Once upon a time, I went to a chiropractor. It was an experience that taught me a few key things, not the least of which was that people don’t require hard evidence to make claims. Chiropractors will tell you that their spinal manipulations are much more than just realignments of the spine. All that chi crap comes in, and they start talking about the body’s energy flows and how a pinched nerve obviously can cause the liver to function less effectively, thus reducing the flow of energy to the body. And of course, the natural result of that is bronchitis or diabetes.
That is, dear reader, a crock of man-dung. But these people believe it. They accept this because the concept of an energy flow in the body is age-old. But you know what else is age old? the apple in the back of my fridge. It hardly makes it a better apple. The other reason often cited to me for believing this is that they treat patients who suffer from various ailments and they see “a marked improvement” in the health of the person.
Naturally, this “marked improvement” never quite makes it to any kind of legitimate testing. It’s far easier to assume that the only variable in a person’s life is their chiropractic care, so clearly it’s the remarkable x factor that has made the change in the person’s overall health. It takes balls to make such unsubstantiated comments, especially to people suffering diseases who may be desperate for your snake oil.
I’m not saying there’s no benefit to a chiropractor, but any benefit¬†would lie solely¬†in the manipulation of the spine. If you’re in an accident, chiropractic treatment may well help you in your recovery. I don’t know if this is true or not, but I’m not outright saying that it can’t be the case. But that doesn’t give them any footing to talk about curing diseases, overall health and welfare, or fixing energy flow within the body.
Steven Novella has a great piece today over at Science Based Medicine about another kind of woo that has overstepped it’s boundaries. It’s called Behavioral Optometry, and drew his ire after he (like many of us skeptics) caught this wonderful speech by one of it’s practitioners, Dr. Charlene Werner, which was put up on Pharyngula for laughter and scorn by PZ Myers.
I’ll leave the deconstruction to Novella, but I wanted to throw in my two cents about the topic.
Tylenol fights headaches and fever. It’s a great little pill. People who take Tylenol when they’re fighting cancer may well experience a lessening in their symptoms after the Tylenol use. Does that mean that Tylenol can cure your testicular cancer? No. Of course not. If the Tylenol people made that claim, you’d laugh in their face. There’s no controls to their statements. Were the patients who noticed this lessening in symptoms also on chemotherapy? Had they taken up a diet rich in antioxidants and riboflavin? Had they been praying to their Sky Daddy every night for a cure? We don’t know. All we know is that their symptoms lessened, an entirely unquantifiable statement, and someone wants to take the credit for it.
So why do we let the alt med scoundrels get away with this? When is faith in the cure ever an answer? When products make unsubstantiated claims, their makers are punished for it. So why do we accept this nonchalance from our priests, chiropractors, shaman, and Behavioral Optometrists?