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Is Chiropractic Effective?

Despite many insurance companies accepting chiropractic as a treatment, a number of studies do not confirm whether it’s effective.

Over the years, chiropractic has been widely accepted in the U.S, and today there are over 70,000 chiropractors in the country. However, a number of scientific studies do not show that chiropractic is more effective than placebo of pharmaceuticals.

The history of chiropractic treatment goes way back in 1896 in an office building in Iowa.

D.D. Palmer, a fan of magnetic healing and anti-vaxxer, ran into the building's janitor, who was suffering from back pain; he was also deaf. It's not quite clear exactly how Palmer adjusted the janitor's vertebral subluxation—a term unique to chiropractic that implies an undetectable spinal misalignment—as, with all origin stories, details are murky. Supposedly, Palmer claims the adjustment cured him of deafness; the second patient he treated apparently left with no more heart disease.
Palmer was a metaphysics fan and correlated physical symptoms with spiritual phenomena; chiropractic is based on the idea that energy flows block the "innate," which manifests in things like back pain. Not only did he believe chiropractic had a religious and moral purpose, he also claimed he "received" it from a deceased physician. He called chiropractic a religion; he even tried to use the freedom of religion clause to circumvent the fact that he wasn't a licensed medical professional, a move that got him jailed and fined. He ended up selling his school to his son, who apparently killed him in 1913.
While Palmer's emphasis on the nervous system was an early contribution to an important physiological discourse that doctors are still uncovering today, chiropractic is still considered pseudoscience. Regardless, this is America, where suspect folk remedies and metaphysical interventions are commonplace. Within three decades there would be over 80 chiropractic schools established in the United States.

Despite scientific studies not showing the effectiveness of chiropractic treatment, it can alleviate pain, but only temporarily. As Derek Beres puts it, “chiropractors provided temporary relief without ever pointing to the cause of the pain.”

Know more about Derek’s experience on chiropractic over at Big Think.

(Image Credit: OSTC/ Pixabay)


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These hit pieces on chiropractic always amuse me. The scientific literature is actually very much in favor of chiropractic. This individually obviously didn't even take the time to look into it. Just regurgitating dogma from the medical community from 50 years ago that still want chiropractic to go away. Sorry, it's works.
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I've been going to chiropractors for years I'm 71 and no hip replacements just listen to my body and when I'm out of balance hip twisted I get an adj. I do not take any medications or over counter. Chiropractic has been proven many times over.
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Relief of temporary pain is definitely a valid reason. That's why the painkiller industry is a multi-billion dollar industry!
I have nothing against chiropractic myself (though I've never gone to a chiropractor). I've heard from a friend who used to get chiropractic adjustments regularly is that that even though it works, soon after he'd need to go again (and again, and again). But once he stopped and toughed out the pain for a while, whatever ailed him sort of resolved itself. Dunno if that's a common thing in chiropractic though.
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Ha! That last comment belittles the alleviation of temporary pain -- something no one who's ever had debilitating back pain would ever dream of. As for "without ever pointing to the cause of the pain" -- well neither do doctors! (Most doctors just prescribe rest and/or pain pills for back pain, which is a whole set of issues in itself.) I've been to chiropractors over the years when I was literally in agony when I tried to move, walking twisted and bent into the office, and upright and pain-free out of it. Yes, dealing with the root cause of stress would be ideal but for people with already over-packed lives, time out to meditate or whatever, just isn't going to happen.
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