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=http://digg.com/health/7_Things_You_Need_to_Know_About_Chiropractic_Therapy]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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  • I refuse to refer to chiropractors as “Dr. Soandso”. They are not doctors.

  • Seismicmike

    Wow! Thanks for this. I’ve heard countless people tell me that chiropractic care is a hack, but have never really seen laid out why. Thanks for the education.

  • blotonthelandscape

    A good article, but I have a feeling that what goes on in America is not a worldwide phenomenon. I have a friend who is studying chiropractic at a university in South Africa. It is a 7-year degree, and the level of anatomical and medical knowledge in the the course is equivalent to that of a doctor (she even gets her own cadaver!). When she comes out of it, she will be an MD, but with chiropractic techniques attached.

    And it does help a lot of people for whom “ordinary” medical treatment can’t or won’t help.

    So it is interesting to see the statistics, but I think the discipline itself is not the problem, it is the poor training in the US.

  • Change a few words here and there and it sounds like the Mormon religion.

  • Good post!
    It’s interesting to read about it’s origins.

    When I was a kid, I woke up one day with my neck “stuck” turned to one side. My mom took me to a chiropractor. I’ll never forget that guy cranked my head back and forth cracking my neck many times. I was amazed it felt fine after that, but it’s never been quite right since. I’ve always had neck issues. Of course I don’t really know if that is because of the original problem, or what the chiropractor did.

  • Anon
  • RobotzAreAwesome

    I’ve got some serious back pain for a young adult and have come to the same conclusions, as all chiro’s I’ve seen have been completely useless.

  • Reginald Selkirk

    Palmer claimed that 95% of all diseases were caused by displaced vertebrae, a belief many chiropractors today still hold

    It is a common claim of assorted quackery to be able to diagnose or treat all sorts of ailments all over the body by concentrating on one particular part. You will see similar claims in iridology, reflexology, etc.

    Mixers do away with the original dogma and only claim to help with back and neck problems.

    Even if “mixers” are willing to help patients with effective techniques from other disciplines, this does nothing to establish chiropractic as an effective discipline for either diagnosis or treatment. That could only be established through carefully controlled clinical trials (i.e. the scientific method), and chiropractic has never been shown to be effective in clinical trials.

    If a chiropractor diagnoses you with one leg longer than the other, be aware that this is probably completely bogus, and is one of the oldest tricks in the book.

    For a good dose of skepticism about “alternative medicine,” Check out the blog Respectful Insolence.

  • Marley

    When I was a kid, I was jumping on a trampoline and slipped and fell off, hurting my back. My parents took me to a chiropractor, who I assume was a mixer, because he made no claim to be able to cure disease with spine adjustments. My chiropractic adjustment didn’t involve any neck snapping; the whole experience was kind of like a really good massage.
    While I understand my experience with a chiropractor may be atypical and I can believe that there are a lot of hucksters conning people out of their money and causing spinal damage, I don’t see anything wrong with a good back-cracking every now and then, assuming you aren’t trying to cure cancer with it.

  • Nit-pick: “subluxation” is a legitimate medical term (check Wikipedia for the details) meaning a dislocation. I recently found this out when I had my hands X-rayed (on referral from my GP) due to finger-joint pain I’ve been having, and the report came back “no subluxations”. It’s only attributing every damn thing to subluxations of the spine (and then conveniently claiming to find such) that is bogus.

    As for “mixers”: I’ve had physio for back pain, which included some (lumbar) spinal manipulation, as well as exercise and other therapies. A lot of it sounds like what a chiro might do as well, but I figure, why not just stick to straight-up standard medicine, and avoid going near the borderline of Woo-Land?

  • Ngl

    Palmer college is actually within eyeshot of my apartment. It’s a nice campus and the students are good people but its weird to think that once they graduate with a non-medical degree, they are going to go out and open practices with the intention of “treating” people.

  • Francesco Orsenigo

    Nice article.
    Homeopathy’s next?

  • LRA

    I am always extremely skeptical of all “healing arts” outside of mainstream medicine. Just as I am somewhat skeptical of “healing arts” inside of mainstream medicine (especially pharmaceuticals– seeing as how they’re in it for the bucks and not the cure).

    If you have a serious medical problem, always get a second opinion!! Also, ask your doctor how new the medicine (s)he is prescribing you. It might still be in trials.

  • As an alternative, people thinking about chiropractic might want to consider an osteopath who performs chiropractic-style manipulations a regular part of his or her practice. These physicians are much more likely to integrate manipulation with exercise and referral for physical therapy. They also seem to offer a greater variety of manipulations and perform them using less force..

  • The British Chiropractic Association are suing Simon Singh over an article critical of chiropractic he wrote in the Guardian. As far as I recall, he didn’t write anything that was not supportable by evidence, so this may be an interesting trial to follow. Jack of Kent is following the process in his blog – see http://jackofkent.blogspot.com/2009/03/bca-v-singh-date-set-for-first-hearing.html for example.

  • I used to drive truck, therefore I suffer back pain, mostly due to the extra thirty or forty pounds I packed on during five years over the road.

    I’ve seen three or four bonecrackers in that time, and while I found them helpful I’ve needed them less and less as my life has changed to include a bit of exercise and better diet.

    It’s not that I’m not grateful, but even woo that apparently works is still woo. And it works for a set of specific symptoms. I’d never go to a chiro who claimed to have any effect on anything else.

  • marf

    Over the past half dozen years I have been seeing a straight chiropractor to help me (successfully) with the kinks I got from tension as a result of the stress in my life. The adjustments cost very little ($15) and I don’t need to make appointments. I’d like to see the mainstream medical community beat that.
    If I had anything other than one of those kinks in the back, though, I’d make an appointment (minimum of three days depending on severity of complaint), sit for hours in a waiting room being shuffled from one area to another (always bring a book along!), see a medical doctor for all of five minutes, and be handed “sample” pills some over-zealous pharmaceutical salesman wants the doctor to push … for a minimum of $40 (for a GP, $100 for a specialist), only a percentage of which goes toward my deductible. Lucky me to have any insurance at all.
    Interesting article. That bit about the neck snapping is worrying.

  • Reginald Selkirk

    The neck-cracking injuries were an issue in Canada a few years ago, and I believe that specific technique was outlawed.
    Cracking necks destroys lives

    I wonder if that episode led some chiropractors to get involved in politics to further their profession, to accomplish through influence on legislation what it fails to accomplish in clinical trials.

    James Lunney: Creationist, Chiropractor, Conservative

    Gary Goodyear “Clarifies” hist stance on evolution

    Both politicians described in those links are chiropractors and creationists. The latter, Gary Goodyear, is also Canada’s Minister of State (Science and Technology).

  • I’m with Dawkins on this issue. It’s doubly frustrating as a British taxpayer, because the National Health Service does fund alternative therapies such as acupuncture and chiropracty despite their being no evidence whatsoever that they offer any benefit above the natural background rate of people who’d get better anyway. I hate the idea that my money might be funding these people.

  • mstria

    Been lurking here for months and felt I had to speak up on this one.

    Back in the 80s my dad fell off from a roof at work. Because he had no health insurance he went first to a Chiro. The guy took x-rays, did an adjustment and sent him on his way with instructions to come back in for more “therapy”. My dad got progressively worse. He finally went to see the family doctor and with the original x-ray from the Chiro they found that his 4 of his small vertebra were broken. He ended up having to have a spinal fusion and still has problems to this day.

    On the other hand, I sprained my back a few years ago playing with my daughter. I was in so much pain I swear I’d rather give birth than go through that again. I went to the ER and spent the next 6hrs being pumped so full of pain killers I was either unconscious or incoherent. I was shuffled from one specialist to another and sent home with a prescription for vicodin and told it was just muscular and to stay off my feet (pretty funny since I couldn’t even stand on my own) and to keep heat on it.

    After days in a drug induced haze and personal hell I broke down and had my husband take me to a local Chiro. There I found out my back was in fact sprained and that putting heat on it was making me worse. He did not crack my back or do any adjustments. Instead he used a tens unit, instructed me to use cold packs on my back, take alternating ibuprofen and tylenol and a list of stretches and exercises to do to help me get better.
    I went in not being able to stand up straight, couldn’t walk without holding on to my husband. When I left I was able to walk on my own and my posture was noticeably a lot less stooped.

    I’m sure I would have gotten better (though much much slower) on my own. But I’m still astounded by the difference in care I received.
    Conventional medicine: Drugs, drugs and if that fails stronger drugs.
    My Chiropractor: Physical therapy

    That being said, I’d never go to a chiropractor for anything other than back problems. He’s not going to help me at all if I come down with any other ailments.

  • K

    I think you need to look at your sources. Yes, the first guy found it by accident (penicillin was supposedly discovered that way- do you have a problem with anti-biotics?) but there have been many advances since then.

    The first two years of Chiro school is the SAME as medical school. They are educated as doctors- only later they focus on the joints and muscles.

    Manipulations aren’t done if there is any risk of fractures of broken bones (after any trauma). In Canada, and the US, Chiropractors, along with Physiotherapists are working with doctors in spinal rehab clinics in hospitals!!! That has to say something about the validity of their practice.

    As for the neck cracking deaths, those are rare!! And often due to complications. Think of how many people are fine after appointments. Do you not fly because of the rare plane crashes you hear about on the news (you never hear about the millions of flights that land safely).

    People are right to have their concerns- the unknown is scary. But if you are having back or joint pain, and a medical doctor hasn’t helped, see a registered chiropractor and ask all the questions you want.

  • elflocko

    I guess I’ve had atypical experiences with chiropractors as well. Twelve years ago I was involved in a head-on automobile accident. The ER sent me home with instructions to use ice and ibuprofen. Within a couple of days I couldn’t move my neck, could barely stand up straight, and overall felt like crap. My company had a health fair, and I ran into a chiropractor. Though I had always considered them quacks, I relented to the pain and went in for a visit. I felt 100% better after the adjustment, and occasionally go back if I pull something or fall down a flight of stairs. However, part of that is due to the DC I go to being an anomaly in that he is one of the few I’ve met who isn’t a “used car salesman”. He’s never said “You need to come in 36 times for me to cure you” like I’ve heard from some, but rather “If you feel better, I’ll see you when I see you. If not, come back in a week or two”.

    Of course on the other hand, he is big into kineseology(sp?) which makes him sound like a raving lunatic at times, but he has never had a malpractice claim filed against him, let alone a stroke\death incident due to high neck manipulation.

    I would like for someone to supply statistics pertaining to the incidence of stroke\death\impairment due to neck manipulation just to see if it’s any more common statistically than say car accidents, prescription drug screw ups, botched surgeries, and assorted malpractice\tomfoolery, at least proportionally…

  • Not Delusioned

    I was not a believer in chiropractic, until I had a neck injury that traditional medicine could not heal. After months of agony, my former wife convinced me to try her Palmer-trained DC. 3 treatments later I was completely healed. A year or so later I had a back/hip injury and did not hesitate to visit same DC. 2 treatments later, problem solved. She was extremely gentle in her adjustments and very professional. It’s been 10 years since these events and I have been healthy in this regard, but would seek chiropractic treatment again with the right DC, as I do believe there are a lot of quacks in the profession.

  • Daniel I think this my be the first time since finding your site that I disagree with something you wrote, mostly points 4, 5 & 6.

    I didn’t have the time to pour into research on this, that I would have liked to before commenting, but suffice to say, that while many medical procedures that exist today can be traced back at least to ancient Egypt, I am willing to guesstimate that those procedures are more “medicine man” than Doogie Houser, and are also likely steeped in religion like many other healers. Just because this particular vein of medicine has come from dubious roots, doesn’t mean it couldn’t & hasn’t evolved into something more practical and useful.

    Maybe it has something to do with our societies increasing need for instant gratification. I dunno, but I was not a “follower” at first. I suffer from back pain as result of aggravated injury. I did my time with prescription drugs and therapy (California even offered the option of medicinal marijuana). My first trip to a chiro doc was only because I was desperate and had a family friend who had been practicing for 15 years or so. I was tense and nervous about him hurting me…and I walked out almost pain free after one visit. After a few more I didn’t need to return again until years later.

    And the doc, wasn’t all touchy-feely and brimming with naturopathic remedies. He in fact used his techniques in conjunction with recommended further physical therapy. He was straight forward, to the point and wanted to fix my problem at hand. There are some who like to set you down the road of regular visits to keep you “healthy”, that’s where it starts to become expensive.

    Currently my close friend is in his 3rd year (of 5 or 6 total, I think) at chiro college and I have had some very deep conversations with him about his schooling. One topic that actually arose recently was about how all the chiro schools have and are continuing to add, more and more medical classes to round out their training. He studies the nervous system, the musculature of the body, he works on cadavers, and studies bones and ligaments and now how to administer shots and take blood and deliver a baby and all kinds of other things that I never would have imagined would be needed as a chiro doc. But yet that IS what he is becoming…a chiropractic doctor, an MD.

    So if we start recognizing these procedures as truly medical procedures then you can start comparing the potential risks to other medical procedures too. Even if you want to consider “non-essential” procedures…how about how the risks of death when people go in for cosmetic alterations, lypo, boob implants, etc…My point is, if you look hard enough, you can find potential risk in anything.

    In item 7 you fail to acknowledge the conclusions from that survey: “The professions differ in the major reasons for disciplinary actions. Two thirds (67%) of the doctors of chiropractic were disciplined for fraud and sexual boundary issues, compared with 59% for negligence and substance misuse for medical physicians. Additional study in each profession may reveal methods to identify causes and possible intervention for those who are at high risk.”

    Most notably you are comparing the indiscretions of medical practitioners with the very people you claim are NOT real medical practitioners. So which one is it; Apples to oranges or apple to apples? Seems all this survey really does is show that the high stress MD’s take drugs and screw up more than the low stress MD’s who “screw around” and look for ways to make more money…in California…I am Jack’s complete lack of surprise. To me, it just goes to show that we probably need to start treating chiro MD’s like any other MD…including when it comes to rules and conduct.

    Your conclusion is not wrong, in that “Chiropractic therapy can legitimately help [many] problems. But instead of being the first option, it should probably be the last.” However in this day and age it is unfair, unwise and frankly naive, to assume that all chiro science is shaky, risky, expensive and ineffective.

    So the saying goes…millions of satisfied customers can’t be wrong. Of course many of your detractors would say the same about religion, so don’t take my word for it ;)


  • Dave F

    This article is somewhat nicely written, and like most propaganda has some intelligence to it. However, I live in the world of facts. I have studied anatomy and physiology and understand that the spine can pinch nerves causing massive amounts of pain which modern medicine tries to treat by using addicting pain killers. One of the rib heads in my back behind my should blades keeps popping out. Of course, the best treatment is exercise and to stop doing the thing that makes it worse – which happens to be sitting at computers. Well, it hurt so freakin bad, that I couldn’t do a push up. I went to a doctor who tried to give me pain pills and he said to ice it and that it would gradually feel better. I told a family member about the pain, she recommended her chiropractor. I went to see him and he explained in a very easy to understand way what had happened with my rib head. 15 minutes later after relaxing in his office he popped it back in for me. I have never felt such relief. The pain was gone immediately. I’ve seen him several times since. His advice and techniques have helped improve my quality of life greatly. I also am able to exercise with out the severe pain I was feeling.

    So, before you take too much from this blog, do some research. Visit a chiropractor or twelve, interview them, ask what their techniques are. Check out the office, see how busy it is. The chiropractor I visit is busy all of the time, no matter when I go to his office. He wouldn’t be that busy for several years now if he was a “quack.”

  • Be careful what you read, lest you miss out on true experience.

    Stephen Barrett, also, though well-published in his quack-busting theories, is not all that he’s “quacked” up to be: http://www.canlyme.com/quackwatch.html

  • Thaddeus Dombrowski

    I have had chronic back problems for about 11 years. I have seen several chiropractors. One was truly beneficial. He used something called the “Molar method” (not sure on the spelling).

    This chiropractor didn’t manipulate the spine. Instead, he worked to relieve muscular tension to achieve a balance in opposing forces affecting the spine.

    Of the others, one was somewhat reckless in adjusting my back without understanding what the problem was. This was before my herniated disc was diagnosed by a medical doctor.

    I have since found that by practicing yoga I don’t need to see chiropractors at all. I have been doing bikram yoga for about 8 months and have been feeling much better.

  • adrielhampton

    If chiro works for you, do it. If not, don’t. I find it reduces frequency of colds and have found it more effective than most MD treatments. Oh, and I checked all this out before starting any treatment. I’ve had one chiro who didn’t do much good, and two who are great.

  • Thaddeus Dombrowski

    BTW, if any chiropractor tells you of a story of having a spinal adjustment as a baby, leave immediately. I have heard this story repeated by two different doctors, and have come to learn of others who also tell the same story. It seems to be some sort of marketing shtick they pick up.

    The story is that during childbirth the doctor pulled them out by the head resulting in a sublexed spinal column. They couldn’t stop crying, no matter what Mom and Dad tried to do for the baby. Finally, after losing days of sleep and being at wit’s end, they heard about a chiropractor who might help. The chiropractor adjusted the baby’s neck and from that point on the baby was sweet as sugar.

  • Mike Moats

    Interesting subject and responses. I watch a lot of different sports, football, basketball, baseball, hockey, golf. I have heard that these sports teams all have a chiros that do adjustments on these multi millions dollar players. My question is if this is a bunch of quacks cracking backs and necks that your saying is bad, why would these teams risk these players to a scam. I would think the teams would have researched this practice and found that is was benefical or they wouldn’t take a chance on screwing up one of their star players.

  • eastkentuckygal

    I am a fan of chiropractic and while some of the things you posted may be true, I have found that it works for my family. It has kept me from having to go on pain meds to treat a severe curvature in my spine. It helped me carry an 11 pound infant to 41 weeks and 6 days without significant pain even with a pubis separation. It has kept my youngest daughter healthy and strong when coupled with cranio sacral therapy. It has improved her sleep and her immune system. I believe that western medicine is so flawed in its approach to treating disease that I’m way more comfortable with going to alternatives first. Oh, and I don’t have insurance. Chiropractic is way more affordable than a regular doctor.

  • Christian Robot

    The only quack here is the one that wrote this article.

  • my chiro saved my life when I was pregnant with my son and crawling across the floor because of sciatic pain. He had me 99% better after my first visit. No one else could help, the MD told me there was nothing I could do. My chiro made me able to walk again. Much better than taking drugs for it no? Plus getting an adjustment is good for my anxiety attacks.

    Chiros rock my world.

  • J

    While the history of chiropractic does seem questionable, the profession has come a long way from there. Many schools (especially the internationally recognized ones – many schools in the US are not internationally recognized because they are not held up to the standards set by regulatory bodies) are accredited and evidenced based. Techniques and research are incorporated into teaching the new generation of chiropractors. “Cracking backs” is no longer the cure all. A good chiropractor will prescribe exercise/rehab, and will do soft tissue work as well.

    Adjusting/manipulation is still a large part of the profession but in many cases, it is considered a “last resort.” Meck adjusting is taught but students are hammered to look for red flags and to be cautious of the risk. It is an adjustment of necessity. If you go see a DC who suggests a neck adjustment if your knee hurts, RUN AWAY.

    Science courses are taught in the curriculum and are taught by professors either holding MD’s, PhD’s or both. Interprofessional programs are a huge success – med students are often surprised at the high standards chiro students are held to, and as well as the labs and facilities and classes. In addition, it is not just “4 years” Admission to a chiropractic college is second entry with a minimum of 3 years of undergrad with prerequisites. Going through the course is also not just enough. Standard regulated board exams (just like medical doctors) are written at graduation to obtain a license to practice. Boards are written in 3-4 parts, 6 hour exams for each part.

    I’m not suggesting that DC’s can cure everything. With all health care related treatments there is a risk, whether it be stroke from a neck adjustment or from taking the wrong dosage/mixture of pharmaceuticals. Chiro’s are specialized in muscles, joints, bones, and the associated neurology. They are the “non-surgical spine specialists.” Although I tend to think of them as joint specialists as they can do wonderful things with extremities as well!

    I see both a MD and and DC. There are some things my MD just cannot do for me. I am a competitive athlete.
    My DC is also a fellow of sports rehab, with post graduate degrees in sports medicine, rehab and orthopedics. When I get injured on the field, I can get pack into the game faster than if I saw my MD who’d prescribe me a few pain killers and tell me to rest. Yes, I’m sure I can visit a PT as well, but I feel my DC is more qualified and educated to give me the care I need.

    As for being more expensive than conventional medicine-not really. If you don’t have a drug plan or have insurance, visiting your MD can become quite costly.

    There are quacks out there that give chiropractors a bad name. As with all health care issues, do your research, find out what techniques they use, what school they went to, how they practice, and what they can do for you. Make an informed decision. Use your head and your judgment.

  • I’ve heard a lot of things to go against Chiropractors but nobody had much of a back story. Interesting read.

  • Sam

    Daniel –

    I researched the strange bahaviors of another “quack” recently that reminded me of your post. He was a chronic date setter who obsessed over the Book of Revelation looking for future prophecy “clues.” Drawing from his extensive knowledge of Neoplatonism and other alternative occult movements such as alchemy, this guy also believed in some universal fluid that promoted interconnectivity throughout the cosmos. The effects of this fluid could be felt on earth due to its possession of a spiritual quality.

    Who was he? Isaac Newton.

    His occult-based theory? Gravity.

    Of course, we have sanitized Newton’s origins of gravity for the sake of scientific naturalism, but rarely has anything been discovered in an intellectual or religious vaccuum. That’s more of a new idea in our society (something to continue studying, I suppose). The scientific method may be “neutral” in it’s ability empirically measure data. But people are not…and I suppose that will always be the case.


  • Stankly

    Chiropracters offer alternative treatment. Most physicians today are money centers. They run their practice like money machines, cramming and stacking appointments together. They have no bedside manner, don’t even know who you are and prescribe the same drugs and treatment to everyone. They don’t think outside the box because of liability. They do the standard, might as well be a plumber.

    I would say only 20% of all physicians really care about curing people, the rest 80% are thinking about their fourth wife and how to keep her from gouging him for what he has worked hard for!!

    Most conventional MD’s (are surgeons) prescribe surgery quickly because they make astronomical amounts of money doing the surgery. Just 20-30 years ago, you would never have this many people having back or neck surgeries and these seniors today seem to be doing fine without it. Some are stacking surgeries per day now because they can make multi millions by forty. Unfortunately many doctors are unhappy married to high maintenance females that make them work, work, work……….While their patient’s quality of care goes down, down, down, down……

  • bdemong

    I have no strong opinion about chiropractice — perhaps I will investigate further if it becomes relevant — but I am very interested to see that so many of the responses are on the order of “I have a personal experience, and…”

    10,000,000 Elvis fans *can* be wrong.

  • libertybaptist

    Chiropractors aren’t all bad. Doctors aren’t all good. I had a lady in my church with excruciating back pain. She didn’t believe in chiropractors, so she only went to doctors. They said she “had bone cancer” and recommended exploratory surgery. I suggested that she see the chiropractor, and she waddled into the room. The chiropractor didn’t lay a hand on her; he just asked one question: “Are you on cholesterol lowering medicine?” She said, “Yes.” And he said, “That’s your problem. And if you stop taking it today, it will still take six months for you to heal and stop having pain.” She quit the medicine. She didn’t have cancer. And in six months the pain went away.

    By the way, if you want to say that the chiropractory discipline was started by a quack, well just answer this one question: who were all the quacks bleeding people in the 17th and 18th centuries: doctors or chiropractors?

    I think you know the answer: DOCTORS.

    • A.Ou

      “I think you know the answer: DOCTORS.”
      You give a straw man argument – the practice of medicine, to which you owe your health, has progressed fairly well since the 18th century.

  • oregonnerd

    And interesting that osteopathic doctors use chiropractic techniques. Prejudice is a part of being able to decide; prejudgment is the inability to learn–and it would seem an absolute statement would be a good indication of prejudgment. Faith is faith. It just depends on what sorts of names you want to use to justify it.

  • What the majority of people don’t realize is that there is nothing a chiro does that is a “miracle”…popping joints doesn’t do anything but put them back in their “normal” state…then you walk out of the office and carry on your regular routine, and a gazillion things are gonna cause that horrible, nasty, deadly “subluxation” to recur…

    gravity places stress on the spine…
    sleeping in the same position places stress on the spine…
    driving…reading…using a computer…

    all of these are things we encounter day in and day out.

    when you pop a joint, it does nothing to relieve the tissues surrounding it that are stressed out. the joint doesn’t cause the problems…the tissues have more power.

    once I got savvy to this…and realized I wasn’t to be brainwashed, I began asking the last ‘quacktor I worked for all kinds of questions…trying to get answers…the typical response was “because it works.”

    one day I asked him something along the lines of “so, how come you can’t just stretch the tight muscles and strengthen the weak ones that oppose them?”

    he gave me a funny look and didn’t say anything.

    I feel what I do as a Fitness Professional carries a TON more weight than what any ‘quacktor out there can do. I don’t enable my clients…I don’t brainwash them and try to use scare tactics to sell them on “corrective care” plans that last a lifetime. I want my clients to be empowered and to take control of their health. If the public knew of the crap I witnessed working for the last quack, he’d be shut down by now. Insurance fraud, faulty x-ray readings…you name it.


  • Just thought of another thing…I dated a chiro years and years ago…make that a decade, to be exact…who was actually back in school…to become an MD. Prior to this, I would see his commercials on TV and he was the typical handsome younger chiropractor dude…big white grin and all…and at the same time I knew of another who was trying to get into law school.

    I feel many view chiro as a way of making easy money…then they get into it and realize they were stupid to be thinking that way in the first place, and stuck in something that cost them an arm and a leg to get to.

    I keep having flashbacks…one of which is the last dude I worked for…he had these “drop” tables…they would make this sound when you performed an adjustment…to me, it seemed to be somewhat for theatrical effect…he would pop the back or hip or whatever he was doing…the table would drop an inch or so, make a noise, and he’d gently remove his hands slowly, as if he had the magic touch and had healed the poor patient. The best was when the patient would look up at him with this “that’s it?” expression. Priceless.

    The scripts make me sick. No wonder at the time I felt compelled to stop at the store on the way home to pick up a few beers…I didn’t even like beer. Working there drove me to my wits end. I was disgusted just being a part of that charade. I would have to say stuff like “your body has an innate ability to heal itself. When a subluxation occurs, it puts pressure on nerves that are responsible for sending messages throughout the body. When these messages are interfered with, the body can’t function as it optimally should…yadda yadda yadda.” What a crock of sh*t!

    Wow…okay, i’d better stop because i’m realizing I could get carried away with stories!

  • artpage1

    Dr. J wasn’t a real doctor either. He was pretty knowledgeable about dribbling and Chapstick though.

    Is it true that if a chiropractor snaps a man’s back just right that he can get a something called a priapism?

  • Alan

    What exactly is your deal here? You’re using Wikipedia (not a reliable source of facts) and a biased, anti-chiropractic website (also not reliable, obviously because it is anti-chiropractic) to support a bunch of baseless slander against a profession of which you seem to have no knowledge or first-hand experience about. Some of the information you posted was completely incorrect, with no citation or anything. Even the sources you do list are highly suspect and without much close examination it is easy to find flaws in them. Did you notice that the JRSM study you posted, “Adverse effects of spinal manipulation” is not an actual study, but instead just the reported findings after searching through a bunch of other studies specifically looking for adverse effects of said manipulations. The biggest problem being that these “manipulations” were not necessarily performed by Chiropractors, in fact it even lists so in the study. Only 32 cases over a six-year period could even be found in the entire database, and ten of those were not even performed by Chiropractors. One manipulation was performed by an MD, another by an Orthopedic Surgeon, a Shiatsu practitioner, other professions weren’t even stated.

    This blog posting is not a skeptic view of Chiropractic, this is an anti-chiropractic piece written with prejudice. You do not know enough information about D.D. Palmer nor B.J. Palmer to say that they were “quacks”. Further, you do not have any knowledge about Chiropractic or even higher education in general based on what you wrote. A medical doctor goes to Medical school, practices medicine and they become Medical Doctors; hence the M.D. at the end of their title. A doctor of chiropractic goes to Chiropractic school, practices chiropractic and they become Doctors of Chiropractic; hence the D.C. at the end of their title. Both MDs and DCs must complete basically identical undergraduate work before being accepted to their respected schools. Both MDs and DCs also must complete their rigorous graduate program, both must take extensive board exams to become licensed and both are required to continue their education to remain licensed. So, your typical Chiropractic student will require about SEVEN to EIGHT years of college before they can be licensed to practice. And yes, they are doctors just a different kind. It’s not a trick or scam as you put it, their degrees lists them as Doctors of Chiropractic and they earn the title of Doctor.

  • A good site for informing yourself about medical quackery is . I am copying below the beginning of a Quackwatch article by Stephen Barrett, M.D., about acupuncture, another system of “alternative” medicine that is based on ancient Chinese superstition instead of the fevered thinking of a possibly mad medical quack who lived not all that long ago.

    (By the way, it is important to keep two things in mind: [1] Just because some tradition is ancient, that does not mean that it is not completely based on superstition and [2] coining a new word in a language does not necessarily create a new reality.

    (Chinese “chi” forces have all the reality of the luminiferous ether, which was thought to be the “atmosphere” that carried light the way air and water carry sound, or phlogiston, an ethereal substance that was thought to be the essential ingredient of fire before oxygen was discovered. [Harleigh Kyson Jr.])

    Anyhow, here is the beginning of Dr. Barrett’s article:

    “Chinese medicine,” often called “Oriental medicine” or “traditional Chinese medicine (TCM),” encompasses a vast array of folk medical practices based on mysticism. It holds that the body’s vital energy (chi or qi) circulates through channels, called meridians, that have branches connected to bodily organs and functions. Illness is attributed to imbalance or interruption of chi.. Ancient practices such as acupuncture, Qigong, and the use of various herbs are claimed to restore balance.

    Traditional acupuncture, as now practiced, involves the insertion of stainless steel needles into various body areas. A low-frequency current may be applied to the needles to produce greater stimulation. Other procedures used separately or together with acupuncture include: moxibustion (burning of floss or herbs applied to the skin); injection of sterile water, procaine, morphine, vitamins, or homeopathic solutions through the inserted needles; applications of laser beams (laserpuncture); placement of needles in the external ear (auriculotherapy); and acupressure (use of manual pressure).

    Treatment is applied to “acupuncture points,” which are said to be located throughout the body. Originally there were 365 such points, corresponding to the days of the year, but the number identified by proponents during the past 2,000 years has increased gradually to about 2,000. Some practitioners place needles at or near the site of disease, whereas others select points on the basis of symptoms. In traditional acupuncture, a combination of points is usually used.

  • seasofsilver

    BUT it feels so GOOD!!!!!

  • A goo dread, well researched and presented, it is always good to know as much about something as possible

  • I find it interesting how the only argument people are giving is “but it worked for me (or someone I know)!” It’s like religion — that actually has nothing to do with truth. People who support alternative medicine always say it works for someone — and it does. But that doesn’t mean they got better because of the alternative medicine. They often go when they are at their worst, and there is only better to get (unless they die, in which case they are not around to say it didn’t work). Or they changed something else they are not remembering. Or any number of other things.

    Correlation is not causation. We can’t trust our “common sense” when it comes to this stuff. That’s why bloodletting was so popular — it seemed to everyone to work. Doctors were all saying “but it works for me!” But they were wrong — they were being fooled by their “common sense.” So instead of trusting in anecdotes, we must trust in actual, controlled, clinical trials. That is what proved bloodletting wrong, and that’s what proves chiropractic therapy is only as effective as basic conventional treatments, but more risky often more expensive (because you have to go so often).

    It’s not about whether it works for some people. It matters whether it works for a group of people in controlled testing conditions, compared to a placebo group and a control group. And that’s what this is based on. If you’re going to argue, you have to argue with that. Not that it worked for you, your grandma, or your dog. That doesn’t matter. Taking a sugar pill works for many people. That doesn’t mean it is effective.

  • blogbalm

    All problems asside, I plead the case for these professionals in one arena, and that is the accusations of sexual assualt. I have had chiropractic care and it is easy to understand why people would be uncomfortable with the process, and some might even draw some very wrong conclusions. People’s lives have been ruined from these false accusations of sexual assualt. Proffesionals from every field of medicine have been accused, but because chiropractic therapy is so shady, people are more apt to beleive a chiropractor is guilty than someone from another profession. It’s a shame that people continue to make blind accusations like this. We have not improved at all from the days of witch hunts…

    I am not for or against chiropractic therapy. I don’t beleive it is sufficient as a cure for a diesese, nor a replacement for regular medical care. If it is just a case of minor back discomfort, however, it certainly is legitimate. I do not agree with medicine’s obsession with vaccinating for everything. They very conveniently cover up the instances where vaccinations go wrong. One of those cases happened to be my older sister. Needless to say I sign waivers for vaccinations these days.

  • bigdesk

    The Museum of Chiropractic,(The Palmer School of Chiropractic in Davenport IA) is as close to the weirdest funhouse as any place I have ever seen. The chiropractic axiom is that there are nerves that travel to every organ in the body. If there is an interruption of the nerve function, disease will result. All disease is a result of this. They can account for every decease based upon interruption of the nervous system and that includes cancer. They say the patient should not give up the treatment because it may take a long time.
    Very Dangerous for somebody with cancer.

  • Annie

    These writings are full of bull and I’m so tired of it. First of all, it has been proven that patients who experience strokes after going to a chiropractor are already in the process of dissection. What that means is that they would’ve had it anyway. Why do you think my malpractice insurance is a minute fraction of what a medical doctor pays? It’s because going to a chiropractor is safe. My degree requires the same courses as an MDs with the exclusion of drugs and surgery and the reason I became a chiropractor is because it made people well, not for the neck and backaches it fixes. I studied health, wellness and nutrition in school unlike MDs. I have patients coming to me because the physical therapist hurt them more, in fact, I it should be considered malpractice for an MD not to refer injured patients to the chiropractor.

  • LRA

    Ok- I feel compelled to respond to the people on this post that say that a chiropractor studies essentially the same curriculum as a doctor. That is total horse sh*t.

    Here is a link to the curriculum of the “third oldest chiropractic school in the nation”:


    Here is a link to the curriculum of the Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons:


    Seriously. Not. Even. Close.

  • From http://www.quackwatch.com, I got the following comments about subluxations and interference with the body’s nerve supply, which apparently can be increased or decreased:

    “Chiropractic theory is rooted in the notions of Daniel David Palmer, a grocer and “magnetic healer” who postulated that the basic cause of disease was interference with the body’s nerve supply. Approximately a hundred years ago, he concluded that

    “A subluxated vertebrae . . . is the cause of 95 percent of all diseases. . . . The other five percent is caused by displaced joints other than those of the vertebral column.” He proclaimed that subluxations interfered with the body’s expression of “Innate Intelligence”—the “Soul, Spirit, or Spark of Life” that controlled the healing process. He proposed to remedy the gamut of disease by manipulating or “adjusting” the problem areas.”

    Practitioners of psychistic medicine agree with chiropractors about all this. Unfortunately, chiropractors do not understand that instead of subluxations of vertebrae, the real cause of all these problems is psychomagnetic storms producing distortions in the different parts of a person’s aura that control these physiological functions in the human body.

    Harleigh Kyson Jr.

  • Here is an interesting video in which, among other things, a chiropractor tells why he left the profession because he ultimately developed the intellectual integrity to realize that he was unqualified to practice medicine.


    Harleigh Kyson Jr.

  • Here is some information about a support group for people who have been victimized by chiropractors that I am copying from http://www.quackwatch.com:

    “Victims of Chiropractic, http://www.vocact.com, is a support network and clearinghouse for reliable information on chiropractic’s hazards and foibles. We are closely allied with Quackwatch, the National Council Against Health Fraud, and the National Association for Chiropractic Medicine (a chiropractic reformist group).

    “Our educational outreach also includes basic information on the psychology of quackery and human vulnerability. V.O.C. was founded in 1991 by George J. Magner, III, author of Chiropractic: The Victim’s Perspective . I assumed leadership in 1997, shortly before Magner’s untimely death from colon cancer.

    “Peter J. Modde, D.C., a chiropractor who began speaking out publicly about chiropractic’s shortcomings during the 1970s, warned that: Chiropractic is based on a false theory. Its practitioners are inadequately trained in diagnosis, and most do not know their limitations. . . .

    “Since chiropractors are licensed as “doctors,” most people who consult them expect to be “properly medically diagnosed.”

    “Patients also assume that if their problem is beyond the scope of chiropractic, they will be referred to an appropriate practitioner. . . . The more the patient relies on the chiropractor for diagnosis of his case, the more vulnerable he will be.

    “Patients who use chiropractors as their primary physicians, either because they don’t know any better or because they have been turned off by orthodox medical care, run the greatest risk .”

    Harleigh Kyson Jr.

  • Here is some interesting information I got from http://www.quackwatch.com about several books that look very interesing. I don’t know how long ago this information was posted onto Quackwatch, so the books may be out of print. You may be able to find used copies of them at amazon.com if they are not readily available from their publishers:

    “George Magner has produced a comprehensive report on chiropractic’s history, current status, marketing tactics, dubious diagnostics and therapeutics, insurance abuses, dangers, “chiropractic pediatrics,” and more. Thoroughly referenced. Edited by Stephen Barrett, M.D. Hardcover, 260 pages, 50 illustrations, $27.

    “Stephen Barrett, M.D., and Victor Herbert, M.D., J.D., explain in detail why the industry is a form of organized crime. The topics include propaganda techniques, “nutrition insurance,” “stress vitamins,” the pharmacy connection, “ergogenic aids,” dubious diagnostic tests, fad diagnoses, nutrition cultism, the endless parade of gurus, the multilevel mirage, “chiropractic nutrition,” homeopathic fakery, elaborate marketing schemes, nutrition and the media, “vitamin wars,” companies that have marketed illegally, and glossary of supplements and “health foods.” Hardcover, 548 pages, 100 illustrations, $30. (Canada 31.00)

    “Jack Raso, M.S., R.D., examines the practices and philosophic underpinnings of more than 200 types of “alternative” methods and describes personal experiences with many. Features ayurveda, Qigong, reiki, yoga, macrobiotics, “body psychotherapies,” “mystical” chiropractic, Cayce remedies, naturopathy, Natural Hygiene. Hardcover, 275 pages, $30.

    “The most important and comprehensive book about quackery ever published. Covers chiropractic, homeopathy, naturopathy, acupuncture, faith healing, vitamin pushers, mail-order quackery, “fad” diagnoses, overselling of herbs, cancer and arthritis quackery, unproven “allergies,” dubious dentistry, multilevel marketing, immunoquackery, “organic” foods, weight-control facts/fads, occult practices, holistic hodgepodge, prominent promoters, why quackery persists, what can be done, and more. Edited by Stephen Barrett, M.D., and William T. Jarvis, Ph.D. Foreword by Ann Landers. Hardcover, 544 pages, $30. (Canada $31.00)

    “Reports on the author’s investigations of macrobiotics, Edgar Cayce, Anthroposophic medicine, multilevel marketing (Km and Nature’s Sunshine), mail-order nutrition, chiropractic nutrition, naturopathy, “complementary” and “alternative” medicine, Gerson diet, Natural Hygiene, Ayurvedic medicine, nutripathy, and schools offering dubious credentials. By Jack Raso, M.S., R.D. Edited by Stephen Barrett, M.D. Hardcover, 300 pages, $29.

    “A treasure-trove of information on scores of dubious products and practices. Covers leading “diet gurus and “experts to be wary of,” talk-show quackery, chiropractic, acupuncture, naturopathy, Ayurveda, multilevel marketers, and scores of modern “snake-oil” products. By antiquackery activist Kurt Butler. Edited by Stephen Barrett, M.D. Softcover, 310 pages, $20.

    “Hard-hitting exposé by Stephen Barrett, M.D., and the editors of Consumer Reports Books. Covers arthritis quackery, dubious cancer therapy, fringe medicine, fad diagnoses, chiropractic, mercury-amalgam scam, weight control frauds, real vs. bogus allergies, many other rip-offs, and 38 tips on how to avoid being quacked. Out-of-print. Supply limited. Softcover, 250 pages, $14.”

    Harleigh Kyson Jr.

  • It would be nice if someone could provide a URL leading directly to this information.

    Harleigh Kyson Jr.

  • Logan

    Okay, I have to step in here in defense of chiro. Call it a personal bias (my father is a chiropractor), but I think chiropractic gets a bad rap based on the wild ideas of the “straight” crowd. My dad does two things that I feel give his practice more legitimacy than the quacks – he only recommends his treatments for orthopedic purposes, and he doesn’t limit himself to the spine (he once adjusted my wrist after I took a hard fall on it).

    And what the hell is the deal with refusal to address chiropractors by the term “doctor”? It’s an academic distinction, not a medical one. In a few years, I intend to pursue a Ph.D. in Literary and Cultural Studies. When I complete it, would anyone consider not calling me Dr. Logan simply on the basis that I don’t have a medical degree?