Chiropractic treatment is controversial; there are those who swear by it and there are sceptics. However, the majority of the public are still undecided and I believe that it's important for those people to have access to the right information. Did you know that chiropractic was founded in the year 1895, which makes chiropractic over a 100-year-old profession?
From chiropractors being jailed for allegedly practising pseudo-science, the AMA illegally lobbying against chiropractors, to being officially recognised by the World Health Organisation in 1997, the profession persisted and outgrew its sufferance till this day.
There are multiple reasons why chiropractic is controversial and most importantly, there are reasons why chiropractic still remains to be the third largest primary health care profession, only to be surpassed by the medical profession and dentistry. I'm a chiropractor who majored in biomedical science and pharmacology, and I can confidently say that chiropractic is not for everyone. I didn’t write this article to convince you, but I will present you with the unbiased truth. Here are 6 reasons why chiropractic treatment is controversial.
1. Chiropractic is controversial because it's natural and drug-free.
The word "chiropractic" comes from the combination of Greek words 'kheir' (hand) and 'practic' (practice), which literally translates into "hands-on method of healing". The profession is built on the premise that the human body is innately intelligent and that it has the ability to self-regulate and self-heal. Chiropractors call this the innate intelligence and the medical profession calls it homeostasis. What both professions do agree on is that this state of physiology is what maintains life and is regulated by the nervous system.
However, the way chiropractors and medical doctors try to establish this homeostasis in patients' systems are very different. The goal of a medical doctor is to diagnose and treat symptoms of a condition through the use of drugs and surgery. The goal of a chiropractor is to restore the normal function of the nervous system so the body can heal, repair and achieve homeostasis naturally (more on this later).
The misinformed public is addicted to quick-fixes despite medications and drugs having fundamental flaws. All medications are toxic and works by masking the symptoms; neglecting the underlying cause of disease. The problem may get out of hand as unresolved underlying problems may lead to bigger health crises down the road. Chiropractic is becoming more and more controversial because they oppose the reliance on drugs. This puts chiropractic up against large pharmaceutical companies that have a track record of publishing untruthful studies and lobbying medical doctors and organisations for endorsements. It is no longer healthcare for the people but a money making business that works by making the sick, sicker.
2. Chiropractic is controversial because it's simple.
The whole concept of chiropractic lies in the idea that if your spine is well aligned and each segment of the spinal joints are moving properly, you have a healthy, fully functioning nervous system.
There are trillions of cells, tissues and organs that all function differently and harmoniously to one another in order to keep you alive. The only thing they have in common is that they are controlled by the nervous system. The nervous system is what regulates everything in your body and allows you to adapt to different environments and achieve homeostasis. A Chiropractor's view on health would be:
Well-aligned and properly functioning spine = Healthy Nervous System = Healthy Body
Healthy spine = Healthy nervous system = Healthy body?
Sounds simple right?
Or... is it too simple to be true?
On top of this "overly-simplified" view on the human body, chiropractic, - as a profession - hasn't changed much over the course of its existence. Yes, there are new chiropractic techniques, automated chiropractic tables and sophisticated software programs but they haven’t changed the profession. They simply work to aid chiropractors do their job more efficiently. For example, chiropractors still use their hands to adjust the patient’s spine! Chiropractic hasn't evolved much over time and this can make the profession look outdated, irrelevant and overly too simple.
As mentioned before, the medical profession is based on the diagnosis and treatment of disease. Medical doctors are trained academics who understand the body on a cellular level. Each year, new drugs and surgical procedures are being researched and developed and as a profession, it is constantly evolving. However, this is an irony in itself. There are more drugs and surgery than ever before, yet we are getting sicker and sicker! The right question to ask is not if chiropractic is too good/simple to be true, but it is to question why the medical profession needs to constantly re-invent itself? You don't fix something that isn't broken. Over time, the human body hasn't changed at all. Your body and your health is still governed and regulated by the same forces as it did for our ancestors.
Ask yourself, do you really need that new pill just recently approved by the FDA? What difference would it make?
3. Chiropractic is controversial because of its philosophy.
Chiropractors believe that the human body is vitalistic and that it's greater than the sum of its parts. Chiropractors believe that the nervous system allows the human body to express health and that health is our natural state of being, not sickness.
Medical doctors have a reductionist and mechanistic philosophy. Their job is to label patients through diagnosis and comparing patients to the 'average Joe' (think height, weight, blood pressure, etc). Medical doctors operate on the basis of understanding the pathophysiology of a disease and using external aids to neutralise the condition.
"In fact, there are some who would argue that today's medicine has even gone beyond treating the body as a machine -- that today's doctors have taken things to a whole new level of absurdity. They treat the body as a mere set of "numbers." When you go to your doctor now, he or she orders up a series of very expensive tests (blood work, PSA, EEG, etc.), each of which produces a set of numbers. Then, based on where your numbers fall relative to a chart of "normal" numbers, your doctor prescribes a series of drugs to move your numbers up or down so that they fall within the "norm." In this model, even symptoms don't matter -- only the numbers." (Source: BaseLine of Health: https://jonbarron.org/cancer-alternative-cancer-therapies/worlds-greatest-medical-failures)
Does it mean that the medical profession is bad? No, absolutely not. In many cases, they are life-savers. To borrow the words of Dr James Chestnut, medical doctors are much alike to firefighters.
When there is a house on fire (health crisis), the right person to call is firefighters (medical doctors). Once they arrive, they will start to axe their way into the house (the human body), knock down the walls, spray all over the furniture (drugs and surgery) and put the fire off. When the fire is extinguished, the house is saved. Medication and surgery works to do exactly that.
I believe that medical doctors and their expertise are phenomenal. They save millions of lives worldwide. Chiropractors can't do that. But after the firefighters leave the scene, what remains is a ruined house. Your body isn't the way it used to be. The use of drugs and surgery comes with all sorts of health implication and this is where the mistake happens. Once the fire has been put off, you wouldn't call the firefighters again the next day for help, would you? But people do this all the time! After a health crisis is taken care of, they rely on more drugs and more surgery to keep them "healthy".
Iatrogenic damage (defined as a state of ill health or adverse effect resulting from medical treatment) is the third leading cause of death, after heart disease and cancer! Not to mention that house fires are entirely preventable! Chiropractic is the study of health and what causes a man to live. Medicine is the study of disease and what causes a man to die. This fundamental difference in philosophy is what makes chiropractic controversial, at least in the eyes of medical doctors and the public who are accustomed to symptom-based healthcare, quick fixes and instant symptom relief.
4. Chiropractic is controversial because it is for everyone.
Unlike medications or surgery, chiropractic is suitable for everyone. Chiropractors believe that it's better to be preventative towards health rather than to be reactive. Vertebral subluxations (spinal misalignments) occur from birth to grave. From the use of forceps during a cesarian birth, toddlers falling on average 102 times a day, poor postures in teenagers and desk bound workers to degenerative changes of the spine with aging, all add up to cause spinal dysfunction. Therefore chiropractors believe that everyone with a functioning spine needs to be under chiropractic care in varying degrees whether a symptom is present or not.
This wouldn't make sense if your definition of health and healthcare resides in the medical paradigm. Why would I go see a doctor when I’m not sick?
5. Chiropractic is controversial because some chiropractors are incompetent
Chiropractic is a diluted profession. There are chiropractors who specialise in paediatrics, sports, upper cervical (the relationship between the atlas and axis) and scoliosis and they all provide exceptional services tailored to the patient’s needs. There is nothing wrong with being specialised. The problem lies in chiropractors who try and incorporate all sorts of therapy in order to "please" a patient or even themselves.
Most additional forms of treatment (such as trigger point therapy, heat packs, stretches, core strengthening, nutritional advice, etc.) does help patients get better but the emphasis always needs to be on chiropractic and the chiropractic adjustment. Today there are incompetent chiropractors who hardly adjusts their patients at all! This disparity within the profession inevitably and naturally leads to controversy.
Every chiropractor gets his our her spine adjusted at least once or twice a week without a second thought , but some are afraid to make the same recommendations to the public. Why is that? Chiropractors who does not adjust the spine are not chiropractors. Regardless of the profession, there always will be the 'good' and the 'bad'. Doctors are the people that you depend your health on. Don't settle for one, ask and look for ones that resonate with you the best.
6. Chiropractic is controversial because of its hype.
Did you know that this year (2017), every single team playing in the Super Bowl had an onsite chiropractor? Did you know that world-class athletes such as Michael Phelps, Jordan Spieth, and Usain Bolt are all under chiropractic care? (The list goes on)
You can never see a medical doctor giving medication to athletes on the playing field (unless their house is on fire). Medical doctors are specialists in health crises and they are amazing at it (think concussion, etc). On the contrary, chiropractors are adjusting the spines of these athletes both on and off the field. NOT because they are sick, but because the players, the medical staff on the team, coaches, sponsors and the whole lot for that matter, understand that chiropractic is pro-health and optimises body function.
The news about chiropractors helping high profile individuals across all industries create a natural hype for the profession. Even more so because most people don’t understand the ‘why’ behind it. When the attention is given to something; there's always someone or something that will try to bring it down. You can't please everybody.
What Do You Think?
Chiropractic is under a spotlight and the profession has started to receive attention by many. Is it because chiropractic is controversial? Or is it because many are starting to realise that mainstream medicine is failing? Look around you, people are getting sicker by the day. Today we are living in a time where more and more are drawn to natural therapies, the concept of wellness, healthy diet and lifestyle changes.
This article was to outline few of the points why chiropractic is controversial. I wouldn't care if you disagreed with chiropractic but I would if your judgement was based off nothing. If that's the case, you're missing out! Don’t just take my word for it, go and experience it for yourself. Maybe chiropractic won’t be right for you (or as I would like to say, “You’re not ready for it, yet”). But maybe it will turn out to be your thing!
Maybe chiropractic will facilitate your life journey of health and prevention. And just maybe, chiropractic will prevent "your house from catching a fire".