The 'S' Word (Subluxations)
Chiropractic is a fantastic profession that has helped millions of people worldwide.
Chiropractic was also ‘re-discovered/founded’ in 1895. We have learned a lot since then, and our profession needs to uphold the standards of contemporary evidence and research.
The foundation of chiropractic began when D.D. Palmer ‘adjusted’ a spot in the neck of a deaf man and claimed that his hearing was restored. Whether this actually happened or not is inconsequential. The fact is that we know that D.D. thought he had found the cure for deafness but really had not.
He formulated that the body develops these ‘misalignments’ (termed ‘subluxations') in the spine and that this interferes with the nerve signal exiting from the spine.
With scientific advances in health care over the last 100 years, we also know that this is just plain false. Another theory called the ‘monocausal theory’ was developed and was thought to prove that these ‘subluxations’ were the single cause of all disease.
The body becomes compromised, nerve flow is reduced, and the body eventually succumbs to illness.
Once again, there is absolutely zero truth or evidence to these antiquated theories. In short, ‘subluxations’ don’t exist. They are not identifiable on X-ray and they are not identifiable on palpation.
These theories continue to be propagated in our profession and taught to students at some of the learning institutions to this day.
The subluxation-based contingency of the chiropractic profession holds on to this subluxation dogma with religious fervor.
Many claim to be called by God (I know it sounds crazy, but it's true) to only detect and remove vertebral subluxations from the spines of their patients.
They believe that they are literally saving lives searching for these modern day unicorns. They continue to devalue chiropractic and disparage chiropractors attempting to move the profession into the 21st century.
The subluxation complex is an amazing marketing tool and idea. Imagine if every person on the face of this Earth was walking around with undiagnosed subluxations (I know! The Horror!).
These subluxations are making people sick and keeping them in an unhealthy and compromised state. Imagine if a chiropractor was the only one who could exorcise these unseen demons from the spines of millions.
Therein lies the value in holding for dear life to this archaic model. Everyone needs treatment, and everyone needs treatment for life!
The ‘subluxation’ represents everything that is wrong with our profession today and the negative experiences people have with chiropractic.
It is used to claim to treat conditions that chiropractic can’t treat, It is used as a tool to dupe people into unnecessary and expensive long-term treatment plans, and it is used under the pretense that you can never be ‘too well.’
Here are the Washington State Regulations Regarding Chiropractors and their marketing efforts:
WAC 246-808-600 - Prohibited publicity and advertising
1. A chiropractor shall not, on behalf of himself/herself, his/her partner, associate or any other chiropractor affiliated with his/her office or clinic, use or allow to be used, any form of public communications or advertising which is false, fraudulent, deceptive or misleading, including, but not limited to, such advertising which takes any of the following forms which are prohibited:
(a) Advertising which guarantees any result or cure;
(b) Advertising which makes claims of professional superiority;
(c) Advertising which fails to differentiate chiropractic care from all other methods of healing;
(d) Advertising for a service outside the practice of chiropractic as permitted in Washington.
2. A chiropractor shall, upon request made by the commission, provide the commission with substantiation of the truth and accuracy of any and all claims made in their advertisements.
3. Advertising is prohibited which offers gratuitous goods or services or discounts in connection with chiropractic services, unless the chiropractor provides a disclosure statement to be signed by the patient which explains:
(a) When there shall be a charge for goods and services;
(b) When the free services have been completed and that any additional services the patient requests are subject to charge; or
(c) When the discount has been exhausted and any additional services shall be subject to full charge: This subsection shall not be construed to relate to the negotiation of fee between chiropractors and patients or to prohibit the rendering of chiropractic services for which no fee is charged.
Can chiropractic cure/treat ADHD, bed wetting, colic, behavioral disorders, cancer, lupus, or other autoimmune disorders? The quick answers and long answers are absolutely not.
If a chiropractor claims to cure these conditions, it amounts to fraud, and I think the WACs support that as well. Some may sidestep these rules and claim to ‘treat’ them not ‘cure’ them.
There are no quality studies showing any direct causation between chiropractic helping any of these conditions. Don’t be duped. Don’t waste your money.
The basis for treating these conditions lies in an arachaic construct that is the vertebral subluxation construct (VSC).
Pre-paid Treatment Plans
Here are the Washington State Regulations Regarding Chiropractors and Future Care Contracts:
WAC 246-808-550 - Prohibited publicity and advertising
It shall be considered unprofessional conduct for any chiropractor to enter into a contract which would obligate a patient to pay for care to be rendered in the future, unless the contract provides that the patient is entitled to a complete refund for any care not received.
They are created to convince or induce patients into long, costly, and unnecessary treatment plans.
Patient care should be evidence based and patient centered. You might hear a chiropractor say ‘we don’t treat pain, we treat the ‘whole’ problem.’
I can think of fewer more asinine statements when it comes to the chiropractic profession.
This mindset is also wrapped around the VSC. By claiming to be curing the body of interference (i.e. the root of the problem) the need for treatment is infinite—you can never be completely free of subluxations and therein lies the need for a lifetime of treatment.
The good news is that if you have been deceived into signing one of these contracts, there appears to be recourse to find a way out.
The marketing pitch behind "Wellness"
The intention behind ‘Wellness’ is similar to those false constructs that the VSC is based in. What is wellness?
Dictionary.com defines ‘wellness’ as:
- The quality or state of being healthy in body and mind, especially as the result of deliberate effort.
- An approach to healthcare that emphasizes preventing illness and prolonging life, as opposed to emphasizing treating diseases.
Obviously, in this context, they are claiming that chiropractic will somehow make you more healthy and more resistant to diseases or illnesses.
I do believe that chiropractic can help patients to function better from a musculoskeletal perspective.
If that is what is implied by ‘wellness,’ I would agree.
Most ‘wellness’ clinics deviate from what the evidence supports and delves back into the archaic and incorrect thinking that removing mythical subluxations will keep you from getting a cold, catching the flu, or developing cancer.
One of the issues with chiropractic is that it is a profession and not a single procedure.
What I mean is that the scope of what a chiropractor can do is defined by each state. Chiropractors aren’t limited to just adjusting people or ‘popping bones.’
In Washington State we have one of the most narrow scopes of practice in the United States. We can still manipulate, perform soft tissue treatments, and recommend and prescribe stretches and strengthening exercises, much like what a physical therapist can do.
We can also refer out for imaging and diagnose conditions beyond the mythical ‘subluxation complex.’
Because of the diversity of what we are permitted to do by law, very few chiropractic offices are the same.
One may choose to only perform manipulation. One may be more exercise based. So how do you know if you’ve found a ‘good’ chiropractor?
Ultimately, it comes down to results. If your goals as a patient are being met, I always encourage people to stay where they feel comfortable.
With that being said, chiropractic physicians have the ethical responsibility to promote and uphold best practice standards of care.
Those who continue to hold on to the archaic dogma of the chiropractic profession treat it like a religion and refuse to embrace current concepts and evidence.
They have no place in contemporary health care and no place in the future of the chiropractic profession. We demand more and our patients deserve more.
We Offer All Our New Chiropractic Patients A Free Tens Unit
A TENS Unit is a safe, noninvasive, drug-free method of pain management when used as directed.