7 Things You Need to Know About Chiropractic Therapy

7 Things You Need to Know About Chiropractic Therapy April 6, 2009

1) It was founded by a quack.

Daniel David Palmer discovered the power of spinal manipulation by allegedly healing a deaf man by repositioning a vertebrae in his spine. Shortly after, he healed someone with heart trouble through the same technique. Convinced he discovered a new medical technique, he opened the Palmer School of Chiropractic in 1897.

Palmer claimed that 95% of all diseases were caused by displaced vertebrae, a belief many chiropractors today still hold. To explain this, he invented new terms like “subluxation” (a displacement of the spine), which resulted in a blockage of the body’s “innate intelligence.” Whatever that means.

He refused to acknowledge the role of germs in sickness and was taken to court numerous times. His “persecution” put fuel on the fire of his new religion, where he compared himself to Jesus, Mohammed, Joseph Smith, and Martin Luther.

2) It was spread by the quack’s son, a fraud.

In 1913, Daniel Palmer was ran over in a parade by his son, Bartlett Palmer. He died a few weeks later. Some believe it was no accident, as the father and son were quarreling over chiropractic treatments. Bartlett was an entrepreneur and invented the “neurocalometer,” which he claimed detected subluxations. He sold them to 2,000 gullible graduates from his college for the price of a house.

His customers ended up dissatisfied with his product, so he was sued. It ended up all the device contained was a thermocouple — that is, an electric thermometer.

With his new riches, he created one of America’s first radio stations in 1922. In between news and general programming, the station carried lectures by Palmer, helping the chiropractic movement gain unwarranted credibility and popularity.

3) There are two kinds of chiropractors: straight and mixers.

Think of straights as fundamentalists and mixers as liberals. Straights strictly adhere to Palmer’s original teachings about subluxations and innate intelligence. They are skeptical about germ theory and vaccinations and believe chiropractic therapy can heal 95% of diseases. They are, in other words, quacks. We can only be thankful Palmer didn’t prescribe blood letting, lest these zealots try and continue the practice today.

Mixers do away with the original dogma and only claim to help with back and neck problems. If you need to go to a chiropractor because conventional medicine isn’t working for you, be sure to go to a mixer.

4) Chiropractic neck manipulations can cause strokes.

Don’t let a chiropractor snap your neck. There are two arteries that are threaded through the neck vertebrae, causing them to kink. This is usually fine, except when the neck is stretched and suddenly turned — exactly what chiropractors do. It can tear the lining of the artery, which can form a blot clot.

This has caused strokes for patients. For instance, it happened to Laurie Mathiason in 1997, as well as several other documented cases.

5) Chiropractic therapy is no more effective than therapeutic exercise, and is more expensive and risky.

Back problems are difficult to live with and difficult to treat. Conventional medicine has struggled to produce very effective treatments for back problems, so it is tempting to try alternative treatments — especially chiropractic therapy. But studies have not shown that chiropractic therapy is any more effective than conventional medicine. Worse, it is usually more expensive and risky.

After reviewing the studies done on chiropractic therapy compared with conventional medicine, the authors of Trick or Treatment? had this to say:

In terms of dealing with the underlying problem, doctors might recommend physiotherapy or exercise. And in terms of dealing with symptoms, doctors often prescribe non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NASIDs), such as ibuprofen. These approaches are, however, only mildly or marginally effective. A truly life-changing cure for back pain has not been found.

When the two approaches are compared against each other, spinal manipulation versus conventional medicine, the result is that each is just about as effective (or non-effective) as the other…. Spinal manipulation might help those who suffer with back pain, but conventional approaches offer similarly marginal levels of benefit….

Because physiotherapeutic exercise is a much safer treatment than chiropractic manipulation, we would strongly recommend the former rather than the latter as the first choice.

6) A “Doctor of Chiropractic” (DC) does not mean they are a medical doctor.

Most chiropractors put “Dr.” before their name. This might fool you into thinking they’re a medical doctor — but they’re not. A DC means the practitioner completed a 4 year chiropractic course.

That might make them an expert in cracking backs and snapping necks, but it does not make them a medical doctor, and they should not serve as a primary healthcare provider. They did not attend medical school, unless they have more than a MD as well as a DC, which is rare.

7) Chiropractors have a high fraud and sexual transgression rate.

According to a California survey in 2004, compared to medical doctors, chiropractors are:

  • 2x more likely to be involved in malpractice
  • 9x more likely to be practicing fraud
  • 2x more likely to transgress sexual boundaries

Be sure to check the reputation of a chiropractor if you are going to see one.


[digg=]Chiropractic therapy can legitimately help some back problems. But instead of being the first option, it should probably be the last. The science of it is shaky, the risks are real, and even for back problems, it has not been shown to be more effective than conventional treatments like therapeutic exercise or pain relievers.

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