral disease anti-vax crap, than the evidence based docs trying to make a real difference

    • Eric Hall says:

      Here’s an example of a place not far from where I live –

      If you search for the Palmer college and look at their class schedule, they include a course “Intro to Subluxation Analysis.” I wasn’t making it up.

      I wrote this from a US-centric viewpoint. Not all chiropractors in the US are bad. But the states have been really reluctant to change the requirements, and even changing the regulations to give them more responsibilities for which they have no training (prescribing drugs for example).

      Another example is one from a woo site “Modern Alternative Mama” who had a child with a broken arm. She brought him to a chiropractor who adjusted the kid and said he would be fine. Finally, a week later, she brought the kid to an ER and his arm was broken. This isn’t to say doctors don’t make mistakes – but the idea he did an adjustment to “fix” it seems pretty scary.

  22. Rebecca Jones says:

    Chiropractor’s are the top dogs when it comes to the spine, and all my friends benefit heavily from their regular appointments. The main problem recently is that some chiropractor’s are feeling pressured by the traditional antiquated medical community. For example, they worry about being sued by their patients, and they are less aggressive with the spinal and neck manipulations then they should be. Every form of treatment comes with a risk, and you have to experiment with each patient to find what works and how hard their spine can be manipulated without arterial rupture.

    • Noah Dillon says:

      I didn’t know that patients were considered part of the “traditional antiquated medical community.” Very interesting.

    • mudguts says:

      Thats nice Rebecca.. Absolute bollocks.. but thanks for posting

    • Rebecca
      We agree completely that all medical treatment has risk. The problem with neck manipulation lies in the paucity of effective evidence for the treatment. Like many other weakly supported complementary treatments, most of the evidence is small, poorly controlled, and poorly structured research. Effects that fails to be replicated when more rigorous studies are done, plus the benefit effect is small, in the range of statistical variation, even in the poorly structured positive studies. This is similar to other marginal medical treatments such as homeopathy, reiki or acupuncture. Treatments we know have no real effect beyond placebo. Lower back manipulation seems to have similar benefit to physical therapy with better evidence and none of the cervical risk, there I think your argument holds water. For cervical there is little benefit, a significant risk, and it needs to be stopped.

  23. Paula Wiggins says:

    I have had (licensed)physical therapy twice and chiropractic adjustments. For my condition, the physical therapy did nothing- only the adjustments have any relief.

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