Advertising Standards Authority decision on Colic and Carl Irwin.

ASA Adjudications

Dr Carl Irwin & Associates

96 Edgware Way




Number of complaints: 1

20 May 2009


Health and beauty

A magazine ad, for Chiropractors, stated "Dr Carl Irwin and Associates CHIROPRACTORS. Back, Neck, Shoulder, Arm and Leg Pain, Sports Injury, Joint Problems, IBS, Colic, Learning Difficulties, Cranial Treatment for Mothers and Babies. To discuss any area of your health with our Doctors, call for a FREE Consultation."
The complainant challenged whether:
1. Dr. Carl Irwin and Associates could substantiate the implied claim that their therapies could successfully treat some of the conditions mentioned, in particular IBS, colic and learning difficulties;
2. the references to "Doctors" and "Dr" misleadingly implied that the chiropractors held general medical qualifications.

The CAP Code:

1. Dr. Carl Irwin and Associates (Dr. Carl) sent a list of references and abstracts relating to chiropractic and the treatment of IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome), colic and learning difficulties to substantiate the claim "IBS, Colic, Learning Difficulties, Cranial Treatment for Mothers and Babies".

2. Dr Carl said the staff at the practice would not refer to themselves as doctors in their advertising in future, to avoid the possibility that readers might believe they would be consulting medical doctors.

1. Upheld
The ASA acknowledged that manipulative therapies used by suitably qualified practitioners had been shown to be effective in treating back and joint pain and minor sports injuries. We noted the journal abstracts, conference paper reports and article references provided by Dr. Carl in support of the claim to treat IBS, colic and learning difficulties. In relation to the chiropractic treatment of IBS we noted the evidence provided included a 2007 randomised controlled pilot study relating to osteopathy and another randomised controlled study where results involving the treatment of IBS with osteopathy were described as "promising"; we noted, however, that those studies referred to osteopathy, not chiropractic.

In relation to the chiropractic treatment of colic, we noted a number of reported un-controlled individual case studies where infants had been treated with chiropractic. We also noted several larger studies, one of which was a  "prospective case study", another of which was based on "a retrospective uncontrolled questionnaire", another which was a "pilot study" presented at a conference and a fourth which was a blinded randomised controlled trial that measured the "short-term effect" of spinal manipulation on infantile colic.

In relation to the chiropractic treatment of learning difficulties we noted a 2007 literature review of the effects of chiropractic on individuals with learning disabilities and dyslexia in which the reviewers considered that none of the studies met all of their pre-defined methodological criteria.

We considered that, whilst some of the studies indicated that further research was worth pursuing, in particular in relation to the chiropractic relief of colic, we had not seen robust clinical evidence to support the claim that chiropractic could treat IBS, colic and learning difficulties.
On these points the ad breached CAP Code clauses 3.1 (Substantiation), 7.1 (Truthfulness) and 50.1 (Health and Beauty Products and Therapies).

2. Upheld
We welcomed Dr. Carl’s assurance that the practice would no longer refer to its chiropractors as doctors in their future advertising to avoid misleading readers.
On this point the ad breached CAP Code clause 7.1 (Truthfulness).


The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told Dr. Carl not to refer to the treatment of IBS, colic and learning difficulties in future.

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