When I had a back injury that first brought me to a chiropractor , my father asked me what the injury was. I told him the doctor said I had an L3-L4 subluxation. No, my father explained, that was just some nonsense the chiropractor made up. What was the real problem? Oh, well it turned out to be a herniated disc — but that was my welcome into the world of chiropractic subluxation.
It may not surprise you to know that for as long as I have been writing this blog, even though there is no topic that is more inherently chiropractic as the subluxation, I have hesitated to address it. Seemingly so integrated into chiropractic history the concept to me is antiquated and unnecessary to modern, evidence informed practices. I have avoided discussing this hotbed of chiropractic silliness due to the lack of good that usually accompanies such a can-opening of any similar collection of worms.
Now, however, thanks to recent statements on the vertebral subluxation complex from the General Chiropractic Council in the UK and the British Chiropractic Association, I have selected to be silent no more. Instead, I have chosen to be paraphrasic. The statement from the General Chiropractic Council (GCC), appears here:
There is much in there with which to agree and also with the BCA ‘s positive reaction to it. I am borrowing heavily from both as I develop my own affirmation:
The chiropractic vertebral subluxation complex is a historical concept but it remains a theoretical model. It is not supported by any clinical research evidence that would allow claims to be made that it is the cause of disease or health concerns. This is not to say that chiropractic treatment is not effective and important — but it is not lifesaving. Subluxations are not fatal.
Chiropractors must make sure their own beliefs and values do not prejudice their patients’ care. Furthermore, chiropractors must provide evidence based care, which is clinical practice that incorporates the best available evidence from research, the preferences of the patient and the expertise of the practitioner.
Any advertised claims for chiropractic care need to be based only on the best research of the highest standard. Think this is a no-brainer for everyone? I suggest you see what Bill Esteb over at Patient Media thinks about using evidence in advertising (http://www.patientmedia.com/blog/2010/05/rct_and_the_cult_of_scientism.html) Hint: he thinks it’s stupid.
In light of the absence of supporting evidence I do not support the concept of the vertebral subluxation complex as the cause of disease and serious illness nor am I in favor of teaching vertebral subluxation complex theory to chiropractic students in any other context than historical and theoretical.
I fully support and encourage the inclusion of chiropractic into mainstream healthcare and know that in order to facilitate this integration we need to discard ambiguous terminology and unsubstianted historical concepts. We need to emphasize an evidence-based care model that is easily understood by the other members of the healthcare delivery team.
I feel that chiropractors should refrain from making any reference to vertebral subluxation complex in any media to which their patients or the general public may have access.
Chiropractors are the leaders in non-surgical spine care and there is strong evidence to support the inclusion of chiropractic in musculoskeletal healthcare initiatives. Chiropractors have been shown to possess specific expertise in the assessment, treatment and management of spinal and joint pain and are well-placed to deliver cost-effective services within mainstream healthcare. Let’s not mess it up by speaking another language that other healthcare professionals don’t understand while waving the lunatic flag of our now dead forefathers. There was a reason for the reliance on subluxation dogma in this profession. We needed to prove ourselves separate and distinct from medicine in courts of law. That time is passed. We’ve also given up on that whole flat Earth thing. Get over it and move on.
The GCC and BCA statements are the best thing we’ve gotten from England since Hugh Laurie and perhaps we should all strive to be a little more British.
Dr. Brett L. Kinsler is a skeptical chiropractor in Rochester, NY who is 1/4 British — but is now working on increasing that ratio.