I recently wrote a post at Science-Based Medicine on Chiropractic. One part of the article said that Chiropractic was mostly a bunch of bunkum. My conclusion was that bunkum helps people. Only, you have to believe in the bunkum first. I have never heard of a Chiropractor who does not believe in some sort of fairy tale about why what they do seems to help people in various ways.
I use the analogy of someone using fundamentalist Christianity to kick alcoholism. It sometimes works. but it doesn’t prove that fundamentalist Christianity is true.
I am a former Chiropractor, graduated top 10% from Palmer Iowa, took lots of seminars, spent thousands of hours thinking about these issues…….
The profession is full of delusion yes, that is a no brainer and partially the reason I knew before I even graduated that I did not want to be a Chiropractor, but I stuck it out anyways.
Chiropractic is mostly personal charisma, business and salesmanship. I would guess 80%+ of the results of any chiropractors work comes from the power of belief and suggestion (ie.. placebo). People want hope and they enjoy the story that their body is capable of healing itself or that all illness has a purpose or whatever metaphysical idea makes them feel empowered. It makes them feel better already just being told this story.
Several of my old friends in chiropractic who have successful businesses tell me that they get better results with techniques that do not involve spinal manipulation. We call them non-force techniques. In my opinion, these techniques do absolutely nothing at all physically to the spine. Yet I totally believe my friends when they tell me they get the best results using these techniques.
The other thing is that spinal manipulation does make people sore and in many cases leaves them with persistent effects they do not tell anyone about. When I went to various fairs with a booth and my advertising, I was shocked at how many people would tell me they had been hurt by a Chiropractor. In my brief time in practice I even saw people with persistent neurological issues (permanently wobbling necks due to damaged mechanoreceptors in the spinal joints). They never told their chiropractors about these things out of embarrassment and, I believe, out of a desire to want to support Chiropractic.
There are some real benefits to manipulation for some people that I have seen with my own eyes. But my thought is that if all the people who did not receive anything other than placebo were culled from the patient population, most chiropractic practices would go out of business quickly.
People love their chiropractors. They love to be given hope, to be empowered, to be touched. I believe the techniques and beliefs within Chiropractic are almost total delusional bullcrap. Despite trying for years to find something to believe in within the profession I could not. And I could not find it within myself to sell a placebo effect for a living.
One thing I have learned about this absurd world we live in- sometimes sheer bullcrap helps people. If you look at the most common ailments chiropractors profess to help with, they are all stress related- the problems most easily influenced by belief and suggestion. Stress exacerbates the symptomatology of many of these common ailments- pain syndromes, headaches, virtually anything related to the autonomic nervous system. A simple touch, a simple story- though completely fictitious and ultimately delusional, can rewire the mind and a person’s pain perception. The experience of pain is something like- nociception + 2 X perception.
I have never met a Chiropractor who believed that everything they did was a placebo effect. Those sorts of people are probably just like me and can’t practice. But I have known very smart people who think they are actually doing something analytical when they are doing nothing at all. I had one guy tell me- “I spend all day in the room working out puzzles on people’s bodies”. In reality he was doing nothing at all- no cracking, manipulation etc.. only light touches here and there, yet he thought he was working out “puzzles on people’s bodies” as if he could analyze his way to a more effective placebo.
Of course he would never say that he was doing anything related to the placebo, and that’s why he can sell his water by the river and still sleep at night.