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How Chiropractors Do the Opposite of Helping

How Chiropractors Do the Opposite of Helping

The following story is by guest author and science enthusiast Antonio Brady.

My whole life, my family have been chiropractor enthusiasts.

It started at a young age. Any ailment I had I would go to a chiropractor. One day I woke up, and my back was so stiff I couldn’t move. I missed school and I was taken to a chiropractor. After a few snap, crackle and pops, I felt great. I was sold. I didn’t question a chiropractor for years. I was diagnosed with scoliosis. From a chiropractor of course. I had one chiropractor that would give me an adjustment if I was in pain, and it would help for a couple days. I was content. But I moved in with my grandparents when I was about twelve. I had chiropractors promise they could cure me in six months.

I went to a chiropractor twice a week with a guarantee of a cure within six months. We drove 45 miles twice a week, at roughly fifty dollars a visit. After six months, I was excited to be done with it. I asked the chiropractor of we were done, he said “we’ve made some excellent progress, and you’re on the verge of being fixed for good, but I still need to see you twice a week to ensure every thing is going as planned.” After about a year my grandma gave up on him. We found a new chiropractor, but this time he was 300 miles away.

He wanted to see me weekly. He could cure me of any ailment. We drove to Salt Lake every week, he’d sell us high priced pills, crack my back to the point I was in tears, and then have the audacity to call me a girl. He’d tell me I was being a girl–no one else cried, no one else begged him to stop. I felt like a bitch. I manned up and dealt with it. I never felt any better. In fact, I only felt worse when I saw him. My grandma just thought I was trying to get out of the drive and stay home to play video games.

One day we were at a health food store in St. George, Utah, and we found the same brand of pills our chiropractor had been selling us. My grandma was ecstatic, because they only cost a quarter of what the chiropractor was selling us. The next time we saw the chiropractor, she was so excited to tell him about the great sale she had found. The chiropractor had the nerve to tell her, “These may be labeled the same, but the ones I sell are packaged to my exact specifications due to my strict guidelines. I order them this specific way.” My grandma threw away all the pills she saved money on, and bought some more vitamins and herbs from him.

Now you might see where my skepticism of chiropracty might come from. But my family remains steadfast supporters of chiropracty. I’m the black sheep, and they don’t much appreciate my opinion on the subject.

They found a new chiropractor, he’s in Heber, Utah. I think his name is “doctor” Nielson or something to that effect. He’s a complete quack. One of my cousins is young. He has seizures and a plethora of health problems. The chiropractor diagnosed him with Lyme disease. The cure? A two hundred dollar an hour hyperbaric oxygen chamber. Home made out of plywood and everything. This kid’s problems persist, yet they refuse real medical advice because they are so gullible.

My grandpa had an issue with his balance. He’s 85. He went to the chiropractor, he gave him a piece of vinyl with red and white stripes on it. About two inches in width and twelve inches in length. He told my grandpa, if you run it from up to down, it resets your brain and gives you better balance. My grandpa was so steadfast in believing this quack that he did it every day for a year. I saw my grandpa daily and I know it had no effect, but my grandpa truly believed it worked (ideomotor effect). If you were to run the piece of vinyl from left to right it cured impotence, if you ran it from right to left it cured your memory. And so on and so forth.

My uncle started getting severe migraines, to the point he couldn’t move. He went to the chiropractor. The chiropractor “prescribed” him blue tinted glasses. Now these are blue tinted glasses you can get online for fifteen bucks, but these are special blue glasses and sell for three hundred dollars. My uncle said they were damn near magical. He said the problem nearly disappeared (ideomotor effect again). If you knew him, you still saw the problem frequently.

My grandma became deathly ill. The longer it went on, she became more incoherent and unrealistic. The chiropractor happened to be in town, because my uncle who is a millionaire had called him out to adjust the backs of his employees. A grand gesture really, although stupid. So when he found out my grandma was sick, he went to visit her, he listened to her chest with a stethoscope (who knew chiropractors owned such equipment?), and he diagnosed her with pneumonia. But since he wasn’t a real doctor, he couldn’t prescribe her medicine, and because my family is so anti-doctor, they refused medical services. So he called her dentist, explained the situation and the dentist prescribed her medication. Who knows what she really had, what was happening, or if she was meant to die. I don’t know. I’m okay with what happened, she begged me at one point to let her die. I wish I knew. But I feel that quack doctor took my grandma from me before her time. I feel like the chiropractor and dentist should lose their licenses for what they did.

But my family still remains devout chiropractor fans, and I’m the black sheep. I called the chiropractor out one time at my aunt’s house, and I was asked to leave since I was making a scene. My entire family sees him once to twice a week.

Meanwhile my back feels better than it has in years, thanks to avoiding chiropractors.

By Dawn Pedersen

Science advocate, web designer, educator, artist, and mommy.

12 replies on “How Chiropractors Do the Opposite of Helping”

I think you might just be right. There is definitely a quack side to this industry. And I know not to play along with the scheme. On occasion, I do like a good massage and a twist, but even that part that feels good momentarilly, I know is doing nothing for my long term improvement.

There’s about as many sides to chiropractic as there are to a mobius band. You’ve successfully identified them.

Chiropractors are perplexing to me. Like you, I grew up in a family of firm believers (though they thankfully never shunned real medicine entirely), but I came away with the opinion that the lot of chiropractors are con artists. I genuinely believe there are a few honorable ones out of the bunch, who must think they’re providing legitimate care, in the same way that some “psychics” believe what they peddle, but you’re just so likely to get the snake oil salesmen that I don’t know why you’d even bother.

There are plenty of bad doctors out there, but I think the ratio is much lower, with the majority of problems related to mismatched patient/doctor personalities and poor bedside manner. There are the corrupt doctors, too, who get wined and dined by Big Pharma, but you can at least find out who they are now, and though I’m not fan of them, I’m not sure they’re as damaging as the chiropractors. How does one find out whether a chiropractor is insane and dangerous? Probably just by knowing they’re a chiropractor, period…

You might find a mini documentary done by the ABC—Australia’s PBS—interesting. It’s about the history of chiropractors. They’ve been charlatans from the beginning. If your family is one that can entertain an alternative viewpoint for a half-hour, it might be worth sending to them.

I’m just a stranger who happened upon your post via Twitter, but I’m glad your back is doing better. It’s sometimes pretty amazing that so many of us survive the well-meaning ignorance of our families.

I think when the author writes “ideometer effect” (it’s actually spelled “ideomotor”) they mean placebo effect. The ideomotor effect describes the motor effects seen in the contexts of using a Ouija board, dowsing and other similar contexts.

Thanks for the story and I’m sorry to hear about your loss. The dentist should lose their license but sadly the chiro is “practicing” in their scope (which legitimately should be nothing). My great grand mother passed after having repeated manipulations by a chiro despite having boney mets. Broken ribs and pneumonia finally got her but cancer likely wasn’t far behind.

Perhaps the worst part, chiro’s are currently pushing hard in nearly every state to be primary care providers. Yes, they think they can be PCP’s. It’s simply not okay to sit back and say “it’s individual choice for a person to pick their PCP” when these horrors are not a work of fiction. Let your legislators know that it’s not okay to allow unqualified people to pray on a vulnerable population.

Just like there are bad dentists, there are also bad chiropractors. Sounds like you have had the bad luck to find more than one. I have had the opposite experience, and have had two wonderful chiropractors who have helped me tremendously, where all other doctors, specialists and years of expensive testing had failed me. The first chiropractor I left simply because we moved. Neither one has ever pushed any supplements or additional services, even though they do sell them.

Chiropractic care is something that you need to keep up on unless you are the rare individual who does everything right in their every day life to keep well aligned. For me with a desk job, that just isn’t happening. We accept that we need to brush and floss daily and stay away from sticky, sugary things to keep our teeth healthy between our dentist visits. But we find fault with chiropractors who recommend regular visits, even though most of us don’t keep our alignment healthy by stretching, doing recommended exercises, sleeping on a good pillow and mattress, having good posture at our desks, wearing proper shoes, etc.

Very sorry you’ve had a bad experience, but I don’t think it’s helpful to criticize the entire field of practice because of it.

You sound a lot like my family. I’ve been to probably over twenty chiropractors, and I’ve had two that didn’t push supplements on me, but they all wanted me to schedule appointments weekly. There’s never an end to a treatment, it’s a scheme. My back feels better than it has in years, and I don’t need to do anything. I can’t convince my family, there’s no way I’m convincing a die hard stranger over the internet. I hope they don’t take too much of your money, or talk you out of seeking real medical advice. Good luck.

So my parents took me to a chiropractor when I was a teenager. I used to be a runner back in high school. I had a host of problems, migraines, asthma, allergies; he claimed he could cure them all- you can guess how well that went. They took me there after I had a rough time walking after a meet. He did his regular adjustment to my spine for me after a meet. We later through an accident on the track come to find out it was not my back that was the problem at all, it was my patellar tendon. My parents still took me to them, until the day when my knee was hurting so bad I couldn’t put any pressure on it. We found out that I had tendonitis that was being exacerbated by this idiot. My leg atrophied (still today there is a noticeable difference in muscle mass in my right leg because of how long the muscle loss went on), I had to have surgery on my knee because I could barely even stand. Found out that a quarter of my patellar tendon was basically shredded. I had to stop running, and running was my life, I absolutely loved it. I was robbed by this idiot of a future in running and athletics because he misdiagnosed me and completely ruined my knee. We couldn’t sue him because he went into bankruptcy later that year, apparently we were not the only family he had harmed.

Just like with psychics are other quacks, defenders will say “Oh, you got a bad chiropractor, let me tell you about MINE, he/she’s wonderful!”

Or, “There are a lot of bad doctors, too” (the tu, quoque argument)

You could make similar claims about medical science. Spurious, & sometimes harmful, advice given as if it’s Holy Writ. Psychiatry, in particular, seems little more than witch doctor hoodoo supplemented with pharmaceuticals of questionable value.

So, spare me the holier than thou “science will save us” bullshit.

Psychiatry’s real talent seems to be convincing rubes that their normal depression & sadness & dissatisfaction & social anxiety can be cured with a pill.

Look, I understand that science is your new religion.
You have “faith” in it.
You think it will “save” you.
You think that adhering to its principles will make life “better.”

Good luck with that.

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