Chiropractic Facts & Myths

The best way to start off talking about chiropractic myths and facts is on a topic that seems like a myth, is very controversial and is in fact, well, a fact.

Myth #1: If It "Quacks" Like a Duck

Many people view chiropractic care as nothing more than a glorified massage therapist. Their view is that chiropractors do not go to school for as long a time period as other physicians, do not prescribe medication and do not perform any surgery. So why then must they be considered doctors?

For admission to a chiropractic college, a minimum of three years of undergraduate education is required, including successful courses in biology, general chemistry, organic chemistry, physics, psychology, English/communications, and the humanities. Many state licensing boards require a bachelor's degree as a pre-requisite for the doctor of chiropractic degree. Chiropractic programs differ from school to school. All schools complete almost 5,000 hours of course work. The programs focus on basic sciences, adjustive techniques, principles and practice of chiropractic, physiologic therapeutics, and biomechanics. The truth is that chiropractic care has been around since just after the U.S. Civil War. And while the principles of chiropractic care have been utilized in a holistic alternative to healthcare for over 125 years, it was only recently that chiropractors have been given their rightful place amongst other physicians as credible sources for pain relief.

Mr. Morris Fishbein, a secretary of the American Medical Association, waged a personal one-man war involving the AMA between 1924 and 1949. Fishbein's issue was that he took it as a personal affront that anything that "passed" itself off as organized medicine but did not utilize a "doctrine of drugs and surgery" must be challenged. Since chiropractic care has the philosophy of helping the body heal itself through the use of natural drugs such as vitamins and non-invasive procedures, he tried to eliminate chiropractic.

While at the American Medical Association, Fishbein waged a 50-year war denouncing chiropractic care as if it were witchcraft for the modern ages. And due to his public outrage over this alternative healthcare, many doctors also denounced chiropractic care as a real and effective solution to many health-related issues.

In 1963, the AMA created a committee on Quackery (no joke) and made its prime mission to be the containment and elimination of chiropractic care. The committee acted like the film industry in the 1950s and tried to blacklist anything having to do with chiropractic care. They distributed propaganda to teachers and guidance counselors to eliminate any mention of chiropractic care from the U.S. Department of Labor's Health Career guidebooks and enforced guidelines to medical schools against the teachings of chiropractic care. They tried to split the two national chiropractic associations apart. And the AMA propagandized the distrust of chiropractic care as unproven and "cult-like" in public forums.

In 1975, the United States Supreme Court ruled that learned professions are not exempt from antitrust suits and in 1982, the court ruled that the FTC can enforce antitrust laws against medical societies (Goldfarb vs. The Virginia State Bar). Several chiropractors filed an antitrust suit in Federal District Court against the American Medical Association and other health-related agencies. Other suits were filed in 1979 in New York and Pennsylvania. Due to these lawsuits, the American Medical Association was forced to change their Code of Ethics that barred medical doctors from associating and referring patients to chiropractors. While the chiropractors in these lawsuits lost their initial cases, they were soon vindicated by the United States Court of Appeals in 1987, when the AMA and other healthcare agencies were found guilty of conspiracy against the chiropractors and chiropractic care. The American Medical Association was forced to print the court's ruling in JAMA (the Journal of the American Medical Association) and was forced to recognize chiropractic care as a legitimate healthcare practice.

Myth #2: A Chiropractor Brainwashes his Patients into Long-Term Care

Like with many health-related issues, you must see your doctor on a regular basis until the problem is solved. When you get braces to straighten your teeth, do you see the orthodontist only once and then your teeth are straight? Absolutely not! You see the orthodontist weekly or monthly until your teeth are straightened out. Does a recovering heart attack patient stop seeing his cardiologist or does he continue to see their physician until they are given a clean bill of health? They continue with the physician until they are determined to be healthy. The same rings true for a chiropractor. The chiropractor's job is to make sure that his patients have a clean bill of health.

Myth #3: Chiropractic Care is Expensive

At a chiropractor, you pay for services rendered and in most cases, your health insurance covers your treatment. You may want to consult your health insurance carrier to see if your chiropractor is in their network and covers your treatment.

Myth #4: Chiropractors only Treat Back Pain

Remember the song, "Head, shoulders, knees, and toes"? This should be the theme song of chiropractors everywhere, since their focus is the spinal cord, which is the gateway to the entire human body. Nerves travel along the spine and send out sensory and motor information to all the body's internal and external organs.

Myth #5: Chiropractors Only "Pop a Disc in Place"

A chiropractor's job is to assess the body's condition and then prescribe a treatment schedule for manipulating the body. There are many different noises a person hears when "cracking" or "popping" your joints, neck, back and knuckles. When you hear that popping or cracking noise, you are not actually "popping a disc into place" nor are you breaking your bones. However, scientists explain the noises you hear in many different ways. One such explanation is escaping gases. The synovial fluid that acts as a lubricant in your joints contains oxygen, nitrogen and carbon dioxide. When a joint is popped or cracked, the joint capsule expands and the gas is rapidly released.

Another explanation is when a tendon's position changes or moves out of place. The popping sound is that of the tendon returning to its original position. This happens more often in your ankles and knees. The last explanation is mainly for arthritic patients whose joints make sounds because of the loss of the smooth cartilage and rough joint surfaces.

With the myths out the way, let's look at some cold, hard facts.

Fact #1: Chiropractic is the Fastest Growing Health Care Profession

And not only that, it is the second largest primary health care profession. As of today, there are approximately 65,000 doctors of chiropractic care around the world with an additional 20,000+ chiropractors around the world. And there are almost 20,000 students enrolled in chiropractic care programs at universities and colleges across the nation.

Fact #2: Chiropractors are Recognized by Government Health Care Programs

True. Federal employees health care benefits programs, Medicare, Medicaid, Federal worker's compensation and state worker's compensation programs all include chiropractic care. Students enrolled in chiropractic programs are able to receive student loan assistance on a federal level and chiropractors can be considered as health care officers in the armed forces.

Fact #3: Insurance Covers Chiropractic Care

True. Insurance coverage is provided by many major health insurance carriers, including state workers compensation plans and auto insurance carriers.

Fact #4: Chiropractic Care was Given by Hippocrates

True. Hippocrates (the namesake of the Hippocratic Oath which all doctors are sworn to take) utilized "manipulation" techniques in his treatment of patients suffering from various maladies concerning the back and muscles. "Manipulation" was also utilized by the Chinese in their treatments over a thousand years ago.

Fact #5: 8% of the Population uses Chiropractic Care

True. In fact, people visit chiropractors more than yoga, massage, acupuncture and other diet-based therapies combined.