INCE the British Chiropractic Association (BCA) decided to sue science writer Simon Singh for libel, scientists and journalists have unleashed a torrent of criticism against chiropractic. Much of this is misinformed and needs to be corrected.
Many critics – including Edzard Ernst (New Scientist, 30 May, p 22) – hark back to the origins of chiropractic. This has the clear intention of suggesting that modern chiropractors cling to the 19th century idea that spinal misalignments are responsible for the majority of diseases. While a tiny minority retain this view, most are aware that such claims have long since been debunked.
Claims that chiropractic is dangerous overlook two recent pieces of research. One found no causative association between chiropractic manipulation and stroke. The other concluded that the incidence of stroke after chiropractic was no greater than after a consultation with a general practitioner (Spine, vol 32, p 2375, and vol 33, p S176).
Our critics also make the mistake of equating chiropractic with spinal manipulation, especially with regard to treating non-spinal conditions such as asthma. This demonstrates a lack of understanding of the fact that chiropractors utilise a range of treatments, including postural advice, reassurance and exercise.
Ernst and others claim that chiropractic lacks evidence, pointing to a paucity of randomised controlled trials. This overlooks the fact that many accepted medical interventions have little or no research evidence to support them.
Finally, the case against Singh has been recast by his supporters as a freedom of speech issue. It is not. Libel law is about the proper censuring of individuals’ ability to publish false and defamatory material that causes damage to reputation. To stifle scientific debate would clearly be wrong.
The case against Simon Singh has been recast as a freedom of speech issue. It is not
Each year tens of thousands of patients benefit from chiropractic. Its safety record is equal or superior to that of other regulated health professions and there have been no known deaths from chiropractic in the UK. Patient satisfaction is consistently high and we are committed to delivering ever enhanced standards of care.
Richard Brown is a chiropractor and vice-president of the BCA