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06 September 2011

Pain in the Neck

Cross-posted from the Winnipeg Skeptics blog.

As you may recall, Richelle and I were interviewed by Chris Hunter of the Uniter newspaper for a piece that he was working on about chiropractic. Well, the Uniter article on chiropractic is live, and it's not bad!

Richelle McCullough, a medical student at the University of Calgary, argues that physiotherapy is a preferred practice to chiropractic.

"If someone is dealing with lower back pain, physiotherapy is a good option," said McCullough via email. "They can do spinal manipulations, but more importantly (they) can help you strengthen the supporting muscles to prevent future re-injury."

Gem Newman of the Winnipeg Skeptics, a local group that has been critical of the chiropractic industry, also advises physiotherapy over chiropractic.

"When examined through the lens of science-based medicine, chiropractic offers little to distinguish itself from physiotherapy," he explained in an email.

McCullough also believes that chiropractors are unqualified for dealing with behavioural disorders, respiratory illness, rheumatological problems, cardiovascular disease and infections, which they often claim to be capable of treating.

According to Newman, chiropractic is based around a "vitalistic philosophy". This philosophy purports that the health of a person is related to the flow of innate intelligence, a sort of spiritual energy.

"While this energy has never been demonstrated to exist, the founder of chiropractic claimed that interruptions or disturbances in its flow (called 'vertebral subluxations') were the root of all disease," explained Newman.

Although many chiropractors have abandoned this old theory for a more scientific approach, many still claim the capability to treat several different diseases, including asthma, allergies and infections.

McCullough argues that most chiropractors belong to the latter category, and that those who use a more legitimate scientific approach are in the minority.

"This sort of thinking has led to all sorts of ridiculous claims, from the ability to cure asthma to a treatment for depression," she said. "If subluxations caused all these health problems, then why do people never suddenly develop allergies or psoriasis after a back injury?"

What did you think of the article? Feel free to post your comments or critiques below, or in the comments section at the Uniter.


  1. I can see where the skepticism is coming from, but chiropractic has proven time and again to treat back aches. You can hear supporting testimonies from former patients themselves.

  2. Testimonials do not amount to scientific evidence for efficacy. The plural of "anecdote", it is often said, is not "data".

  3. my back was sore, and I went to the chiropractor and my back got better! Now every time my back gets sore I go to the chiropractor, and every time it gets better.

    That most people find this to be convincing 'proof' of the efficacy of chiropractic is why I am shedding a little tear for humanity, even now.

  4. Gem Newman of the Winnipeg Skeptics, a local group that has been critical of the chiropractic Buy Viagra Online industry, also advises physiotherapy over chiropractic.

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