Saturday, September 07, 2013

The Claptrap of Chiropractic Care (and other pseudoscientific cures)

By Frank J. Ranelli

There is no alternative to medicine. Medicine works, everything else is quackery. Why medicine and "alternative medicine" is a false dichotomy — and a potentially dangerous or even lethal one.

D.D. Palmer
A reader and interlocutor asks, “After my car accident I chose acupuncture, massage and a chiropractor versus painkillers and muscle relaxers. Some would consider those 'alternative medicines'; some not. What’s your opinion?

Actually, two of the three medical treatments mentioned are forms of "alternative medicine." Unfortunately, modern science has conclusively demonstrated acupuncture provides “no measurable medicinal benefits” beyond "patient confirmation bias," or having a “placebo effect[1],” nothing more. In other words, acupuncture has no empirical, efficacious benefits in treating ailments, physiological discomfort, or somatic pain (acute or chronic) whatsoever.

Massage Therapy, however, particularly deep tissue massage, does render an actual attenuation of symptoms, such as soreness, aides in tissue reparation, and palliative pain relief. (The mechanistic nature of relief acceded by massage therapy is multifarious, comparatively complex, and beyond the scope of this exposition; but, it is indeed a proven and effective form of adjunct medical treatment accepted by the A.M.A. and its respective boards.)

Simply put, chiropractic care is a pseudoscience[2], steeped in metaphysical fatuity and esoteric claims, unfalsifiable, specious holistic assertions, and plain untestable nonsense — and, in many instances, may cause additional harm through arterial lining tears in the neck during cervical vertebrae “subluxation adjustments.” Unfortunately, patient deaths due to stroke, caused by blood clot formations from the arterial tears while undergoing "vertebral subluxation" is documented fact, which the chiropractic community vehemently denies. Chiropractory is akin to homeopathy or faith healing, for example, which have been thoroughly debunked and discredited as effective medical treatments.

The American Medical Association deems the practice of chiropractory an "unscientific cult." Numerous books and countless articles written by epidemiologists, pathophysiologists, immunologists, etc., muckraking journalists and expert skeptics warn of the unscientific and disproved pathophysiological claims of chiropractory. In fact, in 2010, The General Chiropractic Council (GCC) of the United Kingdom released this statement[3]: “The chiropractic vertebral subluxation complex is an historical concept but it remains a theoretical model. It is not supported by any clinical research evidence that would allow claims to be made that it is the cause of disease or health concerns.

The founder and original expositor of chiropractic care, D.D. Palmer, was a charlatan, a huckster, and a con man who believed in the healing properties of magnets. He also rejected pharmacology and rebuffed the Germ Theory — the unassailable scientific basis for how pathogenic microbes cause diseases. Sadly, even today, many practitioners of chiropractic care refute the pathophysiological
role microorganisms play in illnesses and diseases. Worst still, when Palmer created the Palmer School of Chiropractic in 1897, he considered it a business endeavor and a religion, not a pedagogical institution of medicine.

Indeed, he averred sans any evidence or peer-reviewed analyses, "That all disease was caused by interruptions in the flow of ‘innate intelligence,’ a ‘vital nervous energy or life force’ that represented God's presence in man." No one, to this day, knows exactly what Palmer meant when he made this overt and inscrutable proclamation.

Moreover, as a late 19th century Spiritist, the megalomaniacal Palmer fashioned himself as a messianic medical redeemer, comparing himself in courtroom proceedings to Jesus, Mohammed, and ironically, Joseph Smith, another infamous and contemporary flimflam artist and founder of the Mormon Religion. He further and incredulously proclaimed the techniques of chiropractic care came to him through ethereal “inspiration,” delivered paranormally by a deceased physician putatively named, Jim Atkinson. That’s a lot of woo to swallow from a man who abjured from imbibing proven remedial medications!

In short, chiropractory, its late founder, the dishonorable grifter, Daniel David Palmer, and their modern cognatic practitioners are cranks and quacks who "sell" unscientific medical treatments, superstition, claptrap, unempirical twaddle, and unproven (or disproved) medicinal methodologies to an unaware and credulous public. Lastly, as always, it comes down to money, politics, and avariciousness; chiropractic care is a billion-dollar industry with a considerable, worldwide lobbyist presence, which ensures it remains a viable and prosperous business enterprise within the United States (and internationally) to bilk billions of dollars out of an uneducated, unsuspecting, gullible, and naive populous.

 In the final analysis, chiropractory is pseudoscientific, svengalian 
skulduggery, which long ago modern, empirical science and western evidentiary medicine discredited. However, it remains an available “treatment” as an "alternative medicine" not due to its proven, evidentiary-based findings, but through blandished politics, a lack of public education, and simple greed.

Consequently, the established and accredited recommendation is to stick with proven therapeutic or curative methods, such as massage therapy, physical and occupational therapies, and of course modern, empirical medicine.  In the best interests of your health and wallet, eschew the fatuous and facile nostrums of chiropractic care and its bogus hokum. After all, doing so just might save your neck and your life.

Further Reading:
1.      “7 Things You Need to Know About Chiropractic Therapy” — Daniel Florien;
2.     “Trick or Treatment: The Undeniable Facts about Alternative Medicine” — Edzard Ernst and Simon Singh (Oct., 2009);
3.     “Chiropractic” — Wikipedia;
4.     “Chiropractic's Dirty Secret: Neck Manipulation and Strokes” — Stephen Barrett, M.D.;
5.     “Chiropractic” — The Skeptics Dictionary, (online format);


[1] “The powerful placebo effect: fact or fiction?” — (Kienle GS, Kiene H.)

[2] “Chiropractic is the most significant nonscientific health-care delivery system in the United States.” —William T. Jarvis, Ph.D

[3] “Claims of Subluxation Causing Disease Prohibited in Great Britain” — (May, 2010);


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