The Should Be Death of Chiropracty

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I began watching a documentary today called Doctored. The description states “An investigation into the ‘monopoly’ of the medical industrial complex and how Americans are viewed as patients.” I think to myself, this sounds interesting. I’ve seen many studies regarding how patients are viewed with regards to invisible illnesses (particularly pain) and especially the discrimination toward patients with mental health diagnoses. I have experienced some of these issues firsthand, as I’ve mentioned here in my blog many times, and it’s definitely a big problem. Doctors believe that psychology and psychiatry are simple sciences at best and they have no issue diagnosing and treating psychological issues despite the fact that they have little to no training in the matter. They view counselors as nothing more than a sympathetic ear, a shoulder to cry on, and that they have no time or patience to be that person so they’ll send them off to a counselor or therapist and the patient will have their cry out, or as in the movies they’ll suddenly have this huge cathartic breakthrough and they’re all better. Before that happens, however, they’re treated as a crazy lunatic who can’t tell the difference between pain in their body and pain in their mind, so unless they go have that breakthrough moment and can get off the psych meds (that possibly the doctor has prescribed themselves) then the person is viewed as unreliable, the doctor can’t take any of their self reports at face value, because this is probably just the crazy talking.

So, I start watching this documentary thinking, I may have something to learn here. It begins with scenes from a taped interview in the 80’s of some doctors angrily arguing with some chiropractors about the veracity of their claims to treat illness using chiropractic theory and methods. Sadly, the documentary does not go on to denounce chiropracty for the sham it is, but vilifies all those terrible, haughty doctors who denounced chiropracty for some many years. The documentary tries to say that doctors and the AMA created a smear campaign against these poor chiropractors who were trying so hard to just help people.

I’ve heard time and again that there’s no scientific evidence to support the effectiveness of chiropracty, and I’ve had my own personal negative experiences with chiropractors and chiropractic treatments that I was ready to believe it. But I realized, I’ve never actually done any research into the topic, I’ve mostly used my personal experiences to bolster my belief in this theory. So, as I’m often wont to do, I began doing some research, and amongst the slew of interesting articles that I read, I found one that was particularly interesting. It is a discussion regarding an article that was posted in a journal of chiropractic medicine by a group of chiropractors and doctors stating in no uncertain terms that there is absolutely no proof, nor veracity to the claims, that chiropractic medicine is a viable treatment option. https://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/the-end-of-chiropractic/

So then I wonder, just as the author of the article wonders, where is the outrage? Where are the multiple exposés denouncing chiropracty for the fraud it’s always been?

This documentary is trying to say that medical professionals tried to suppress the miraculous healing that chiropracty had to offer because they wanted to monopolize the trade of healing and healthcare. In reality, doctors happily send people off the chiropractors who will do little more testing or analysis than xrays, if they’re lucky, and xrays are a terrible way to diagnose soft tissue issues such as disk swelling and annular tears. In fact, if a spinal issue were severe enough to be seen on an xray, a doctor would likely be very involved in the person’s treatment. Scoliosis can appear on an xray, and if it becomes severe enough it requires much medical intervention. But the reason that chiropractors are still so heavily used, the reason so many people are referred to them, is because compared to the cost of definitive medical testing, namely MRIs and the follow up treatment that may need to be required for such health conditions that may be diagnosed as the result, chiropractors are cheap. Insurance companies go to great lengths to insist that people attempt to cure what ails them through inexpensive (to the insurance company) chiropracty before ordering any further tests. This documentary’s opening complaint is that the doctors are trying to force out the chiropractors because they’re elitest and money hungry and can’t fathom the idea of a person being cured elsewhere before they extract their pound of flesh from them. (Well, not literally. Or maybe so, if they’re a surgeon. I dunno.) In any case, the reality is that chiropractors have a huge lobby, and have wormed their way into the healthcare community via the government and insurance companies. I won’t argue that doctors are often very elitest, with an attitude that, if you don’t have a medical degree then you shouldn’t have an opinion, and that definitely has to change, patients should, even MUST, drive their own healthcare, and doctors must let them, and help them. They could start by asking the patient to do their own research, and if patients made the effort they’d soon discover the sham that is chiropracty.

I will conclude by giving my own personal experiences with chiropractors. When my back pain first became so severe that I often found myself crawling on the floor, I finally had an angry discussion with my GP that something must be done. I was informed that I first must see a chiropractor. The chiropractor insisted that within 3 months I would be cured, that it may get worse before it gets better, but it will get better. I saw him twice a week, he applied much pressure in various ways to the area of my back that ached the most. It was excruciatingly painful, leaving me shaking and crying after each “treatment”. The chiropractor told me that I had a low pain tolerance, and that it was probably the biggest reason that I found myself unable to stand up when my back hurt. So in essence, he blamed my severe pain on my inability to tolerate severe pain. Three months went by and my back was worse, but he assured me that another 6 weeks should do the job, and he continued to quote the 6 week mark until I’d been seeing him for 9 months and my back was worse than ever before. Finally my GP was ready to refer me to a pain specialist, who immediately ordered MRIs. It turns out that my previous diagnosis of minor scoliosis (via xray) was actually much more debilitating than initially assumed. My spine had rubbed a bald spot on a disk in my lower back. Every time the chiropractor pressed that area the disk would rupture, and that’s why I was in such excruciating pain and that’s why I got worse with every visit. Still, for some reason I decided to see another chiropractor some years later. He came highly recommended by my brother, who was then a massage therapist in the chiropractor’s office. I met with the chiropractor who assured me that he could cure my scoliosis, if I met with him twice a week for 3 months. I had no intention of living through another nightmare of pain and empty promises. Both chiropractors were also involved in extremely shady practices. One of them did not accept my insurance, instead he told them that I paid exorbitant amounts of money out of pocket, then they decided how much they wanted to reimburse me for those costs and would send me a check, at which time I would sign over the checks to my chiropractor. I’m still not entirely certain whether this was legal. The second chiropractor employed massage therapists who were not yet out of school and therefore not licensed, which is 100% illegal. But it worked out great for him in that none of his therapists could rat him out for any of his shady practices because they’d never become licensed.

I have no doubt that there are honest chiropractors out there, who aren’t shady, who believe they’re helping people, who would report their client’s lack of progress immediately to their GP and insist on further testing, but in my experience, they are just as happy to continue doing what they’re doing in order to continue receiving the paycheck of twice weekly visits from someone who is never going to get better.

For further reading on discrimination perpetuated by the medical community: http://mobile.nytimes.com/2013/08/11/opinion/sunday/when-doctors-discriminate.html?referrer=

And: http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2014/06/25/stigma-of-mental-illness/9875351/