Is Chiropractic Dangerous?
Let me start off by saying that chiropractic, itself, is incredibly safe. But there is more to the profession than just spinal manipulations. The way in which chiropractors choose to practice can place a patient in harms way.
I have been a licensed and practicing chiropractor since 2005. This article was inspired by a conversation I recently had with a local chiropractor who was complaining about how the medical profession treats us. I didn’t respond in kind, as I believe respect has to be earned.
Most would naively believe that the biggest danger of chiropractic is stroke. Throughout my time in practice, I occasionally have been asked about the link between chiropractic adjustments and stroke.
There are plenty of studies and health care specialists that have weighed in on this, but the risk of stroke caused by a chiropractic adjustment is generally estimated to be about one in one-five million. That is that one person in every one to five million that sees a chiropractor may suffer from a stroke. To put that in perspective, about 1,880 people per million in the U.S. suffer a stroke every year, which can be caused by everyday activities, such as turning your head while driving, swimming, or even having your hair shampooed in a salon, or even taking over the counter pain medicine. This is 2,000 times the rate which suffer stroke after seeing a chiropractor. These statistics correctly portray chiropractic as being one of the safest forms of medicine on the planet. Read More about chiropractic safety
The medical profession has had a long history of pointing to the dangers of stroke and chiropractic adjustments, which I find a little hypocritical, seeing as the most commonly prescribed medication for neck or back pain is an NSAID, which is well known for increased risk of stroke in as early as their first week of use. http://www.fda.gov/Drugs/DrugSafety
So, with Chiropractic being so incredibly safe, are there any real dangers? Yes, I believe there is a real danger within our profession, which began to become apparent to me my very first year in practice.
In the past, the AMA conspired to discredit and destroy the chiropractic profession, so there is an obvious reason to be resentful of the allopathic profession. But in being so, we do a disservice to our patients. The chiropractic profession, simply put, seems very intent on separating themselves from the rest of the medical profession, and especially so with Allopathic medicine (this is your medical doctor).
Why is this dangerous?
For starters, I have seen large numbers of individuals go without proper medical treatment for conditions which chiropractic will not help or is not helping, because of the egos, greed, and/or fixated philosophy of many Doctors of Chiropractic. They refuse to refer out, for fear of losing the patients and the accompanied income stream or they believe in chiropractic philosophy so much that they fail to see that a patient, that hasn’t improved with six months of care, is not going to improve and they continue to promise results. I believe in inside out philosophy of healing and that the body is very capable of healing very well on its own, but am also very aware that there are a great many things that our profession cannot help.
I have seen a chiropractor doing a health talk to his new patients, which he required them to attend and to bring a friend or family member so he could talk to them about becoming a patient as well. During this talk, he vilified the allopathic medical profession and went on about how chiropractic will help them prevent a host of illnesses, including cancer. There is no research whatsoever showing that chiropractic can help prevent cancer by the way. He used hard selling scare tactics to get these patients to sign up for long term and very expensive care plans.
I was horrified by this, and wondered how he could in good conscience sign people up for six month or longer prepaid care plans when he hasn’t begun to treat them to see how they even respond to care. Even more horrifying was the scare tactics of using cancer as a potential threat to those who don’t undergo regular chiropractic care.
Since then, I regularly see patients that have undergone chiropractic care for many health issues, many of whom needed surgery or other medical care that was delayed far longer than should have, because their previous chiropractor never ordered the proper tests or referred them to the proper specialist. I could give specific example after example all day long.
I receive referrals from many medical doctors and orthopedic doctors, and I have treated many other medical professionals as well, so I know that there are a great many medical professionals that want to utilize chiropractic for themselves and their patients. These are responsible doctors who obviously care about the well-being of their patients. I cannot say the same thing about a great number of my colleagues, who will allow their patients to continue to suffer for as long as possible to avoid sending them to a medical doctor.
Only a small percentage of the population seeks out chiropractic care for neck or back pain, which I believe is due to a general mistrust of the profession, by the general population and by the medical profession as a whole.
Chiropractors say they have been in the line of fire of the medical profession and are upset with lower and lower reimbursements from insurance. I say, they’ve put themselves in the line of fire by refusing to practice evidenced based medicine and refusing to work with every type of medical practitioner as is necessary to provide the best treatment for their patients and the fastest results for functional and symptomatic improvement for the patients.
Chiropractic WORKS, and for many if can seemingly work miracles. But, it is not a one size fits all. Patients need different types of medical treatment, and if chiropractors want to do right by their patients and their profession, they would push aside their enormous egos and reach out to medical providers to establish relationships and prove that they can practice within evidence based protocols by referring out to those providers patients that will benefit from their input and care. Do this and just maybe more medical professionals will start trusting the profession and trusting us to treat their patients. Then, maybe more than 10% of the population would benefit from our expertise in correcting subluxations to relieve back pain and maintain a healthy spine.
Imagine a world where the most common prescription for back pain is a chiropractic adjustment and not a potentially dangerous or addictive pill.
Author: Jonathan Jewett, D.C.