Subluxation – An historical concept? We dont think so ! The UCA starts the fight back.

June 15, 2010

As one of the original founder members of the UCA, can I say how delighted I was to get this postcard in my post todayUntitled-2. We formed the UCA to defend traditional chiropractic practice and in recent years the UCA has failed to recognise the light at the end of the tunnel was a train coming straight at traditional chiropractors.

Traditional chiropractors check the spine for Subluxations and correct them, they do not treat conditions or diseases as stated by those ignoramuses on the GCC’s Education committee. Subluxations are not pseudo religious constructs you can feel them and I have seen them in dissected cadavers. The medical professions uses the term in relation to a hypermobile joint. Traditional chiropractors use the term to describe abnormalities throughout the full range of joint motion in relation to spinal joints. Having realised last year there was no use explaining subluxation theory to medics who referred to a “Back Bone”  in relation to manipulation and the NICE guidelines. I decided to rebrand my clinics as “Spinal Joint”  put all these back pain specialists in one place and let them treat back pain. After their back pain was gone, they could  have chiriopractic care and subluxation correction if they wanted. There is no point trying to explain to skeptics why they might

To help readers understand traditional chiropractic and to illustrate the downright misinformation and crap coming from the GCC and their main ally, BCA president Richard Brown. I will quote again from the  book that most accurately describes the teachings of the Palmers which was written by R.W. Stephenson’s in 1920 .  Thats ninety years ago so its fair to say it’s not something that I just made up, you would think the fools on the GCCs Education Committee would have known something about the principles of chiropractic before making their ill-informed pronouncements on subluxation and disease for the benefit of skeptic beliefs and prejudices about chiropractic. Having read their blogs I can confidently say they know fuck all about what I do in practice and they know fuck all about the supposedly “deluded” people who seek my services. In fact sceptics seem to base their views on chiropractic on the activities of a minority of unethical chiropractors, which is akin to me defining medicine on the activities of Harold Shipman..

The principles of chiropractic are what make chiropractic a separate and distinct profession from medicine. It was necessary to outline these  differences because chiropractors were being arrested for practicing medicine without a licence and they had to make the case that chiropractic was separate and distinct from medicine and the GCC brand of chiropractic quackery. Herbert Ross Reaver gives a fascinating account of his experience. How times have changes, I know a number of UK chiropractors who have spent time in the cells after the GCC reported them for practicing chiropractic without a medical licence.

Stephenson compiled a list of “chiropractic principles” in his“Chiropractic Textbook”, BJ Palmer the son of DD and the person credited with developing Chiropractic, praised Stephenson for compiling the principles of “my writings into systematic organised manner so anyone could easily find “what chiropractic is, Is not; What it Does and does not; how and why it does what it does not”

So lets see exactly what Palmer says about disease so even a child could understand BJ Palmers  play on the word “disease” to get Dis – ease, “corny” perhaps for the sophisticated Googler in 2010, back then the judges  thought it was a sensible explanation, because they stopped arresting chiropractors.

I dont criticise skeptics for asking  questions as I know its great fun  questioning people who dont know the answers or even better when the make up an answer to sound like they know what they are talking about. However when you know the people answering the questions are just blowing hot air you have to wonder about the integrity of the people using these answers for their own ends.

For example when “professors” like Edzard Ernst ignore  explanations of  Dis – ease which has an entirely different meaning to disease and continue with his mantra, this week he states on his pulse blog in relation to the GCCs denouncement of the subluxation  “It seems to be a clear break with the traditional philosophy of chiropractic assuming that most human conditions are caused by subluxations of the spine and are thus treatable with spinal adjustments” . I explained all this to Ernst Ernst in my critic of his New Scientist article however he chose’s to ignore it and blow more hot air about chiropractic in Pulse and has the gall then to say I “unfairly criticize” him for his views.

Principle 30 “The Causes of Dis – ease”. Stephenson clearly states in the book “Disease” is a term “used by physicians for sickness. To them it is an entity and is worthy of a name hence diagnosis”.

Stephenson describes Dis – ease (with a hyphen) as “a chiropractic term meaning not having ease. It is a lack of entity It is a condition of matter when it does not have property of ease. Dis – ease is the condition of tissue cells when there is uncoordination”. Stephenson goes onto say, “if tissue cells are not coordinating some tissue cells will be made unsound, therefore they are sick and not at ease. By deconstructing chiropractic down to a vitalist level of cell communication we are going beyond nerve interference and into the realms of neuroscience that Candice Perth would describe as the “Molecules of emotion” 80 years later. Anyone who would state “subluxation chiropractors” claim to cure all “disease” is either disingenuous or ignorant. In the case of the GCC, its probably more a matter of integrity.

People like Ernst and the sceptics have essentially arguing with chiropractic representatives that shared their views and both sides were too ignorant to see the similarities, The fact the BCA sued Simon Singh was ridiculous and now they are trying to get the sceptics join their attack on traditional chiropractic . Since 2002 I have been saying that There is very little difference between the views of Edzard Ernst and the Members of the GCCs education committee like David Byfield, In fact the only difference would be that Byfield would argue that chiropractic is more effective on treating back pain than Ernst gives credit.

With my health promotion hat on and being fortunate enough to have had one of the great Professors of  public health care Theodore MacDonald as my mentor, I say to Professor Ernst et al, if  you want a good debate on chiropractic challenge  a real chiropractor not a quack chiropractor.

The UCA postcard is but small act of defiance towards the GCC/BCA alliance, but hopefully it will ripple throughout the UK profession and motivate chiropractors to get off their knees and tell Margaret Coats, Peter Dixon, and Richard Brown; you do not speak for us. Professor Edzard is entitled to say “The existence of spinal subluxations has never been established. Thus chiropractic was built on sand” however it should be for traditional chiropractors to defend the principles of chiropractic rather than the pseudo medical GCC.

The front of the card simply poses the question the GCC stated as fact; Subluxation – An historical concept? On the back is written; We don’t think so! and an invitation to join the UCA who can offer their members a much better deal in the light of Simon Perry and Zenos complaints against over 600 BCA chiropractors.

As I blogged to Skeptic Barista, we will live to thank Zeno and Simon Perry for their complaints to the GCC. 

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32 Responses to Subluxation – An historical concept? We dont think so ! The UCA starts the fight back.

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  12. Gianluca Rossetti on July 19, 2012 at 10:26

    Well said Richard. Thank you.

  13. Richard Lanigan on August 2, 2010 at 23:57

    We will have to disagree about Christina in fact I am confident my view of Christina is shared by many McTimoney chiropractors especially the old timers who were promised continued McTimoney membership even if they resigned from the GCC register .

    I have read McTimoney Chiropractic the first 25 years and I do not recall subluxation being mentioned anywhere, I have no doubt John McTimoney wanted to prevent the medicalisation of chiropractic at AECC and he practised in a traditional manner but that is not the issue, its whether Christina Cunliffe started using the term to gain influence with the ICA and the UCA or whether it was the term all McTimoney chiropractors were using in the 80s and 90s to describe spinal joint dysfunction.

    Christina had an opportunity to change the GCC and get rid of Peter Dixon and Coats but she felt her interests and influence was best served with Dixon and the rest as they say is history. So Laura what do you think christina achieved for the chiropractic profession by siding with Dixon and voting me off council? She kept her place on council which gave her a birds eye view of the GCC bringing the profession to its knees. Was she being “principled” by removing all reference to subluxation from the website removing everything about subluxation from their website not to mention the McTimoney association advising all their members to take down their websites.

    @ SB I fully accept you have no axe to grind, directed a legitimate question to the chiropractic regulator, and you were delighted when you got their response. I could also get a load of articles saying the war in Iraq is illegal and as many saying the war is legal. An opinion by a group of chiropractors on whether subluxation is an appropriate term for chiropractors is their opinion thats all,at least my opinion is far more consistent than those comming from the GCC.

    Take the article you refer to which introduces the debate on subluxation with a quote from the late Joseph Keating who for some reason took an interst in chiropractic history and telling chiropractors they should reject their historical principles.

    Mediparactors loved him and quote extensively from him, as sceptics quote Edzard Ernst because his view supports their view of chiropractic. Look at the first line “A fundamental principle of the chiropractic profession stresses that this putative subluxation is the cause of “dis-ease,” with the use of a hyphen to supposedly distinguish it from the term disease”.
    The author is fully aware how BJ Palmer came up with the term dis –ease, nevertheless in the next sentences he ignores what he has just written and states “Historically, generations of chiropractors have contended that a large percentage of all disease is caused by subluxation ” presumably he has done this to confirm his own bias regarding subluxation and have the debate he wants to have. This posting from 2002 may throw some light on the way chiropractors can treat their colleagues and the biomedical bias within the profession

  14. Paul on August 2, 2010 at 23:18


    McTimmoney decided he wanted to call himself a chiropractor must like my CA would like to – however she has no qualification.

    McTims were seen as uneducated frauds exploiting the title chiropractor. The GCC legitimised them by reducing the educational requirements.

    Chirstine Cunliffe and priciple should not be used in the same sentence in case the word principle decided to sue for slander.

    I think you forget how she screwed Richard royally and now the profession.

    sorry off topic but hand to be said

  15. Skeptic Barista on August 2, 2010 at 20:55


    Thanks for that response.

    Not being very skeptical, well may be becuase I didn’t ask the question with intention of trying to prove or disprove a particular theory, just as a general querie as to why it was that only the GCC were coming in for criticism.

    I realise that the training providers had no input to the GCC’s statement (at least as far as I’m aware) and I can understand that a McT qualified chiro may be reluctant to be openly critical of the McT college.

    However it was plainly obvious from the McT point of view that subluxations did feature on their website and in their literature and these promptly vanished, apparently without question or comment from chiros themselves.

    As for what a subluxation is or is not and how it impacts health I’ll ignore the GCC’s comments for a while and re-read the article that I found when having a discussion with fedup – it’s this article that prompted me to contact the GCC in the first place.


  16. Lura on August 2, 2010 at 20:29

    Sorry Richard, I feel I must correct you. I have a lot of time for you, but sometimes you say things that are just not true. I knew John McTimoney and I can ASSURE you that he was a subluxation based chiropractor. McTimoney have always been seen as subluxation based and you are completely wrong about Christina Cunliffe. Sorry if that seems offensive, its not meant to be, but she is one of the most principled chiropractors I know.

  17. Richard Lanigan on August 2, 2010 at 18:10

    Hi SB, the easy thing would be to refer you to Tony Blairs dodgy dossier, and the findings of the subsequent inquiry’s on the Iraq war and ask why do establishment figures try to avoid upsetting other establishment figures with personal agendas.

    Who do you think validates the chiropractic courses that are taught in the UK?? The GCC’s education committee, thats who. The president of the Welsh institute of Chiropractic David Byfield is a member of the GCCs education committee, David is a chiropractor and BCA member who has made about numerous complaints about me to the BCA and GCC, because I had the temerity to question his integrity a number of times.Recently the GCC has presented Davids institution with the contract for chiropractors Revalidation, they were also given the contract for the Test of Competency in 2005 without the contract being put out to tender, I believe its called cronyism.

    A few years ago Surrey University had a MSc course in chiropractic and they dont today because the GCC Education Committee would not accredit it. McTimoney college almost lost their accreditation in 2006 and would do and say anything not to jeopardise it.

    Traditionally McTimoney were not seen as a “subluxation” chiropractors however in recent years Christina Cunliffe (Their boss) found it usefull to embrace the concept to get support from chiropractors like myself who graduated from internationally accredited chiropractic colleges and felt McTimoney should be given the chance. However since the association advised all their members to take down their websites in the light of Zenos complaints they have lost a lot of credibility. Christina Cuncliffe (a member of the GCCs education committee) would not appear to be an advocate for anything that might rock the boat. If David or Christina said the sun was shining I would look out the window before venturing out.

    I was trained at AECC which provids a very good medicalised chiropractic education. I graduated in 1996 and the term subluxation was hardly ever used by tutors, AECC senior tutors like Edward Rothman are in favour of prescribing and the senior researcher Alan Breene no doubt would like more funds for research into musculoskeletal pain syndromes. Alan is also a member of the GCCs education committee.

    What we have here is a difference of opinion between the two wings of the chiropractic profession. One wing is dominated by establishment figures , the other by experienced chiropractors practising in their clinics and naively keeping away from chiropractic politics. This allowed medipractors who had not been successful in practice to take control of the profession.

    You wish to believe the establishments explanation for subluxation, even though I have shown you it is not reliable, fair enough. The establishment likes the term fixation to describe spinal joint dysfunction because it helps them distance themselves from traditional chiropractic and subluxation theory. They would tell you subluxation is a historical concept or a “clinical myth”. Alternatively they might say that because their is a massive market in back pain to be tapped.

    A subluxation is like a sprained ankle, it describes a joint problem which has a theory behind it. Disagree with the theory by all means, can you not see how silly it would be for physiotherapists to say; we will no longer describe ankles as sprained because the word featured in the excellent BBC 2s Victorian Pharmacy

    The BCA are the Haliburton of back pain and David Byfield is our Dick Cheney believe who you want, but you are not being very skeptical mr Barista

  18. Skeptic Barista on August 2, 2010 at 14:36


    Since the GCC’s statement on subluxations there have been lots of comments from chiropractors about the GCC and its education committee.

    What I have not seen questioned is the decisions of the actual teaching establishments.

    They were all given a copy of my letter and asked to comment on how they taught the concept of the subluxation. To the best of my knowledge none of them tried to defend the status of the subluxation or present any evidence. They all stated that it was taught from an historical perspective. Yet they draw no criticism!

    The statement from McT seems particularly puzzling (untrue would be a better description) as at the time I sent my letter to the GCC their website clearly stated that the subluxations was the ‘basic principle of chiropractic’ and was very clear in saying they were:
    ‘a primary or contributory factor in the pathological process of many common human and animal ailments’.

    This changed around the time the GCC/trainers held their meeting, however the McT website claims can still be seen here:

    There are a number of other McT documents still available online (prospectus etc) that give the impression that they did not view the subluxation as simply an historical leftover from the age of quackery. Yet this sudden change of stance goes unquestioned!

    Criticism of the GCC from a profession that largely distrusts its regulator is understandable, perhaps it is less acceptable to be openly critical of the colleges that trained a large proportion of UK chriopractors!


  19. Richard Lanigan on July 11, 2010 at 23:38

    You have to love Margaret Coats reassuring the UK chiropractic associations “you can see there is some misunderstanding that the guidance is concerned with scope of practice”.

    The GCC have used every ploy to restrict scope of practice to musculoskeletal pain syndromes over the last ten years. Coats knows to announce that the GCC intended to restrict scope of practice would be a breach of the chiropractic Act. However in 2005 she figured out that she could get the ASA do define chiropractors scope of practice because breach of ASA guidelines is a breach of the Code of Practice and GCC people advised the ASA on what chiropractors could claim to help.

    The irony here is the GCC were advising the ASA on what is acceptable for chiropractors to say in advertising, while the GCC website was in breach of the guidelines they were helping create. Fortunately for Coats et al the are not in breach of anybody’s code of practice

  20. Richard Lanigan on June 25, 2010 at 12:38

    Of course they should, but some people dont look at it like that because to have the kudos of size, for the NHS you need a big profession and people with big egos leading the profession.

    Last year Margaret Coats or someone at the GCC sent out all the e-mail addresses of all registered chiropractors in a circular that a few hundred chiropractors got. Now if we had a copy of that e-mail we could contact everyone.

    First thing would be for each association to call simultaneous EGMs and have confidence votes in the regulator. Elect new leadership who are singing from the same page and begin negotiations with the GCC. Until the negotiations are completed future registration fees would go into a an escrow account, making it impossible for the GCC to prosecute Zenos complaints.

    The question for the Department of Health would be, is the public best served by spending millions on Zenos complaints and by not pursuing them would the GCC be putting patients at risk. Bearing in mind the Kings fund report in 1998 “Informing Patients” showed things were much worse in GP surgeries, with information for common and life threatening conditions. No complaints were made to the GMC and they managed to clean up their act somewhat.

    I am sure it is not in the public interest to spend millions on prosecuting 700 chiropractors when the result will be admonishments at worst.

  21. Paul on June 24, 2010 at 23:41

    Richard I don’t really believe that it is a case of no stomach.

    I think it is a case of not knowing.

    How does one go about contacting each and every registered chiropractor in the UK and explaining the difference between chiropractic, manual medicine (medipractic) and Mc Timmoney therapy, then explaining the validity of each equally, yet explaining in full the consequences of the hijacking and exploitation of the title chiropractic upon their practices, explaining in full the benefits of stepping away from this and the options open to them to fulfil any wish for the fullest recognition without any further damage to our beloved profession.

    Neither one of these three professions are any better than the other – they are simply more appropriate in different circumstances of education, participation, consumer usage and choice, and professional regulation.

    Why should the benefits of chiropractic be removed from the population in the UK and then be furthered toward the EU?

    Surely all peoples should be allowed the choice of either of all three or all of all three?

  22. Richard Lanigan on June 24, 2010 at 23:07

    The ECU only recognises one association per country, and the ECU accepts that a number of their members are seeking prescribing rights. The Swiss have had prescribing rights since 1995. If McTims get ECCE recognition there will be no obstacle to them joining the BCA. Rather than change the BCA subluxation chiropractors will leave but stay on the register with VAT going up to 20%. So the BCA will be desperate to recruit new members.

    The biomedical side of the profession has a plan and the organisation to deliver. The subluxation side has many more members, but lacks leadership and these chiropractors have little interest in getting involved in the politics of the profession and believe everthing will be OK, because Peter Dixon is an OK guy who says he cares about chiropractic. Subluxation chiropractors will take the view there is no way anyone will make a complaint about them if they keep their heads down.

    As a result subluxation chiropractors will help provide the funds to the people who will medicalise chiropractic and get it into the NHS, even though dentists are leaving in droves. It could have been turned around three years ago, not now, the GCC/BCA have enough power to ignore the wishes of traditional chiropractors and they will push ahead regardless. They only way to stop it is to stop funding the GCC.

    You then have to ask how many have you the stomach to do that?

  23. Paul on June 24, 2010 at 19:49

    The reason of course that I believe the MCA would join with the MCA is simply political convenience to allow the MCA reach within the ECU.

    Whlst there has been mention before that McTs thought themselves ‘subluxation’ based there has been little or no discussion of any action from the MCA toward the GCC denial of the subluxation.

    Whilst I believe you are well intentioned Dazed (as well as fed up and the other McTs showing up here) McTimmoney therapy has but a fairly tenous claim to chiropractic and no evidence of efficacy.

    Even the NICE guidleines could not include the McT as a whole (unless its practitioners has completed added training.

    It’s only validation has been the political process which now if what you say is right means the next move is the ECU.

    Watch this space….

  24. dazed on June 24, 2010 at 18:45

    I am told that the McTimoney College has been awarded ECCE candidate status for the full time Msc Chiro, so the formal process of recognition has been started.

    Why would the MCA join forces with the BCA? McTs are subluxation based chiros. My daily job is to identify spinal misalignments (subluxations) and correct them to reafferentate the nervous system. I don’t need or want precribing rights.

  25. Paul on June 24, 2010 at 15:23

    Do you think that might happen?

    Fed up what do you think will happen if and when the McT course achieves ECCE recognition?

    Do you think McT will not coalesce with the BCA to crush the dissent opposing manual medicine taking over chiropractic?

    The there is the question is McT manual medicine, chiropractic or a seperate (and valid) discipline of its own?

  26. fed up on June 24, 2010 at 13:28

    While we are all affected by what the GCC has done it remains to be seen whether or not the chiropractors in the UK will come out swinging or not. If there was ever a time and if there was ever an issue where their regulatory board does not have a leg to stand on – this is it and they should be all over it like a pit bull on crack.

  27. fed up on June 24, 2010 at 13:06

    “You can’t just make crap up!

    And this is exactly what the General Chiropractic Council did.”

  28. Paul on June 22, 2010 at 12:59
  29. fed up on June 22, 2010 at 11:38

    “While some might attempt to relegate subluxation to history or to suggest that there is no evidence to support its clinical management these individuals or organizations do so in direct contradiction of science and policy.
    Unfortunately those individuals and organizations are at times a controlling individual or faction within the profession. Until and unless the rank and file practitioner begins to take a stand and push back against the efforts by these rogues within the profession their policies will become entrenched – indeed in many cases they already are.”

  30. Garland Glenn on June 19, 2010 at 00:34

    Makes me want to join the UCA as an international non resident member. Yes….I think I will.



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