Is Chiropractic a scam?

In a word (okay…two words) absolutely NOT.

Yes, I’m a DC (Doctor of Chiropractic) myself.  Do I have a vested interest in promoting chiropractic?  Not exactly, simply because I don’t do spinal adjusting (all of my work revolves around Functional Medicine, a very high-end neuro-metabolic approach to chronic conditions, endocrine issues, blood sugar problems, fatigue, autoimmune disorders, you name it, that relies mostly on scientific lab testing to identify the physiological imbalances and give a starting point in terms of helping improve those issues).  Yes, it’s true: not every DC touches the spine.  No, we’re not being sacrilegious or wasting our chiropractic degree; we’re just choosing to utilize different parts of our education and develop a different skillset.

So anyway…am I biased?  Maybe.  Do I still have a valid opinion?  Yep.

My mother told me not so many years ago that I was born with a clubfoot.  This was news to me.  I had absolutely no reason to believe I ever had an imperfection like that.  I have absolutely no residual evidence that I ever had one.  I certainly couldn’t tell you which leg it was.  My mother said it was straightened out by a chiropractic doctor when I was still a baby.

The first chiropractic adjustment I remember was when I was 14 and suffering from frequent major, painful middle ear infections.  I was resistant to pretty much every common antibiotic.  I had already had tubes put in.  Every conventional medical intervention failed.  Incidentally, I always drank a lot of cow’s milk, and had begun doing so at three months old (at which point I had also developed colic).  Although the colic eventually resolved, the dairy allergy remained, completely unknown to me until I learned in chiropractic med school that ear infections are a major (and often one of the only) symptoms of a dairy allergy.  Indeed, that and some skin problems were my only evidence of any possible allergies, but none were considered serious enough to warrant further investigation.

Imagine my surprise when, a few hours after my very first post-club foot adjustment, my hearing had improved by at least 50%.  I knew this because as I was practicing for my piano lesson on our keyboard, the max volume I had it set at from the day before was too loud, for the first time.  I was able to get the same benefit from setting the volume at about half of what it was before.  I remember turning to my mother and saying, “mom – I can hear.”  That was all it took for her.  She had me in that DC’s office once a week on average; however often I needed it.

Doctors of Chiropractic who are worth their salt are responsible for these types of stories every day.  What was a monumental life-changing moment for me was simply all in a day’s work for him.  This isn’t to say that he shrugged it off as no big deal; it IS to say that he saw this kind of thing daily.  When practiced properly, chiropractic produces miraculous results.  While it is true that we need further objective research to quantify our findings and validate our claims and that much of the benefits espoused are theoretical in nature, the truth is that these miracle stories don’t originate from nowhere.  Chiropractic is a fantastic healing science and art.  Despite having been adjusted incorrectly (and there are indeed “right” and “wrong” ways to adjust!), I have also had very positive experiences.

In reality, it’s not the chiropractic discipline that is the problem.  While chiropractic itself often finds itself in caught in the crosshairs of hostility and debate, and a lot of its premises come under attack frequently, it’s not the modality itself that needs to be questioned.  Ask those who actually practice chiropractic or patients who visit a chiropractic doctor, and you’ll find that a vast majority of them have at least one success story or two to tell.

Where the stitching unravels is much like the professions of dentistry or law, or even conventional medicine: not all practitioners are created equal.  There are good and bad in every profession, and the stigma is compounded when the topic of discussion is a minority or that which goes against a grain of some kind.  When a medical doctor screws up (often egregiously), people write it off as a bad doctor.  When a chiropractic doctor screws up (sometimes egregiously but most often much less so), the public writes off the whole profession as a screwy profession wrought with quackery.  It’s a double standard.

Now, this isn’t to say that some chiropractic doctors themselves aren’t scam artists.  Some are, and it happens more commonly than any of us would like to admit.  It’s a combo of laziness and materialism, optionally shrouded in a veil of nearly-theological philosophy.  This happens in many other professions (remember the MD that stops listening after you named off the first two of your eight different symptoms and started looking for a drug to quell the symptoms, handed you a slip of paper with a prescription and waved you out of his or her office?) but as often-flamboyant, unconventional characters, chiropractic doctors tend to stand out a little bit more, especially if they start talking about weirdo concepts like “subluxations” and how they’ll “kill you”.  Yeah, right.  Yes, those are con artists.  Maybe they know it, most likely they don’t – but that doesn’t change anything: it’s still a con.

But please don’t toss the whole profession and the rest of the otherwise excellent doctors in with those few.  If you’ve come across one of those characters and sworn off All Things Chiropractic because of them, please – give it another chance.  Do your homework first, to minimize your chance of getting caught up with another one of these characters, by calling their office and making sure that their staff sounds halfway normal and describes the doctor in a manner that is down-to-earth.  But please do give it that chance.  Believe me, as someone who has experienced both extremes–good and bad, I can still be 100% honest when I say: it’s worth it!

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