There are a lot of alternative medicines out there. Chiropractic is one of the most popular that people flock to, regardless of the fact that there is no supporting scientific evidence. The reason I initially ventured into researching Chiropractic is simply because I wanted to know if it was reliable. I thought that, like any other person, you would want to look into the credibility of a service before paying money to it. Turns out I was wrong. Millions of people give away money to a service which has absolutely no supporting evidence at all. However, don’t let my opinion do the talking, I’ll share with you what brought me to this conclusion.
➡ Origin of Chiropractic
Firstly, Chiropractic was founded by DD Palmer in the 1890’s. DD Palmer was from Pickering, Ontario. This may come to a surprise to many people, but DD Palmer claims that he was taught the ways of Chiropractic from a deceased doctor, Dr. Jim Atkinson, from the afterlife. He claims that Dr. Jim Atkins is an intellectual spirit who taught him how to heal. To further this, Palmer related the healing ability with hands to that of Christ. This is where the word “Chiropractic” comes from. The Greek letters X and P are, respectively, Chi and Rho. This is Christ. This is the symbol you commonly see in religious context to represent Christ. Chiropractic literally translates to Christ-practice; practicing the art of Christ.
+ D.D. Palmer. (1914). The Chriopractor. Health Research Books.
➡ The Basics of Chiropractic
Further in time, Chiropractic received a lot of attention and a lot of efforts to support it’s science. The crux of Chiropractic lays within two parties:
* Straights: Focusing on spinal adjustments and innate intelligence
* Mixers: Focusing on integrating spinal adjustments with other mediums such as nutritional supplements, acupuncture, etc.
In both cases, the reasoning behind the effectiveness of spinal adjustments lays within subluxations or vertebral luxations. In short, subluxations are the symptoms caused by mis-alignment in the spine. Many Chiropractors will argue that a significant majority (DD Palamer quoted at 95%) of all biological pathology lays within the spine. Even more, they argue that the remaining percentage is joint and limb mis-alignments.
That’s it. Everything else is methods on re-aligning the spine. Now, my question was, “Is there any evidence?”. Of course, I’d like to know for certain that it has been proven effective before ever venturing to have someone manipulate my spine. So, I looked into the scientific research.
➡ The Evidence
The World Federation of Chiropractic defines subluxations as:
Chiropractic is concerned with the preservation and restoration of health, and focuses particular attention on the subluxation. A 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. A subluxation is evaluated, diagnosed, and managed through the use of chiropractic procedures based on the best available rational and empirical evidence.
Considering the very nature of the definition, the most commonly held argument is that, if the center of attention is on neural integrity, we ought to be able to see the mis-alignments within x-rays. However, this is not the case and you will find that Chiropractors will not dispute this. This is a cause of alarm for credibility. However, the nature of the rebuttal is that we cannot specifically see vulgar mis-alignments but more detailed and specific integrity issues within the spinal cord. It’s very disconcerting that the definition has changed over time (the above definition being instated in 1996). However, it creates the problem of proving the existence of subluxations. There is no definitive evidence of subluxations. Instead, there are alternative words like somatic dysfunction. In a study by Brantingham, JW., they founded the term somatic dysfunction instead of subluxation as the term simply did not define the findings. The purpose of a definition is to be globally acceptable, not selectively. However, somatic dysfuntion suits the purpose of explaining why some neural problems can be identified, but not always specifically because of the spine.
With all this said, we can’t really make any definitive decision on whether or not subluxations really exist. There are far too many edits made to it’s definition and the specifics are vague to the point of generalities.
Does it work..?
Even if we can’t define it’s crucial variables, perhaps we can prove that it still works. For this, I looked at comparisons between Chiropractic and other forms of therapy. The most commonly held comparisons is between Chiropractic, Physiotherapy, and exercise booklets. I will try to focus on the central conclusions, but provide the sources to eliminate cause for edits.
For patients with low back pain … chiropractic manipulation had similar effects and costs, and patients receiving these treatments had only marginally better outcomes than those receiving the minimal intervention of an educational booklet. Whether the limited benefits of these treatments are worth the additional costs is open to question.
The effectiveness and total costs of chiropractic or physiotherapy as primary treatment were similar to reach the same result after treatment and after 6 months.
With this, the studies show that Chiropractic is no more effective than an exercise booklet. The other problem is that most studies have inconclusive results due to possible bias. Far too often people will vouch for Chiropractic or otherwise in favour of them. Considering that there is no real definition of subluxations, there is not really a way of proving whether one is truly more effective than the other. This is why the most popular for of evidence is testimony.
The most commonly thing said is, “I know lot’s of people who do it and it works for them.” There’s a few problems with this:
Ad populum fallacy
It is illogical to believe something is true simply because many people believe it to be so. We can easily go back to the times of antiquity and show how they believed that the Earth was the center of the universe. However, in time, they were proven wrong. All wrong. But, you couldn’t convince anyone otherwise then! It was the opinion of the majority, and this is a powerful thing. However, it is not factual evidence. You can also have a group of people believe that smoking was good for you. In the past, people would advocate smoking as a form of release and catharsis. It was good to smoke. This too was proven wrong. This reasoning comes from another fallacy within.
Post hoc, ergo propter hoc
“After this, therefore, because of this.” This is the belief that, Y happened after X happened. Therefore, X caused Y. However, this is not true. For example, say someone just moved into the house with you, renting the house. Then, the next day, the house burns down when no one is home. It is easily natural for people to be suspicious of the person moving in before considering the faulty furnace. This is related to Chiropractic because people will believe (or convince) that they had a good feeling after leaving the Chiropractor. However, that does not mean it was because of what they did. There is no evidence to say it was not a placebo effect (your own volition).
At length, there is not enough support to justify Chiropractic to me. I would need a specific, functioning definition to work by in its methodology. A definition that can be proven and demonstrated is one that holds credibility and reliability. However, using vagaries and changing your methodology only perpetuates it’s descent into pseudo-science, if not outright lie. Not too forget that it’s roots are founded by an apparent intellectual being from the afterlife. How can we prove such a thing in that case?!
I should also mention what it takes to become a Chiropractic. You require a high school education, three years of university education (within a science), and then 2 years of Chiropractic schooling. That is all. You do not even need to finish University. You can see for yourself, along with many other details, in the handbook for Chiropractors from the World Health Organization (WHO):
What do you think…?