Quackery & Chiropractic
How many times have you heard, “My doctor says chiropractic is quackery and he doesn’t believe in it”?
When a respondent in a survey on chiropractic once said, “I wouldn’t want my daughter to marry one,” we know this medical slander remains prevalent and our image continues to suffer.
You may be left speechless, tormented, and angry hearing this nonsense. Like me, you may want to scream, but what can you say?
The recent Edzard Ernst debacle is a good example how we continue to get slandered in the media with his “pseudoscience” claim. Since August, 2010, the online medical journal, Medscape, carried Deaths After Chiropractic: A Review of Published Cases on its most popular list. Remarkably, Ernst’s research over 76 years showed only 26 people died, which equates to 0.34 deaths per year. Rather than lauding the safety of SMT, he concluded that cervical adjustments should be outlawed.
Apparently the MDs had a field day over this slander, ignoring the fact medical mistakes kill over 250,000 annually. Instead, they made Ernst’s article among its “top rated, most emailed” list, no doubt enjoying this chiro bashing by its latest Morris Fishbein-Stephen Barrett character.
Like Rodney Dangerfield, we don’t get any respect.
As fate would have it, the same day the proof of my long-awaited new book, The Medical War Against Chiropractors, arrived at my office, an anonymous letter also was delivered that was addressed to “J. Smith, Quack.” I am not joking.
Talk about being kicked in the stomach by reality!
The irony was obvious: while my book shows concretely the proof that chiropractic care is superior to medical care for most non-specific, mechanical LBP cases, some still parrot the medical defamation.
Like racism, sexism, or anti-Semitism, medical bias against chiropractic never seems to wane. Don’t you wish you had something to counter these claims and to prove to them just the opposite—that chiropractic care is better for the majority of back pain cases than anything the medical or PT world has to offer?
Before the people at the F4CP are offended, let me be clear that while testimonials from sports figures may be entertaining, they will do little to explain this cold war. Former 49er Jerry Rice may have a nice smile and great hands, but he cannot explain why medical bigotry exists nor will his endorsement alone overcome this bias.
Despite the Wilk victory, it seems to have entrenched the bias against chiropractic. In fact, we are still discriminated by workers’ compensation, hospital staffs, military health services, and the VA programs despite laws to the contrary. If it weren’t for the efforts of the ACA and ACC, we would still be in shackles and continue to “wither on the vine.”
Certainly, the public is still being deceived about the third-largest, physician-level health profession in the world
Despite the numerous international guidelines that recommend chiropractic care for non-specific LBP, the positive public polls (Gallup, TRICARE, Consumer Report), the comparative clinical studies (AHCPR, Manga, NICE), and the researchers who chide the disc theory as “incidentalomas” (Boden, Deyo, Jensen), the medical profession still dominates the back pain business: the majority of patients (61%) received MD care for spinal pain, followed by those who received DC (28%) and MD/PT (11%) care.
This should make every DC scream with disgust; instead I hear few complaints. It appears we have accepted our plight since there is no outcry to the public.
Rather than Fredrick Douglas battling against repression, we appear to be Uncle Tom unwilling to fight our suppressors. Indeed, many of our leaders seem to have the attitude, “make love, not war” with the AMA by avoiding this blatant discrimination.
It’s not as if some people are not trying to improve our image. Recently the last few editions of Dynamic Chiropractic published a series by Arlan Fuhr of Activator fame on attaining cultural authority, Building Bridges to Chiropractic Cultural Authority, Part 1.
As well, Don Murphy, Brian Justice, Stephen Perle, Ian Paskowski, and Mike Schneider wrote an intriguing article, The Establishment of a Primary Spine Care Practitioner and its Benefits to Health Care Reform in the United States, about the need for the establishment of primary spine practitioner to treat this epidemic of back pain, the leading cause of workplace disability, military injuries, and overall physical impairment.
I believe what both articles ignored is the century of warfare and professional defamation by the AMA to soil our image. It’s the 800-pound gorilla that we refuse to recognize, let alone try to tame.
Judge Getzendanner acknowledged this problem in the Wilk v. AMA antitrust trial: “Labeling all chiropractors unscientific cultists and depriving chiropractors of association with medical physicians, injury to reputation was assured by the AMA’s name-calling practice.”
Despite the legal victory in Wilk and the supportive research and guidelines, the fact remains this name-calling and quackery image has never been confronted in the public arena. We will never attain cultural authority or increase our market share as primary spine specialists until this negative stereotype is revealed for what it is–a political ploy to defame competition.
This is why I wrote my book to make this case with the facts, not with emotions, philosophy, or with rage. In 262 pages, I have 755 footnotes to make my case.
I believe good Americans, especially our patients, want to understand why we are stigmatized, but no one has ever told them about this medical gorilla or the history of this social injustice.
Indeed, when was the last time you heard of this untold dark chapter in medicine—the 100-year war from persecution to vindication?
Whereas sexism and racism have diffuse origins, the medical bigotry against chiropractors can be traced back to one man, Morris Fishbein, and his successors in the Committee on Quackery. This dark chapter in American medical history is unknown by the public and, when I describe this to my patients, they are shocked to learn of this nefarious behavior by the AMA. Everyone knows there is a cold war, but none understand its origin.
Since most Americans do not condone social injustice, whether it is discrimination against women or people of color, we chiropractors have not tapped into this sympathetic trait of our national consciousness to gain attention to our plight.
Instead, we remain the Mystery Science Profession because mostly what people know about us comes from the lingering medical propaganda from biased MDs fostered by the AMA’s Committee on Quackery. Our silence is not golden, and may be seen as an admission of our guilt in the minds of many since we don’t seem upset by this fate.
If you’re tired of being called a quack or hearing our profession being labeled a pseudoscience, or if you’re frustrated wondering why we have no PR plan to counteract this discrimination, I sympathize with your angst.
But I finally got mad enough to do something about it.
I wrote my book to tell the untold story of chiropractic from persecution to vindication.
I daresay if the ACA and every state association were to expose this dark chapter of medicine by flooding the media outlets, libraries, and politicians with this information, it would do wonders to explain to the public the reasons why we were victimized by the AMA’s propaganda squad. In fact, the public needs a good history lesson on this medical war before they will understand our plight. It would blow the lid on this never-ending medical persecution.
Just as we know Africans did not choose to be slaves, nor did chiropractors deserve to be victimized by the AMA. Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe exposed the roots of slavery and atrocities of racism, it is past time for the chiropractic profession to take the offensive to explain the sordid machinations of the AMA to defame its chief rival in order to create the present medical monopoly that has threatened our national economy, bankrupted millions of Americans, and created the worst healthcare statistics in the industrialized world.
My call to arms is long overdue. It is time for the chiropractic profession to confront the medical bigotry with the facts—the people and events that led to this deplorable situation. History will only repeat itself until we break this cycle with the facts and action.
Wouldn’t you love to say to your patients or to your local civic club, “I can prove the bias about chiropractic is wrong, and here’s the proof” handing them my book if they’re readers or, if they aren’t, at least you can explain the medical war and new scientific vindication with assurance.
 “Attitudes Toward Chiropractic Health Care in Oklahoma,” Welling & Company and Oklahoma Chiropractic Research Foundation in cooperation with the Chiropractic Association of Oklahoma (1984)
 Julia Chevan, Daniel L. Riddle, Factors Associated With Care Seeking From Physicians, Physical Therapists, or Chiropractors by Persons With Spinal Pain: A Population-Based Study, J Orthop Sports Phys Ther 2011;41(7):467-476
 Murphy DR, Justice BD, Paskowski IC, Perle SM, Schneider MJ, The Establishment of a Primary Spine Care Practitioner and its Benefits to Health Care Reform in the United States, Chiropractic & Manual Therapies 2011, 19:17 (21 July 2011)
 S Getzendanner, US District Judge, Permanent Injunction Order Against the AMA (Sept. 25, 1987), published in JAMA, 259/1 (January 1, 1988):82