Crack Addicts: America’s Addiction to Chiropractic
Every year, around 27 million Americans spend over $3 billion on treatment from doctors and practitioners of chiropractic, an alternative medicine with mystical roots. But is it really all that it’s cracked up to be? Is it a hocus-pocus scam, or a misunderstood, groundbreaking alternative to drugs? We took a hard look at the medical evidence to find out if chiropractic truly is trick or treatment.
A BRIEF HISTORY OF CHIROPRACTIC AND ITS FOUNDER
- Technically, Hippocrates (the founder of modern medicine) was the first person to document performing spinal manipulation as a type of medical care way back in 400 BCE.
- Davenport, Iowa grocery store owner and self-proclaimed metaphysicist Daniel David Palmer invented and named chiropractic (from the Greek words cheir and praxis, combined to mean “done by hand”) in 1895.
- Palmer believed in vitalism, an ancient idea that health flows from a spiritual life force.
- He called his version of the spiritual life force Innate Intelligence and claimed that all belief results from disruptions in the force’s flow called subluxations.
- Palmer claimed that he “received chiropractic from the other world” in a spiritualist séance from a deceased medical doctor named Jim Atkinson. The doctor had died nearly 50 years prior to Palmer’s revelation.
- In his writings, he named himself as the religious “fountain head” of chiropractic, likening himself to figures such as “Christ, Mohammed, and Joseph Smith” among others.
- He advertised himself as a doctor, but was arrested in 1906 for practicing medicine without a license.
- In 1913, during a homecoming parade at the Palmer School of Chiropractic, he was suspiciously struck by a vehicle driven by his son, the co-developer of chiropractic, B.J. Palmer. He died less than a month later from injuries sustained in the accident, but not before filing an attempted murder lawsuit against his son.
BACK PAIN FACTS
- 80% of all Americans experience back pain during their lives.
- Costs related to back pain add up to over $100 billion every single year in the United States.
- Spinal manipulation has been proven at least “as effective as other interventions” for back pain.
- Results suggest that the effects of spinal manipulation can last for back pain for up to 18 months.
CHIROPRACTIC BY THE NUMBERS
- There are around 80,000 licensed DCs (Doctors of Chiropractic) in the United States. 77,000 of those perform adjustments and manipulations, while 3,000 or so serve in academic and management roles. In 1906, when D.D. Palmer founded the Palmer School of Chiropractic in Davenport, Iowa, there were only half that many people living in the entire city.
- There’s nearly ten times that amount of M.D.s in the United States, with 826,001 active doctors practicing medicine in 2012.
- California has the most chiropractors, with an average salary around $90,000.
- Every NFL team in America has at least one chiropractor on staff.
- 8% (almost 18 million) of all Americans have had chiropractic treatment.
- Around 3% (2 million) of all American children have had chiropractic care.
|ST||Chiropractors||Chiropractors per 100,000 people||Mean Annual Wage|
BUT JUST BECAUSE IT’S POPULAR DOESN’T MEAN IT ISN’T DANGEROUS. HERE ARE SOME OF THE HIDDEN DANGERS OF CHIROPRACTIC:
- In one study, 96% of all new patients received x-rays to determine their state of spinal alignment, while 80% of all returning patients received x-rays. Some researchers claim that this adds needlessly to radiation exposure and increases patient risk of developing cancers related to excessive x-ray exposure.
- After treatment, half of all chiropractic patients report:
- Around 1 in 100,000 chiropractic patients undergo serious artery damage as a result of their treatment. You’re nearly three times more likely to suffer an artery injury at the hands of a chiropractor than you are to be struck by lightning. [Odds of being struck by lightning: 1:280,000 and your odds of winning the Powerball lottery are 1 in 175 million.]
- The World Health Organization has proved that chiropractic intervention has caused problems in the following:
- Cervical region
- vertebrobasilar accidents
- Horner’s syndrome
- diaphragmatic paralysis
- cervical disc lesions
- pathological fractures
- Thoracic region
- rib fracture and costochondral separation
- Lumbar region
- an increase in neurological symptoms that originally resulted from a disc injury
- cauda equina syndrome
- lumbar disc herniation
- rupture of abdominal aortic aneurysm
- Since 1934, 26 deaths from chiropractic have been reported. By comparison, the National Highway Traffic Safety Association demanded the recall of the Ford Pinto after instances of exploding gas tanks caused 27 deaths. - And in 2001 alone, 35 cases of neurological complications were caused by spinal manipulation, including 9 strokes:
|Published case reports of deaths after chiropractic treatments|
|References||Year of publication||Victim||Type of vascular accident||Time between treatment and death|
|Anon||1934||Woman, age unknown||Tear in left lateral sinus||2 weeks|
|Pratt-Thomas and Berger||1947||32-year-old man||Thrombosis of basilar, left anterior-inferior cerebellar and right posterior-inferior arteries||24 h|
|Pratt-Thomas and Berger||1947||35-year-old woman||Thrombosis of posterior-inferior cerebellar artery||10 h|
|Anon||1955||Woman, age unknown||Intra-spinal bleeding and compression of spinal cord||18 h|
|Ford and Clark||1956||37-year-old man||Thrombosis of basilar, left-posterior cerebellar and left-posterior cerebral arteries||6 h|
|Ford and Clark||1956||No information provided||Thrombosis of basilar artery||No information provided|
|Smith and Estridge||1962||33-year-old woman||Infarct of cerebellar and brainstem||3 days|
|Lorenz and Vogelsang||1972||39-year-old woman||Thrombosis of basilar artery||58 days|
|Schmitt||1976||35-years-old woman||Infarct of brainstem||1 h|
|Krueger and Okazaki||1980||25-year-old man||Infarct of brainstem and cerebellum||48 h|
|Sherman et al.||1981||60-year-old woman||Dissection of vertebral artery||4 days|
|Ali Cherif et al.||1983||51-year-old man||Infarct of medulla oblongata||11 days|
|Nielsen||1984||34-year-old man||Dissection of vertebral artery aneurysen||3 h|
|Zak and Carmody||1984||53-year-old man||Left vertebral, posterior-inferior and superior cerebellar artery occlusion; cerebellar infarction||27 days|
|Modde||1985||26-year-old woman||Dissection of vertebral artery||1 day|
|Jentzen et al.||1987||51-year-old man||Infarct of cerebellum and brainstem||No information provided|
|Sherman et al.||1987||37-year-old man||Infarct of brainstem||3 days|
|Mas et al.||1989||35-year-old woman||Dissecting aneurysm of vertebral artery||16 h|
|Raskind and North||1990||47-year-old woman||Cerebellar haemorrheae||No information provided|
|Sullivan||1992||41-year-old woman||Haemorrhage in ventricular system||8 h|
|Haynes||1994||36-year-old woman||Dissecting aneurysm of vertebral artery, thrombo-embolism||No information provided|
|Peters et al.||1995||29-year-old woman||Infarct of right hemisphere||3 days|
|Klougart et al.||1996||34-year-old man||Unclear||Few hours|
|Haldeman et al.||2002||Previously unpublished legal cases||No information provided||No information provided|
|Haldeman et al.||2002||Previously unpublished legal cases||No information provided||No information provided|
|Dziewas et al.||2003||No information provided||No information provided||No information provided|
BUT WAIT, CHIROPRACTIC DOES HAVE SOME CLEAR BENEFITS:
- Sciatica: The European Spine Journal published that chiropractic adjustments resulted in a 72% (or nearly 3/4) success rate in treating sciatica and related symptoms compared to just a rate of 20% (just 1/5) success from physical therapy and 50% (only half) from corticosteroid injections.
- Low Back Pain and Neck Pain: In one study, 272 participants were divided into three groups: Group 1 received spinal manipulative therapy (SMT) from a doctor of chiropractic (DC), Group 2 received pain medication, and Group 3 received exercise recommendations. Over half (53%) of the drug-free groups continued to report at least a 75% reduction in pain for an entire year after their therapy, compared to just (1/3) 38% who reported pain reduction among those who took medication.
- Headaches (Tension and Migraine): Over 230 peer-reviewed articles show chiropractic’s ability to help cure, prevent and ease the burden of headaches and migraines in people all across the globe.
- Colic and Ear Infections: A 2012 study published in Journal of Manipulative Physiological Therapeutics found that chiropractic adjustments greatly reduced colic and ear infection symptoms in babies and children.
- Blood Pressure: Research proved that one upper cervical chiropractic adjustment had the same effect as two blood pressure lowering drugs. Patients also saw an average 14 mm Hg greater drop in systolic blood pressure (the top number in a blood pressure count), and an average 8 mm Hg greater drop in diastolic blood pressure (the bottom blood pressure number). By comparison, it can take eight weeks on average to achieve equivalent drops in blood pressure by significantly changing diet and exercise patterns!
- Surgery Prevention: The Journal of the American Medical Association suggests that people suffering from back pain first try chiropractic before resorting to surgery.
- Frozen Shoulder: Last year a clinical trial was published describing how patients suffering from the debilitating condition frozen shoulder responded to chiropractic care. Of the 50 patients in the trial: - 16 resolved completely - 25 showed 75% to 90% improvement - 8 showed 50% to 75% improvement - 1 showed 0% to 50% improvement.
- Scoliosis: Chiropractic adjustments for scoliosis coupled with muscular rehabilitation techniques may help prevent the progression of scoliosis. In many case studies participants have seen up to a 10% to 30% decrease in their scoliosis curvatures!
- Athletic Performance: Because it is so effective at pain-based and pathological conditions, one of the most overlooked aspects of chiropractic care is that it enhances personal and athletic performance. Studies have shown that it:
- Reduces inflammation
- Boosts your immune system
- Enhances pulmonary function (lungs)
- Decreases mental stress
- Relieves muscle tension
- Increases your energy level
- Finally, studies have even proven that chiropractic patients experience “overall increased bodily function,” which includes:
- mental clarity
- bowel regularity
So what’s the final verdict? Well, it’s up to you to decide – chiropractic started out with some questionable snake-oil roots, but it’s been proven effective for a lot of people. The question is, do we only feel better because we’re paying money to feel better? Either way, if it’s the placebo effect or a powerful therapy (or both), Americans are clearly addicted to chiropractic.
“Pinto ‘Madness,’ a Flawed Landmark Narrative: An Organizational and Network Analysis.” M. T. Lee and M. D.
Ermann, Social Problems, Vol 46, No 1. Feb 1999.
The Chiropractor, D.D. Palmer
Trick or Treatment, Singh & Ernst