Scandal Under the Media’s Nose
Mark Twain once warned not to “pick a fight with people who buy ink by the barrel.”
His comment explains perfectly the situation the chiropractic profession has experienced over the past century fighting against the medical media.
For example, let me ask you a question that illustrates my point: When was the last time you’ve seen an in-depth article in the mainstream news media touting the benefits the chiropractic profession brings to a disabled world overwhelmed by opioid painkillers and back surgeries?
I can answer that question for you: “Never.”
And this comes at a time when back pain is the #1 disabling condition in the nation, military, and in the world.
This question also comes after twenty years of scientific research has demonstrated that chiropractic care is a “proven treatment” for this pandemic of back pain that you’ve never been told by the media.
Moreover, the accumulating spine research has concluded that medical spine care is a “national disaster” that has led to the current Hillbilly Heroin epidemic of opioid painkiller addictions and deaths, the ineffectiveness of epidural steroid injections, and the tsunami of unnecessary spine fusions based on an outdated ‘bad disc’ theory.
But the public has not heard one word about this paradigm shift in spine care because chiropractors have not been buying ink by the barrel, too, like the medical profession.
Unfortunately, there has been no ‘fair and balanced’ reporting or whistleblower exposés when it comes to the medical persecution of chiropractic care. Too few medical reporters and news programs have broached this issue because it reveals the prejudice and power of political medicine, the inefficiency of medical spine care, as well as shows the enormous influence Big Pharma and the AMA wield in the media.
If you're interested in learning about the sordid medical war against chiropractors, you'll enjoy this website and my book.
"You are a remarkable voice for our profession."
How many times have you heard your new patients say, “I have discs up and down my spine that are bulging and ready to burst.” It's amazing that the 'bad disc' folklore still exists despite being disproved 25 years ago.
And these confused patients are not those who would never enter a chiropractor’s office because most have been given the “voodoo” diagnosis by unethical MDs who tell them, “and whatever you do, don’t go to a chiropractor who will paralyze you.” Those who still come to see us as the proverbial "last resort" are the patients still searching for hope there is a better way than narcotics, shots, or surgery and who are brave enough to overcome the chirophobia implanted in them by unethical MDs.
People with back pain often become convinced that their ‘bad disc’ confers a grim prognosis—a lifetime of increasing pain and disability. And they opt for what they think are effective medical treatments—from long-term opioids to a continual regimen of steroid injections to heroic reconstructive spine surgery, or so they think. Little do they know how wrong they are.
There is more evidence this medical myth is untrue and it comes from an authority most people recognize, the Mayo Clinic, yet no one in the public has heard of this game-changing research because the medical media reporters refuse to tell their viewing audiences. Indeed, when was the last time you heard Dr. Sanjay Gupta, a neurosurgeon-turned-CNN broadcaster tell his viewers that the 'bad disc' theory was pronounced dead 25 years ago by Dr. Scott Boden who works elbow-to-elbow alongside Gupta at Emory University? Okay, stop laughing because Gupta will never 'rat out' his spine surgeons buddies making millions, nay billions, off this debunked 'bad disc' theory.
Recently researches at the Mayo Clinic performed a systematic review that once again confirms the death of the ‘bad disc’ theory. Waleed Brinjikji, MD, and colleagues performed a systematic review of all studies that reported on the prevalence of lumbar degenerative findings on MRI or CT scans among individuals with no history of low back pain. The researchers found 33 studies of 3110 individuals published through April of 2014 and found the vast prevalence of ‘bad disc’ in pain-free people.
Yet, according to experts at the Mayo Clinic, most of the changes they are describing are “no more significant than gray hair or crow's feet around their eyes.” In other words, they are not the cause of the back pain despite what the family physician or spine surgeon says—they are just a natural part of the aging process. As Rick Deyo, MD, has long said, they are "incidentalomas" because they are secondary or incidental to the pain process.
As proof that pathoanatomic problems are secondary to the pain process, we chiropractors know that after we adjust those patients with 'bad discs' and they feel improved, but the fact remains they still have 'bad discs.' Indeed, pathophysiology drives pathoanatomy, a fact lost on every MD and certainly the public. As Donald Murphy, DC, wrote, 'bad discs' are "red herrings" used by unethical surgeons to convince patients to the need for surgery when, in fact, they are not the driving force for pain.
According to the editors of The BACKLetter, “The largest systematic review to date drives home the point that spinal degeneration visualized on imaging scans often has no relationship to low back pain—and should not be routinely viewed as evidence of the source of low back symptoms.”
In other words, the common sales pitch of ‘bad discs’ has again been proven wrong, but that hasn’t stopped MDs from convincing uninformed patients of their wares of drugs, shots, and surgery. There is just too much money for them to stop, plus most people are convinced of the ‘bad disc’ folklore since 1934 when the ‘bad disc’ diagnosis was invented. Indeed, if you tell a lie often enough, everyone begins to believe it, even the surgeons who should know better but turn a blind eye.
This systematic review found:
“Our study suggests that imaging findings of degenerative changes such as disc degeneration, disc signal loss, disc height loss, disc protrusion, and facet arthropathy are generally part of the normal aging process rather than pathologic processes requiring intervention,” according to the reviewers.
The bottom line for anyone with back pain diagnosed with a ‘bad disc’ is to follow the guidelines that call for conservative (non-drug, non-surgical) chiropractic care first. This includes nearly 90% of cases; the only people who need drugs, shots, or surgery are those who suffer from cancer, fractures, serious infection like TB or staph, cauda equina (loss of bladder control), or the one in 100 disc case that doesn’t respond to chiropractic care.
This Mayo review is one of many in a long line of MRI studies that began in 1990 by Scott Boden who found ‘bad discs’ in pain-free people. Yet this string of similar studies has not slowed down the spine surgery gravy train nor the ‘pill mills’ that do epidural steroid injections and dispense opioid painkillers like Halloween candy.
This scandal remains right under the nose of both the medical profession and the media that refuse to tell the public of this paradigm shift in spine care. Nor has most of the media revealed the downside of medical spine care, the placebo effect of drugs, shots, and surgery that fail to correct the underlying mechanical dysfunction.
This obvious oversight is due to chirophobia, conflict of interest, or just shoddy journalism, but the disconnect between the research journals and the lay publications remains wide and naïve people are continually railroaded into this medical mess.
So the next time you hear someone way, “I have a slipped disc and need surgery,” tell them the truth that ‘you don’t slip discs, but you can slip joints,’ and encourage them to seek chiropractic care before drugs, shots, or surgery as the guidelines recommend.
 Brinjikji W, et al., Systematic literature review of imaging features of spinal degeneration in asymptomatic populations, American Journal of Neuroradiology, 2014, prepub ahead of print; www.ajnr.org/content/early/2014/11/27/ajnr.A4173.long.
 Painless Aging, BackLetter: February 2015 - Volume 30 - Issue 2 - p 13–22
Over the past few months we’ve seen more media attacks on the chiropractic profession such as the online version of Forbes as well as USA Today. In both instances, the typical yellow journalism was clearly evident, especially by Steven Salzberg, the author of the Forbes article that was beyond the pale. As someone claiming to be a professor at Johns Hopkins, his demeanor seemed more appropriate for a street thug.
What made these two cheap shots most notable were the responses to the Forbes and USA Today articles from the public and chiropractors who stood toe-to-toe with these medical trolls. I was proud of their intelligent responses citing research rather than merely getting mad and ugly. Finally the chiropractic professionals are maturing in their own understanding of the science behind our profession as well as developing the backbone to stand up to these medical bullies.
It was also entertaining to read the numerous responses to the Forbes article by Mr. George McAndrews, the lead attorney in the Wilk v. AMA lawsuit. His judicial insights were enlightening as well as spot on to the numerous erroneous comments made by Mr. Salzberg. I doubt there is anyone more astute to this medical war against chiropractors than George McAndrews.
As a lifelong NPR member, I was again saddened by the professional amnesia exhibited by Weekend Edition—Sunday that discussed an issue that we chiropractors should have been included—the growing abuse of opioids for pain. Considering chronic back pain is the leading reason for painkillers, obviously our brand of non-drug treatments should have been included, but once again the chirophobia at NPR prevailed.
Another of my favorite NPR programs, Science Friday, also discussed an issue we chiropractors can attest to—the lack of an open mind in regards to science. Certainly in medical care, despite its appearance as scientific, the medical profession is intransigent in many ways as we see with its attitude about chiropractic that is cemented in stone from the 1930s.
As fate would have it, I encountered an unexpected event that showed me any respite is not possible in the on-going medical war since unforeseen skirmishes await at any time around every corner.
Actually, this turn of events began on a positive note when I watched a video with Christine Goertz, DC, PhD, from Palmer Research who aired a short presentation on QuantiaMD website titled, “Talking to Your Patients About Chiropractic Care.
Despite the excellent presentation by Dr. Goertz, the very first response on the blog took a serious cheap shot when a psychologist labeled chiropractors as “snake-oil salesmen who lacked professionalism and any scientific grounding for their practice.”
After reading Ms. Olbrisch’s salacious comment, I enrolled at QuantiaMD.com to respond to her cheap shot on the blog but, to my surprise, I was denied enrollment because I am a DC.
When I complain it was discrimination, a Mr. Anthony Rosati replied: “Dr. Smith, it is not a discrimination against DC’s, it is simply our company policy.”
Apparently medical discrimination is so ingrained into these medical groups they can’t even see it when pointed out clearly.
These recent examples of media bias led me to coin a term to describe this mental lockjaw, if you will, where it is too difficult for journalists and MDs to discuss fairly chiropractic care. Hence, I coined the term “Chirophobia” as the irrational fear, antipathy, contempt, prejudice, aversion, or hatred of chiropractors instilled by decades of medical bigotry.
Every chiropractor has witnessed such bias whenever someone says, “I don’t believe in chiropractic” or “My wife is afraid to be adjusted” or “My MD said you could paralyze me.”
I wrote a synopsis of my book to succinctly explain the source of this medical bigotry, “I don’t believe…” I feel like Fredrick Douglas explaining the harm of slavery for the very first time or MLK, Jr. pleading for an end to racism. I’ve found once people understand the history of chirophobia, they are relieved, not unlike anyone freed from any lifelong bigotry.
Yet there is too much money in spine care for MDs and the medical industrial complex to suddenly relinquish their iron-grip on chiropractic no matter the benefits we bring to the table. This multi-billion dollar enterprise is too profitable to allow a free market on a level playing field. Nor do these spine surgeons want to follow the guidelines that call for conservative care first as we’ve seen lately with Medicare Accounting Contractors who denied payments for spine fusions that did not use conservative care beforehand. I wrote about this controversy in my cover story, Climbing the Ladder of Opportunity.
I still keep hoping that someone in the mainstream media will see the fascinating story of this medical war against chiropractors that will lead to the breakthrough we need to help millions of people and save billions of dollars.
Just think of the sudden change toward homophobia—just a few years ago the LGBT community was still hiding in the closet of disrespect. But within a few years, everything suddenly changed once the media and public sentiment began to change to overthrow the chains of bias.
So, we chiropractors must keep our hope alive that sometime soon the social psychology—the click, whirr—that creates public sentiment will soon understand the benefits we bring to an ailing society by overcoming chirophobia.
A lot has happened over the last two years since I began this website. Not only have over 12,000 visits been made to this site, it has gotten the attention of many in the media as well as the medical trolls who have attacked me in their usual fashion of ridicule and condemnation.
Nonetheless, there has been a huge shift in medical spine care as more information about the dangers, cost, and ineffectiveness of traditional medical care accumulates in the mainstream media and among insurance payers such as CMS. After running amok since 2000, finally the curtain has dropped.
On March 6, 2014, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart did a segment, “America has the Best Health Care System in the World!” that I had to comment on considering I have written extensively on this debunked concept in an article, Healthcare Reform or Revolution.
Please take six minutes to view this enlightening and humorous Daily Show segment as the spokesman for the medical cartel trips over his own words: Third World Health Care - Knoxville, Tennessee Edition.
Despite the failings of American medicine, medical chauvinism is a strong factor in American healthcare to the extent of being a quasi-religion when patients "believe in" medicine without any real understanding and while ignoring these poor clinical outcomes.
fact remains the chiropractic profession is the Mystery Science
profession that rarely gets fair and balanced reporting despite the
epidemic of back pain and the research that shows our brand of spinal
care is superior to the medical treatments of addictive pain drugs,
ineffective epidural shots, or expensive and disabling spine surgery
based on an outdated disc theory.
discussed the history of the medical demagoguery and warfare against
chiropractic as well as the new paradigm in spine care in my new book, The Medical War Against Chiropractors: the untold story from persecution to vindication.
This 262-page book has 755 footnote references to support my
contentions; obviously anything I said would be attacked by the medical
bigots who will demand proof. If proof is what they want, then I will
give it to them, but I doubt any scientific proof will change their
bigotry and bias. "Don't confuse us with the facts" seems to be their mantra now. It is shameful.
is my hope to bring this problem to the forefront and demand equal time
in the media.This inequality in the media will only stop when we bring
it to the attention of the fair-minded public.
As you can see in the above two cartoons, the inequities in healthcare and in the news media is not a new phenomenon. Today, we find the same media boycott of chiropractic newsworthy items as they saw back in 1949 when the one cartoon was first published.
the Committee on Quackery’s goal to have chiropractic “wither on the
vine” is not only evident in insurance limitations, but in the media
with the virtual absence of attention despite the fact we are the
third-largest physician-level profession in the nation.
As well, chiropractors are now deemed to be America's primary spine care providers by virtue of their superior education in musculoskeletal disorders. Did you know only half of all medical schools teach only one four-hour class in this area whereas chiropractors study nearly 2,000 hours in this field? Don't be fooled by inept MDs who pose as expert in back pain; all they know is everything is either a "pulled muscle" or "slipped disc" that require painkillers, muscle relaxers, shots, or surgery. Poppycock, I say.
in no way do we get an equivalent amount of media exposure for our expertise. Indeed,
unless it’s a story about some DC committing insurance fraud or sexual
abuse, we remain the Mystery Science profession or stand accused of
being a “pseudo-science” by our medical critics. Despite being
unsupported by evidence, this medical slander prevails in the mind of
many because we chiropractors have never had the opportunity to refute
This widespread medical slander is easy to illustrate. During the Wilk et al. v. AMA et al. trial in 1976, the AMA leadership accused chiropractic of being quackery, dangerous, or pseudo-science. Our attorney, George McAndrews, asked them for proof for their accusations, but they had none. They were simply parrotting the same propaganda that they heard a thousand times from their own Committee on Quackery. Again, it was shameful for a supposed evidence-based profession to be so stupid and biased.
The New Zealand Commission on Chiropractic in 1978, perhaps the most in-depth investigation into chiropractic at that time, found the same thing--the medical critics had no proof whatsoever for their defamation. In both instances, however, proof was presented by medical witnesses that chiropractic care was safe, effective, and had better clinical results than medical care. These "admissions against interest" were, in effect, confessions that persuaded both the trial judge and the commission. Yet the public has never been told of these facts. To this day, many MDs continue to parrot this propaganda.
When there are relevant topics discussed in the media, such as the overuse of spine surgery, rarely is chiropractic mentioned as the leading alternative. When pain pill drug addiction and deaths are discussed, never has chiropractic been shown to be an alternative to this drug madness we now see. When CAM is mentioned in regard to general health issues, rarely is chiropractic’s concept of neurophysiology touted as non-drug option to Type M or Type O disorders.
My point is clear: we chiropractors have no voice in the media today. We are constantly insulted in the media such as the recent NPR story on military health services when it quoted Harriett Hall, a former Air Force flight surgeon, who also fought against Obama’s healthcare reform that called for non-discrimination. According to the NPR report, she “shares the skepticism found in many corners of the medical community. ‘We call that 'quack-ademic' medicine when it gets into medical schools,’ she says.”
a bigot! This is what I refer to as Chicken Little journalism.
And where was the chiropractic input or response? Again, this was another example of unfair journalism that enables medical slander of our profession without any response.
Dr. Sanjay Gupta broadcasted on CNN a 2008 video stating chiropractic causes
hundreds of strokes annually, where was the chiropractic response? When I
filed a complaint, the video came down but I got no response or apology
from Gupta; indeed, the damage was already done.
A more recent example of Gupta's bias occurred on Nov. 18, 2012 when he aired an expose, Deadly Dose, concerning the 38,000+ deaths annually in the US from narcotic painkillers. Ostensibly, after reviewing the situation where 75% of these chronic pain patients are taking these narcotics like OxyContin for back pain, a viewer might assume Gupta was searching for a non-drug solution to back pain, right?
Yet, in this one hour program, Gupta did not mention chiropractic care even once. To my amazement and to the millions of viewers who use chiropractic care, his oversight was obvious medical bias, shoddy journalism, or a bad case of professional amnesia. Indeed, Dr. Gupta has no objectivity when it comes to chiropractors, the main rivals for spine surgeons.
My question is obvious: where is his "fair and balanced" reporting? Okay, stop laughing again!
But wait, that's not CNN's motto, but that of FOX News that has also ignored chiropractic care. Indeed, as long as Big Pharma pays their bills, no TV commentator will attack their drugs. Have you noticed the primary advertisers on TV are drug makers? Forget about beer, truck, IT products, or junk food purveyors, drugs dictate what will be sponsored on commercial TV when it comes to healthcare issues.
When I wrote yet another complaint to CNN and to former President Bill Clinton's Global Initiative since he asked Gupta to do this report after a friend's son died from mixing OxyContin with alcohol, there were no responses. My book publicist phoned both men to find more bias at CNN when he was told I was "blackballed" due to my "baseless accusations."
Are the people at CNN nuts or what? Since CNN touts itself as "the most trusted name in news," I find it odd that when Gupta makes a huge blunder by omitting chiropractic care from a discussion on deaths by opioid drugs for back pain, it shows more clearly than what I could ever write concerning the bias in the medical-media.
Dr. Gupta is not alone with his medically-biased reporting. When Edzard Ernst publishes “Deaths After Chiropractic” in Medscape, nothing is said about his biased reporting. I responded, but once again, got no comment by the editors for this sensational article. In fact, this article ranked among the most popularly read articles on Medscape, no doubt feeding the fuel of medical bias among other medical bigots.
This is reminiscent of the FSU fiasco when Raymond Bellamy lashed out in similar terms against the inclusion of chiropractic into the curriculum that was passed by the Florida legislature by a vote of 151-1. Throughout the many newspaper articles, rarely was there any feedback by Alan Adams or Jay Triano, the two DCs who were to head this graduate level program. Again, the public was awash in medical propaganda without any effective response from the chiropractic community.
my book I recount other infamous examples of the Spin Doctors in the
media, such as columnist Ann Landers, so I won’t cover that ground here
again. Daily we see similar examples of misinformation, but it appears
no one in the chiropractic community has stood up to defend our
profession, unless you consider a sternly worded one-page response from
the ACA’s PR staff. I have made this point to the ACA and F4CP for years
without any response other than me undoubtedly appearing petulant to
the leadership. I have also offered a new type of ads that were ignored.
Nonetheless, my plan is to bring this issue to a head by starting a new website named “Chiropractors for Fair Journalism.” Some think I might call this website “Chiropractors Fighting Against Medical Misinformation.” I daresay that if there were fair journalism in the media, there would not be medical misinformation to fight.
Here are my goals:
1. Post examples of medical misinformation in the recent news along with a chiropractic response.
2. Become a source of news information for the media and public by posting notable articles, such as the recent paper concerning DCs as primary spine care providers written by Donald Murphy, Brian Justice, Ian Paskowski, Stephen Perle, and Michael Schneider that I thought was a great idea.
3. Encourage local DCs to become proactive and responsive to their local news media.
4. Promote journalism in our chiropractic colleges. Although some students are trained in producing academic/scientific papers, we need future journalists to write popular articles for the lay media and to monitor the media when it publishes one-sided articles. We need to encourage our academicians to develop courses for credits in this arena.
We must become a voice in the news media with clout, so whenever any news journalists writes or broadcasts an article concerning spine care or healthcare reform in general, we need to be the source of their information. As well, we must monitor the media and respond to unfair journalism such as the recent NPR broadcast.
Just as the Jewish Anti-Defamation League protests against biased statements or articles in the media, we need to do the same—be that voice to respond to future attacks by medical misinformers. It is past time to call out these medical propagandists and to hold the media’s feet to the fire when they purposely omit chiropractic from any discussion in our field. It is past time we are ignored or defamed in this national discussion on health and spine care.
Ideally, chiropractic needs a cable TV program featuring the variety within our profession; teach the public of the value of our brand of natural healthcare, and to promote a better image. I’ve written to CNN about starting such a series of Chiropractic & Alternative Healthcare but, of course, got no response. As long as MDs like Sanjay Gupta are in sole control of the health news programming and Big Pharma pays his bills, we can expect this boycott.
However, if we had power from numbers and an organization dedicated to promoting fairness in journalism, a similar request would have more clout and credence and certainly gain more media attention.
If we are to win in the war against the medical misinformers, we need to develop an effective and long lasting information bureau of aggressive journalists knowledgeable of the recent research and politics of healthcare.
long as someone states, “chiropractic might be good for some people, but
I wouldn’t want my daughter to marry one,” we have a huge image problem.This is simply a sign of chirophobia, the unwarranted fear of chiropractors.
in this age of evidence-based healthcare, we have the research to back
up our claims that chiropractic spine care is the most cost and
clinically-effective brand of spine care on the market. Now if we can
overcome the skepticism and slander bred by the medical profession, we
can help reduce pain and suffering to a public addicted to drugs and
subjected to unnecessary shots and spine surgery.
Indeed, spine research is now on chiropractic's side.
Medical spine care consisting of drugs, shots, and surgery that have been proven dangerous, addictive, expensive, ineffective, and deadly. Mark Schoene, editor of an international spine research newsletter, The BACKLetter, could not be clearer when he said: “Spinal medicine in the US is a poster child for inefficient spine care.”[i]
Indeed, this plethora of spine research reveals the paradigm shift away from “bad discs,” a concept disproved by researchers such as Scott Boden, MD, and even chided by Rick Deyo, MD, MPH, who labeled them irrelevant and dubbed them “incidentalomas.”
Furthermore the recent deaths caused by epidural shots contaminated by meningitis and the 38,000+ deaths from prescription narcotic painkillers, mostly taken for chronic back pain, illustrate the ineffectiveness of these medical methods kept alive by a greedy medical profession.
On the other hand, chiropractic care has proven to be at the top of the heap as Dr. Tony Rosner, PhD, testified in 2003 before The Institute of Medicine: “Today, we can argue that chiropractic care, at least for back pain, appears to have vaulted from last to first place as a treatment option.”[ii]
The historic spine studies, such as the AHCPR guideline, Manga Reports, UK BEAM, and the New Zealand Inquiry, as well as more recent seventeen recent international guidelines, have also recommended our brand of spine care over medical care in the majority (85%) of cases—the so-called “non-specific” mechanical cases where joint dysfunction is the main problem.
The medical mismanagement of this pandemic of back pain is enormous and, when low back pain is combined with neck pain, these [iii] These painful
spinal disorders are second only to ischemic heart disease in its
impact on the global burden of disease according to Scott Haldeman, MD,
DC, PhD, a leading spine expert.
This is yet another way the 80,000 chiropractors could improve this dire U.S. health disadvantage with their superior diagnostic and clinical skills in spine care.Chiropractors now must assume the mantel of America's primary spine care providers due to our superior training and clinical treatments.
[i] The BACKPage editorial vol. 27, No. 11, November 2012.
[ii] Testimony before The Institute of Medicine: Committee on Use of CAM by the American Public on Feb. 27, 2003.
[iii] Scott Haldeman DC, MD, PhD, FRCP(C) and Simon Dagenais DC, PhD. A supermarket approach to the evidence-informed management of chronic low back pain. The Spine Journal, vol. 8, Issue 1, January-February 2008, Pages 1-7.