Chiropractic Myths

Reality-Check-Ahead-1-e1456778646674

You may have heard horror stories.  You may have heard another healthcare professional tell you not to come to us.  (This is not only unethical, but it is straight-up illegal.)  You may know someone who claims they were hurt or injured at a chiropractor’s office.

These stories conjure up so much negative imagery that it scares hordes of people who desperately need our help out of coming to see us.

I’m on a mission: I’m going to put to rest these ridiculous myths that continue to circulate.  I’ll attack the most common ones, and then open it up to you; just use the “Post Comment” link at the bottom.

Myth: Chiropractic is unscientific.
Fact: Let’s explore that.  Think back to your basic introductory science classes, no matter what level.  We all learned about the scientific method.  Historically, people made observations about the world around them.  They formed a hypothesis, which is a working assumption based on the observation.  Then they tested that hypothesis as best they could.  Based on the results, they either confirmed or debunked the hypothesis and either altered it or started over from scratch.  This is the basis for a vast majority of our current scientific knowledge, and it is the method still used today.

If this is congruent with your own definition and understanding of science, then yes, chiropractic is indeed scientific.  Actually, there is even more sound research to validate chiropractic treatment than there is for low back surgery.  I know it sounds funny to think about achieving good health through having your back being pushed on in a specific way, but truth is sometimes stranger than fiction.  Chiropractic has stood the test of time, and has held its own through western allopathic medical skepticism, government and private research, individual case studies, media bias, negative portrayals and accusations, and even those who went to jail for treating their patients.

Myth: Chiropractic is dangerous.
This sentence is true, if you add one caveat: chiropractic maneuvers performed by people who lack sufficient training is dangerous.  It is illegal for any unlicensed practitioner to perform any spinal adjusting, or to claim to do so.  This includes the quick neck turns and back thrusts.  Other types of licensed practitioners, like massage therapists, are also acting well outside of the law (and their client’s best interest!) if they stray outside of the soft tissue world.  Depending on the individual state laws, Physical Therapists, Naturopathic Doctors, and Medical Doctors can perform manipulations, but often only if they’ve been certified through minimual weekend workshop training.  (But then, you have to ask yourself if you really want a PT wrenching on your neck who only learned their moves over the weekend.)

The fact is, chiropractic, as practiced by a licensed chiropractic physician, is overwhelmingly safe.  Just ask the malpractic insurance companies.  They live and die by doing research on which demographics and occupations pose the highest risk.  Risk is assessed based on the number and severity of claims lodged against them.  This is how the insurance industry survives–they have to be stellar at assessing risk, or they go out of business very quickly.

Since cultural wisdom holds the almighty Medical Doctor in the highest esteem, let’s take them on as a group.  The average medical malpractice rates average from $4k per year (the very low end for a relatively non-risky medical internist) to over $125k or more (the higher end for a neurosurgeon).  The average chiropractor pays between $1500 and $2500 per year.

Let’s get real for a second: if chiropractors posed such a huge risk to the public and stroked people out all the time, our rates would be right up there with, or higher than, those of the MDs.  The fact is, chiropractors pay an average of 10% as much (assuming an overall MD average of $20k in Washington state).  If chiropractic was really so dangerous, would our rates be so low?  Would anyone even insure us at all?

Myth: Chiropractors aren’t real doctors.
What’s a doctor?  In Latin, the word means “teacher”. In Greek, a physician described a “healer”.  In contemporary terms, a doctor is someone with a doctoral degree who sees patients, diagnoses their problem, and treats it according to whichever discipline they were trained in.  Chiropractic medical schools are recognized and accredited by the US Department of Education, just like allopathic medical schools.  The prerequisites required to enroll in chiropractic programs are identical to those of allopathic schools.  The program is the same 4 years (although at many schools who choose to operate through summer and accelerate the program, it takes 3 years to complete), and the basic science classes and national medical board exams all contain, and test on, identical information.  Here’s a rundown…

Average Minimum Required Classroom Instruction Hours During 1st two pre-clinical years *

Chiropractic College Traditional Medical School
366.4 Anatomy/Embryology. 184.6
561.2 Physiology/Pathology 542.3
197 Microbiology/Public Health/Biostatistics 155.3
312.8 Physical Diagnosis/Clinical Medicine 200.5
141.4 Neuroscience 114
105.9 Cell biology/Histology 130.7
66.7 Nutrition 21.5
29.4 Pharmacology 99
1900.8 Average Hours for 1st two years 1556.3

* Source: the 2008-2009 catalog at Parker College of Chiropractic (the information in the medical doctor column is from the American Medical Association, reprinted with permission in Parker’s catalog.)

Myth: Once you get adjusted, you have to keep going back.
This actually depends on what you expect to get out of your chiropractic care.  If you want to stay out of pain, it’ll probably only take a couple of visits and then voila!  But truthfully, aspirin is cheaper.  It causes organ damage in the long run, though.  Bummer.

Chiropractic is so much more than just pain relief.  It’s all about function.  I’ll probably explain more about this later (what are the odds?)  Suffice it to say that it’s a good idea to at least get a monthly checkup.  It’ll often take a whole 5 minutes and if you do need an adjustment that day, it’ll usually be included in the visit price.  The main idea is to get an ethical doctor (as is true for every profession) and if you have any doubts, questions, or concerns, be sure to voice them.  After all, you’re the patient, and it’s your time and money!

So, bring it on.  Fire away.  No question too pointed, no issue too hot.  Let’s get it all out on the table.

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