Confessions of a Quackbuster

This blog deals with healthcare consumer protection, and is therefore about quackery, healthfraud, chiropractic, and other forms of so-Called "Alternative" Medicine (sCAM).

Friday, January 21, 2005

Making FSU flagship for subluxation theory of disease takes backbone

January 18. 2005

Making FSU flagship for subluxation theory of disease takes backbone

Tom Lyons

Some Florida State University faculty members beat me to the punch line.

Those who oppose the creation of a chiropractic school there say the proposal is an embarrassing attempt to create an appearance of unearned scientific legitimacy for a field that is based on wishful thinking and quackery.

If an FSU school is created to turn out America's future chiropractors, that will be a public relations coup for an industry long lumped in with snake oil salesmen. And it would also be good for University of Florida grads, like me, who would have more material for razzing Seminoles.

So some FSU faculty members have suggested that if that major state university is forced to accept that school at the insistence of well-lobbied legislators, then lawmakers should also add a Bigfoot Institute and a Crop Circle Simulation Laboratory.

That's a bit unfair. And I don't mean unfair to Bigfoot believers or UFO buffs. I mean to me. That's the kind of crack columnists, not colorless academics, are supposed to make. I could suggest that FSU consider a School of Phrenology, or a College of Creation Science, but the faculty has already trumped me.

Actually, this attitude might be a bit unfair to chiropractors. The odds of there being value to some chiropractic treatments are much better than those sarcastic comparisons imply. I guess.

Chiropractic treatment still has hordes of non-believers in the medical profession. But there is no doubt that chiropractors have edged closer to the mainstream in public perception, and even for some doctors. Many insurance companies pay for chiropractic treatment now. Millions of Americans go to chiropractors.

That doesn't prove that chiropractic is effective for treating anything. But no one has managed to prove it isn't of value, especially for some kinds of lower back pain, its most logical claim to legitimacy.

The National Institutes of Health says even the research on lower back-pain treatment has come up with iffy results when compared with placebo techniques. But it says there might be some value there.

Of course, any massage therapist can claim the same. And massage therapy is also a licensed profession with practitioners who get checks from insurance companies.

The main difference, then, would be that massage therapists tend not to make really grandiose claims, and they are not on the verge of having a College of Rubdowns in our university system.

Another difference: Massage therapy wasn't founded by a guy who started out healing people with magnets. Nor do most massage schools teach that "subluxations" are the cause of most disease.

Some chiropractors wisely prefer, for the moment at least, not to mention subluxation theory, the idea that small misalignments of the spine restrict functioning of nerves and lead to all sorts of health problems.

The lack of scientific evidence for this is the basis for much jeering, especially since many chiropractors are glad to treat many sorts of medical problems with nothing but manipulations that tackle those alleged subluxations.

Naturally, selling this school to FSU's academics gets all the tougher when people are reminded that this hocus-pocus is the foundation of chiropractic, and that the organization that certifies chiropractors and their schools requires that subluxation theory be taught.

But hey, I don't have a problem with FSU's becoming the nation's one and only state university promoting subluxation theory. In fact, I urge the Board of Governors to ignore those stodgy naysayers concerned with the university system's national academic, scientific and medical reputation. Be bold, I say.

And go Crop Circle U!