When opinion collides with fact

The following (in a slightly different form) was originally published in April 2011 on Victoria’s Posterous site. Republished by and with permission of the author.

“Everyone’s entitled to their own opinion – but everyone’s not entitled to their own facts,” said my wise and handsome boyfriend during a Twitter debate yesterday about chiropractic.

I don’t go to them anymore for two reasons:

  1. their practice is not based on science, and
  2. it doesn’t work.
chiropractor

Let a physiotherapist do this. We'll all be better off for it.

I did see chiropractors for many years for recurring headaches and backaches, until a friend pointed out to me “You say the chiropractor gets rid of your headaches? And yet you still keep getting headaches? What’s wrong with this picture?”

Then I started reading up on it. Yes, there is indeed a chance that getting your spine adjusted, especially in the cervical (neck) area will cause a stroke. Many people have been maimed by it, and yet the practice has still not been outlawed.

My long-time chiropractor in Regina convinced me that the risk of stroke is so small as to be not worth worrying about. To give her credit, she was always very careful and checked on any symptoms of stroke before and after she gave me a treatment. But that’s not enough. Why risk a stroke during a treatment that has not been proven to have any benefit?

So yeah, sure the risk of stroke is small – but if the benefit is nonexistent then taking that risk is irresponsible and unnecessary. I can’t for the life of me understand why health care practitioners are legally allowed to perform cervical spine manipulations. Mind. Boggled.

Not all chiropractors make the wild claims that others do: that they can cure everything from your cold to your digestive problems to – get this – colic in your baby and even more serious health problems. I have never seen a chiropractor who will not use quick movements to forcefully manipulate your spine. That’s why they’re chiropractors, that’s what they learned how to do – it’s the basis of their practice.

Fact is: there has been no study proving the efficacy of chiropractic. None. Nada.

Fact is: chiropractic is at best throwing your money away and at worst dangerous. The most benefit you’ll ever get from one is through the soft tissue manipulation: something a well-trained physiotherapist can do much better and much more safely.

This is not a matter of everyone having their own opinions. It’s not chocolate versus strawberry ice cream. This is reality, and ignoring facts has real consequences.

“Much of what chiropractors do is nonsense, and they often misinform their patients,” says this article, complete with references. Read it. You know you wanna.

So you can still be of the opinion your chiropractor is helping you recover from your injury or your sore back. You can even pay him or her to do soft tissue manipulations. So what?

Where opinion collides with fact is: chiropractors use manipulations that risk hurting people. The only reason they can do so legally is they have a well-organized lobby effort and high-priced lawyers.

Where opinion collides with fact is: health insurance (whether government or private) is paying for unproven, risky treatments by chiropractors.

So don’t tell me you’re entitled to your opinion when my health care dollars will pay for your rehab if you end up with a stroke — or worse: you’ll die. Don’t tell me you’re entitled to your opinion when my insurance and tax dollars go to paying your health care.

By the way: my headaches are mostly gone since I stopped seeing chiropractors and started taking care of myself better: staying fit, reducing stress, the whole nine yards. I highly recommend the rational approach to health care: science-based medicine.

Photo by doctorwonder, used under Creative Commons license.

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