My wife’s ear was drowning in an infection. She went to the doctor, who offered her a Z-pak antibiotic treatment, which didn’t immediately work. Instead of going back to the doctor, my wife decided that she would switch gears and try the chiropractor. I tried to warn her that she was wasting money, but my wife is strong-willed and independent. She makes her own decisions, and I do not attempt to influence her other than some occasional teasing.
I told her to watch out for the word “subluxation” because that meant that her chiropractor would likely be applying treatments based on nonsense. Sure enough, when she was in the waiting room, she noticed a poster saying something about subluxation and children.
The chiropractor saw my wife and did the appropriate adjustments, but my wife’s infected ear fluid didn’t suddenly pop or drain into her neck like she was imagining. In fact, she didn’t notice any change at all. After the treatments, the chiropractor had the nerve (and the common sense) to encourage her to visit an Ear Nose & Throat doctor, but of course, he would need to see her for more treatments also.
I told my wife that all my skepticism is rubbing off on her, and that placebos are ineffective on her now. Then she punched me in the arm.
So, what is the deal with subluxation? Why am I such a downer against back whackers? Let’s start at the very beginning with the guy who made up the concept. Yes, I’m talking about the uneducated grocer Daniel David Palmer, who created chiropractic medicine in 1865 after he claimed to cure a man’s deafness just by manipulating his spine. Dr. Palmer believed in all kinds of funny treatments, including mesmerism, which had long since been debunked by Benjamin Franklin, and phrenology, which would soon be debunked by Mark Twain.
Palmer imagined the chiropractic theory around the same time that Louis Pasteur was making important scientific discoveries about germ theory. We, of course, now know that many diseases come from germs, but at the time, the average doctor (grocer) was in the dark on most health problems. So, Daniel David Palmer can be forgiven for believing that subluxations (spinal displacements) were the cure to 98% of all diseases. That was a long time ago. We can forgive him, and his abused son BJ, for making up such a silly concept.
But wait, many of today’s chiropractors believe the same nonsense. They deny germ theory, they decry modern medicine, and they defy logic. In fact, chiropractors are known to object to vaccination, and their objections are based on the archaic imaginings of a self-taught grocer who was put in jail for practicing without a license.
Most chiropractors still believe, without any scientific evidence, that subluxations are the root cause of most disease. Ask them to scientifically explain how pinched spinal nerves cause disease, and they will probably sidestep the answer. And yet, these chiropractic “doctors” are more ubiquitous than Starbucks. I have at least three chiropractors within a five mile radius of my house.
The subluxation theory of disease is complete nonsense. You would think that people with scoliosis would be terminally ill. Or that terminally ill patients would have multiple pinched nerves in their spine. And yet, there is nothing to show this to be true. In fact, BJ Palmer had an extremely distorted spinal chord, and he was the early leader of chiropractic medicine.
Does that mean that all chiropractors are quacks? No, I truly think they believe in the treatment, and a quack is someone who purposefully administers a treatment they know doesn’t work. Chiropractic has been validated as a mode of treatment by our system of medicine, and many doctors will come here to point out that they are legitimate in the eyes of society. However, that doesn’t change the fact that the concept is based on unscientific ideas such as subluxation and innate intelligence. It also doesn’t change the fact that most chiropractors claim to cure problems that they can’t cure. However, chiropractors will point out that they do help people with back pain and joint problems, and that many of these people feel relief and come back again for more treatment.
There are chiropractors that have separated themselves from the taint of the Palmer’s. They do work that is more in common with physical therapy than complementary alternative medicine, and they call themselves “mixers”. The chiropractors you want to watch out for are called “straights”. There are a few warning signs to watch out for (located here) when choosing the best chiropractor. The worst offenders are those “straights” that argue against fluoridation, vaccination, and pasteurization. You may find some decent chiropractors at quackwatch’s referral directory, but in my opinion, you would just be better off seeing a physical therapist.
As always, I welcome any chiropractors whom I may have misrepresented to correct any mistakes I made against their character to leave comments. They deserve to defend themselves if they can.