Chiropractic Crackpottery

And this is how chiropractic started in America.  From its inception, the discipline had factions.  There were those so-called “straights,” such as B. J. Palmer, who believed in the centrality of the spine. There were also “mixers,” such as Willard Carver, who advocated other modalities in addition to the spinal manipulation. Today, the same factions still exists among chiropractors.1 Some chiropractors practice under the assumption that the dogma of the founders – D.D. and B.J. Palmer – is the truth and everything else follows from that. 2  Others rely on spiritual inspiration (Innate Intelligence), empirically testable but untested (and uncontested) hypothesis such as subluxation, and uncritical rationalism.  An example of this mentality is the claim of some chiropractors that “chiropractic works because the nerve system is the master switchboard of the body.” The existence of a wide spectrum of beliefs in the chiropractic community should be an evidence of its pseudoscientific character. The factions among chiropractors resemble the denominations of a religion.

What about subluxation? Is it still the central theme of chiropractic? Are there any experimental proof of its role? Although in 1975 the American Chiropractic Association (ACA) “disaffirmed the [monocausal] doctrine that holds to a singular approach to the treatment of disease,” the ACA’s current “Chiropractic: State of the Art” booklet states that “classical subluxation” theory and the “nerve compression hypothesis” still occupy a “central place in the chiropractic rationale.” The policy handbook of the International Chiropractors Association (ICA) states that “subluxation is a reasonable and credible diagnosis.”3 In 1980, a prominent chiropractic educator asked one thousand chiropractors on the ACA’s mailing list whether they agreed with various statements related to such beliefs. Of 268 respondents, 4% agreed that subluxation is the cause of all diseases, and a whopping 70% agreed that “the chiropractic subluxation may be related to the cause of most diseases.”  To the question of whether they thought that the subluxation hypothesis was scientifically supported 95% said that it was only “partially” supported or not supported at all! In other words, chiropractic “doctors” are consciously practicing a theory that has, at best, “partial” scientific support.

  1. A standard joke among chiropractors is: For every “DC” (“doctor” of chiropractic) there is an equal and opposite DC.
  2.  Keating Jr., J.  “Chiropractic: Science and Antiscience and Pseudoscience Side by Side.” Skeptical Inquirer (July/August), pp. 37–43, 1997.
  3. Magner, pages 31 – 32

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