NOTE: The UK regulatory body, the General Chiropractic Council, claims that it is 'protecting patients' and 'setting standards'. However, the legislative framework for the practice of chiropractic in the UK does not specify the style or the scope of practice. This allows UK chiropractors to recommend and administer a number of treatments which are not supported by reliable scientific research (e.g. vitalistic subluxation-based care, craniosacral therapy, applied kinesiology and regular wellness/corrective/preventive maintenance care, etc.).
This section was last revised on 14th April 2013.
A comprehensive look at chiropractic. Includes criticism of unscientific chiropractic methods such as Applied Kinesiology, hair analysis to assess nutritional status, activator methods, the Meric System, electrodermal testing, and inappropriate prescribing; a look at the dangers of chiropractic including delay of effective medical treatment, excessive radiation, opposition to vaccination, artery dissection and stroke, and ethics violations; and concerns about chiropractic policy including insurance coverage, chiropractic education, and the lack of public awareness about these concerns. By Jann J. Bellamy JD, The Institute for Science in Medicine (August 2012) [pdf]
"It will not be enough for chiropractors and chiropractic colleges to substitute such words and phrases as 'joint dysfunction', 'vertebral subluxation complex', and 'subluxation/neuro-biomechanical dysfunction' for the word 'subluxation' if they continue to imply that such disturbances can affect the nervous system to cause illness. A chiropractic subluxation by any other name is still a chiropractic subluxation...Few consumers are aware of the great diversity in chiropractic, and few know what questions to ask when looking for a science-based chiropractor. Until all chiropractic colleges uniformly renounce the vertebral subluxation theory and are upgraded to training musculoskeletal specialists, treatment methods will vary from one chiropractor to another, incompatible with exchange in mainstream health care...The only thing unique about chiropractic is its basic definition as a method of adjusting vertebral subluxations to restore and maintain health. Any other physical treatment method, including generic spinal manipulation, is physical medicine...Many chiropractors feel that if the chiropractic profession discards the subluxation theory and specializes in the care of back pain and related musculoskeletal problems, it will not be able to compete with physical therapists and other musculoskeletal practitioners who use manual therapy."
Samuel Homola, DC, Science Based Medicine, (30th December 2011)
The first experimental study of the basis of the theory demonstrates that it is erroneous. Edmund S. Crelin, Ph.D. (Chirobase)
A PowerPoint presentation by Harriet Hall, M.D. [NOTE: Some of the frame sizes need to be reduced in order to view the accompanying notes in full.]
A commentary on the paper 'A systematic review of systematic reviews of spinal manipulation', [Ernst E, Canter PH., Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine Vol 20 April 2006, pp189-193]. The review concluded that there was little evidence that spinal manipulation was effective in the treatment of any medical condition.
"I fear that chiropractors' views on their very own treatment might not be entirely free of conflicts of interest." Article by Edzard Ernst, MD, PhD, FRCP, FRCPEd, Focus on Alternative and Complementary Therapies [FACT]
The entire chiropractic chapter from ‘Trick or Treatment? Alternative Medicine on Trial’ by Simon Singh and Edzard Ernst is available to read online via this link.
Video presentation of William Kinsinger, MD, speaking to a class of graduating physical therapists about chiropractic. Dr Kinsinger is an anaesthiologist who, since 1990, has conducted investigations and research of the chiropractic industry. He is also associated with the Neck911 network, a volunteer organisation devoted to raising awareness of injuries associated with the practice of chiropractic. (Approx. 42 mins)
A skeptical chiropractic website that invites you to tell your story about the chiropractic profession. Having concluded that chiropractic is not portrayed accurately by colleges, the site is looking to index people's experiences in the profession with the goal of helping to fix the problem. If you are considering chiropractic as a career, the information on this site should help to increase your awareness.
“U.S. chiropractors have the highest student loan default rates of any healthcare profession. Protect yourself and your family from getting saddled with chiropractic student loans. Five years after graduation, only half of chiropractic college graduates will still be practicing. Meanwhile, chiropractors must pay back student loan debt that is as high as a medical or law school education. And everyone knows that you CANNOT file for bankruptcy on student loans.”
"Some chiropractors think that spinal manipulation can relieve not just back pain, but everything from asthma to premenstrual syndrome. But the National Institutes of Health and other authorities have been skeptical of the effectiveness of chiropractic. And research shows that mainstream treatments for lower back pain are equally effective. Many chiropractors also devote considerable time to marketing—in part to pay back the cost of chiropractic school, usually over $100,000." US News
"I do not believe I will ever practice chiropractic again, because I see no ethical way to practice… I cannot encourage you enough to continue warning potential students about the rampant quackery in the chiropractic profession. Many students take out massive loans when they are in their early 20s only to discover later that chiropractic is a fake, unethical profession." James Randi Educational Foundation
"The dilemma with chiropractic is that the entire profession is based on false beliefs about health with liberal amounts of excuses to explain inconsistencies…When the thing you purport to treat doesn't exist then your role in the healthcare system becomes futile and frustrating. Chiropractic institutions are well aware of the threat and utilize classic cult techniques of thought stopping, large group awareness training (assembly chanting, motivational exercises), limitations of matter excuses, loaded language (false biomechanical and ethical terms), threats and extensive propaganda to insulate practitioners from realizing inconsistency. The most powerful catalyst for change is failure, whether monetary or in clinical outcomes. There is nothing like the experience of injuring a patient using a favourite technique, failing to diagnose an underlying complaint, or inducing a stroke to give a chiropractor a good scare and break through the programming. Progress comes in stages." Chirotalk (the skeptical chiropractic discussion forum)
Irish television programme which contains a 22-minute segment (commencing after 12 minutes) about the dangers of chiropractic neck manipulation. The rebuttals made by Hagan McQuaid, former International Vice-President of the Chiropractic Association of Ireland, are wholly unconvincing. The programme concludes by questioning the effectiveness of statutory regulation:
"In countries where such a system exists it is inevitably used to imply state approval for therapies which may have little or no scientific evidence to support them and may be dangerous. Perhaps what the public really needs are laws that dramatically curtail the claims that any therapist can make and treatments they are permitted to offer."
Prime Time, RTE (5th May 2005)
10 pages of case reports of adverse events, including stroke and death, associated with neck manipulation. (Neck911USA.com)
Video presentation (8 min 7 sec) by William Kinsinger, M.D.
The latest news from Canada on the Nette v. Stiles et al Chiropractic Class Action Lawsuit. (In September 2007, Sandra Nette became tetraplegic following a chiropractic adjustment.)
This group has helped hundreds of victims of chiropractic stroke. It was formed to raise public awareness about the risk of stroke and death with chiropractic cervical spinal adjustments, to find others who were injured this way, and to prevent future needless suffering.
VOCA is working in conjunction with other organizations to reform the chiropractic industry and to enforce patients' rights. VOCA has succeeded in sponsoring two pieces of legislation that have become law in the state of Connecticut - mandatory reporting of malpractice claims to the state's Insurance Commissioner, as well as the expansion of the state's online 'Physician Profile' to include chiropractors
Chiropractic Stroke Awareness Organization is a non-profit organization with a mission to raise awareness on the risk of stroke from upper cervical manipulations and, most importantly, to provide a supportive community for stroke victims and their family members.
A grassroots non-profit victims organisation whose purpose is to raise awareness of injuries, strokes and deaths resulting from chiropractic upper neck manipulation.
Promotes awareness of chiropractic risks through advocacy and legislation.
UK support and pressure group. Highlights and questions the many grey areas of statutory regulation in the UK. The group is particularly concerned with neck manipulation and stroke issues and the effectiveness of the UK regulatory body, the General Chiropractic Council, in its role of protecting patients and setting standards. See the correspondence between Action for Victims of Chiropractic (AVC) and the General Chiropractic Council (GCC) in the Latest News section of this link. NOTE: Regarding neck manipulation, the risk/benefit ratio for the procedure appears to in question due to the availability of safer options.
A volunteer group of individuals who provide consultations on complications due to neck manipulation. Includes an outline of the problem, case studies, a database of victims, and a summary of what chiropractors are saying.
A website set up by a lawyer which links to scientific evidence.
Articles and links about the dangers of chiropractic treatment, along with stories of litigation, fraud and bogus claims.
A skeptical chiropractic discussion forum founded by Allen Botnick DC. Its purpose is to encourage critical investigation of chiropractic topics.
“There is no good-quality research to suggest spinal manipulation is of benefit in animals. Significant differences in the anatomy of the spine make it questionable whether veterinary patients would experience the same causes of lower back pain as humans or that manipulative therapy would provide the same benefits…No reliable research evidence exists regarding the safety of chiropractic treatment in animals.” SkeptVet website
A website which aims to provide information about the scientific and evidence base for chiropractic, enabling informed decisions to be made about whether chiropractic is right for you.
Includes advice on neck manipulation, the scope of chiropractic, the need for treatment, x-rays, pregnancy and childbirth, chiropractic and children, chiropractic techniques, chiropractic devices, complications of treatment, chiropractic education, consumer protection, and interprofessional relations. By Samuel Homola, D.C. (Chirobase)