Pick a chronic medical condition, pair it with the word “chiropractic” and type it into Google. Chances are, you’ll find claim after claim about the wonders of spinal manipulation. A search for “chiropractic” and “allergies” hits on chiropractors from L.A to Miami promising to fix your hay fever. It even yields a YouTube video subtly entitled “Chiropractic Can Help with Allergies.” A search for “chiropractic” and “menstrual cramps” yields similar results.
Could the Internet be right? After all, D.D Palmer, who founded chiropractic in the 19th century claimed he could eliminate “95% of disease” by manipulating the spine. How did Palmer make spinal manipulation work?
Palmer claimed that organic disease is primarily caused by vertebrae slipping out of place and pressing on surrounding nerves. Everything from asthma to gas could be blamed on one of these “subluxations” of the spine. The problem with Palmer’s theory is that no one has ever seen a subluxated vertebra. Subluxations have drawn ridicule from mainstream doctors for decades. In recent years, chiropractic organizations have been distancing themselves from the idea.
The General Chiropractic Council in the UK announced in 2010 that subluxations are not supported by evidence and should not be the basis of chiropractic practice, while the Foundation for Chiropractic Education and Research (FCER) says that a subluxation “may not be detectable by any of our current technological methods.” Since our “current technological methods” are far superior to anything available in Palmer’s day, we can only conclude that subluxations are a fiction.
This doesn’t mean that chiropractors are quacks. According to the Annals of Internal Medicine, spinal manipulation can provide relief from short-term back pain. Some orthopedic surgeons refer their patients to chiropractors. In a 2007 interview, one surgeon told the Washington Post that “[Chiropractic] is one of the few things that has been demonstrated to significantly alter the natural history of acute back pain. . . . People get better quicker if they go to a chiropractor for a few visits.”
Chiropractic is complementary medicine. It works with you and your doctor. If your back hurts, a chiropractor might help. Anyone chiropractor claiming to do more is unsupported by scientific evidence.
Maggie Martin has been visiting a chiropractor for more than fifteen years. She and her family have made it a routine to book a chiropractor visit once every two months at Markham Chiropractic Centre and it has helped them greatly. Follow on Twitter @MaggieBiosource
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