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Quack Medicine Fakeout: Chiropodist

by Ryan Haupt

October 6, 2011

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Donate Back in May I found myself strolling the streets of London just observing the madness that is that city. And while out and about I spied a sign that made my skepticism gland secrete, so I snapped a photo and promised myself I'd look into it later. Here's the photo:

You probably can't see what aroused my suspicions so allow me to do what the movies make seem easy. ENHANCE! (I would have enhanced first, but I thought the car and door were worth seeing just because they're neat.)

See that? Chiropodist! That sounded fake. I had to know more. And generally knowing more is easy with a smartphone. But the UK had dumbed down my phone to the bare minimum, and I had to wait until back on Wifi to actually look things up. Which gave my mind time to wander...

Maybe a chiropodist is someone that does chiropratic with feet instead of hands? That's kind of gross. Maybe a chiropodist is someone who thinks that you need to manipulate the feet instead of the spine to control someone's vital energy? Maybe a chiropodist is someone who does chiropractic manipulations on the spine but only to fix problems with people's feet? I had fun imagining the options, but I wanted facts! So when I could I looked them up.

Turns out a chiropodist is just another older and more British word for a podiatrist, which is a medicalsub-specialty of medicine dealing with conditions of the feet. Podiatrists don't have MDs, the have DPMs which stands for Doctor of Podiatric Medicine. They can do pretty much whatever your foot needs, including surgical procedures, but they aren't supposed to treat above the ankle. I know it sounds nuts, but it's legit. Granted, orthopedic MDs can treat most foot problems too, but the foot is complicated enough that some orthopedic surgeons will toss a case to a podiatrist when available.

So my suspicions that I had discovered a new branch of alternative medicine were unfounded. My skepticism paid off, but really I should have been equally as skeptical of my own preconceptions against funny sounding medical professions. And isn't that an important lesson to be reminded of every now and again?

Ryan Haupt is one of the hosts of Science... sort of, a weekly podcast about things that are science, things that are sort of science, and things that wish they were science. Available for free on iTunes or wherever great podcasts are found.

by Ryan Haupt

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