A Collection of Strange Beliefs, Amusing Deceptions, and Dangerous Delusions

From Abracadabra to Zombies

reader comments: chiropractic

30 July 2009
Dear Sir:

Below is your false comment about what is called a "mixer" among doctors of chiropractic privately. This is not a term used officially by any official entity.

Mixers are not necessarily more scientific than the more conservative straights. Mixers are likely to use such questionable therapies as colonic irrigation, iridology, applied kinesiology, acupressure, and craniosacral therapy.

reply: That's probably why Jarvis, whom I quote, puts the terms "mixers" and "straights" in quotes. Sorry for the confusion. I meant my statement about chiropractic being an unhealthy alternative for many people to apply to both mixers and straights. (I did change the word 'most' to 'many,' as 'most' is probably too strong.)

The mixer as you state is not a doctor of chiropractic that does the below therapies at all. This term was coined by straight (manipulation only) DCs for those who have become certified in things like: physical therapeutics, nutrition, neurology, orthopaedics, geriatrics, etc. As you stated, applied kinesiology and acupressure are both done by dentists and the medical profession! Cranial work is done by the osteopathic profession! So what is your beef ? I think you need to get a life. Doctors of chiropractic are recognized by all government law departments and have been proven to do wonderful work. It is a safe and cost effective treatment for spinal and joint related problems. This is stated by federal government studies. More and more foreign countries are licensing chiropractors due to the benefits found by research and testing results. You need to do research prior to making false statements.

reply: I usually do research before making false statements. Chiropractic might be safe on most occasions, but it is not perfectly safe. Whether it is cost effective is a matter of opinion. See Adverse Effects of Chiropractic by Dr. Harriet Hall. One study found 115 case reports that included strokes (66), spinal fluid leak (5), spinal epidural hematoma (7), cauda equina syndrome (2), herniated disc (20), radiculopathy (7), myelopathy (3), diaphragmatic palsy (3) and pathologic fractures of vertebra (2).

I would not want to put myself in a position to be litigated by any large group as you have done. It may be to your benefit to reconsider you position. I would hate to see these large groups contacting your advertisers and killing part of your income over false information that was not researched in depth by you. It is obvious that you have a focus directed by misinformation for a misdirected purpose.

reply: Is it that obvious? I take it that your main point in writing, besides warning me against litigation, is to set the record straight about mixers and straights. A straightforward way of doing that might be to simply say that mixers do other things besides straight chiropractic. Some of those other things might be questionable, but dentists and medical doctors sometimes do questionable things. Some of those other things may be quite respectable. Likewise with dentists and surgeons.

I have DC, PhD, MD degrees that I worked very hard for in my life. I taught at the original Osteopathic College in Kirksville, Mo., a medical program for many years on WBCX Brenau Nursing and Medical College as well as being a USFMG myself. I feel you are not qualified to make any statements about these professionals.

Respectfully, I am

Dr. Ron Clark

reply: I've never executed anyone but I think I qualify to make statements about the death penalty. You aren't implying, I hope, that your patients aren't qualified to make statements about your work as a professional unless they possess a medical degree or a DC.


4 Jun 2009
I love your site! I've been reading about homeopathy, acupuncture and all those other forms of "medicine" that are supposed to cure but lack any scientific backing as to show evidence of anything other than a placebo effect. They become quite dangerous, especially when people turn their back on modern medicine and put their lives in the hands of quacks who practice these alternative "cures". It's quite obvious almost all of them are out to make a buck off of their patient's ignorance and gullibility.

reply: Not all those practicing an alternative healing art are malicious quacks, i.e., people who know their medicine is bogus and are defrauding their clients. Many believe in their medicine because they have seen it "work." They don't understand either the placebo effect or non-placebo effects such as spontaneous improvement, fluctuation of symptoms, regression to the mean, answers of politeness, experimental subordination, conditioned answers, neurotic or psychotic misjudgment, psychosomatic phenomena, and the like.

The evidence keeps piling up in favor of the notion that many of the rituals associated with healing relax the patient and reduce the production of stress hormones like cortisol or stimulate the production of natural opiates like endorphins. In other words, the specific details of the intervention are often not as important to healing as the overall effect of stimulating the body's own pharmaceutical distribution center.

As you say, however, the alternative healers become dangerous or superfluous if the patient suffers from an illness or disorder that is treatable by scientific-based medicine. Some alternative healers recognize this fact and advise patients to use both unscientific and scientific medicine. They call the unscientific stuff "complementary medicine."

I myself went to a chiropractor for back problems. I thought I'd just give it a try and my skepticism was proven apt. The chiropractor found all kinds of medical problems that none of my many doctors seem to have noticed. His "treatment" consisted of wrenching my neck so far to the left when it wouldn't crack, thus injuring it. His other treatments were ineffective and caused more pain than when he started, and between the manipulations (more than just physical) he set out to sell me all kinds of extras that would magically cure me of my problems if I use them in conjunction with seeing him multiple times a week for the rest of my life.

-- MM

reply: You're lucky he didn't injure you for life.


7 Mar 2003
Please edit the section on Chiropractic: "a grocer from Davenport, Iowa" to indicate that DD Palmer was from Port Perry, Ontario. Yes, he was a grocer in Iowa, but he was from Port Perry Ontario.

Give Port Perry that. It's all they have.

See: http://www.chiro.cc/health_info/ddpark.htm

Gilbert Boehm

reply: It's true. Palmer was born in Canada and I should have been more careful not to try to give an American city credit for this great man. My patriotic fervor may have gotten the best of me!

8 Feb 2000 
In the reader's comments on chiropractic, one of the comments contains this gem

Now, how does our body interact or communicate with itself and with the environment. Guess what, 100% through the nervous system. By manipulation of the articulations of the spinal column the interference is removed and the body is let to heal on its own. We as chiropractors are not healing the body, but letting the body heal on its own.

Your paragraph in reply to that misses the fact that a huge amount of the body's communication with itself is done via hormones and other chemicals, which travel through the blood, not the nervous system.

Another one is this: "Yes, I admit, the research in this area is just beginning, but also remember, the chiropractic profession is only 100 years old and it's not like we had the government and other funding money we do today"

You might wish to point out that other areas of medicine are also less that 100 years old, and have overwhelming scientific evidence and have saved and improved countless lives. Insulin comes to mind.
Paul Murray

24 Aug 1999
I read with interest your information about chiropractic. The philosophy of chiropractic has truly been a stumbling block for my educational development as a chiropractic physician. The concept of a subluxation is difficult to swallow I admit; however, it is the antiquated theory that has many rational individuals up in arms, including myself. A chiropractic consensus panel defined subluxation as "a motion segment, in which alignment, movement integrity, and/or physiological function are altered, although contact between joint surfaces remain intact." (Gatterman M, Hansen D. "Development of chiropractic nomenclature through consensus,"
Journal of Manipulative Physiological Therapy 1994;17:302-9.) Granted, this definition is very broad in nature, but improved.

I do recognize this entity; however, I do not utilized the verbiage. Instead, I use terms such as joint complex dysfunction with dysafferentation or segmental dysfunction to recognize the neurological sequelae (maybe too strong of a word) that occurs (segment=joint). These references are used in the J Manipulative Physio Ther and/or the ICD-9 to describe the improper term subluxation. The neurological sequelae include but are not limited to pain, loss of intersegmental motion, muscle spasm, muscle hypertonicty, aberrant joint biomechanics, trigger points, and local biochemical changes. These states affect the neuraxis (central nervous system) in that compensation to normal biomechanics has to occur in order for function to be maintained. Additionally, the neuraxis undergoes plastic changes to compensate. Lastly, pain and dysfunction affect the patient in such a way as to lead to psychological problems as depression and sleep disturbances. Granted, the last statement is more prominent in chronic cases, but these problems do occur.

My attitude may chap many of my fellow chiropractors' asses. Yet, this is where chiropractic research is heading.

Of course, as you point out, chiropractic is not merely for low back pain, but it includes the treatment of other type-M disorders, which is true. As a matter of fact, the recent Manga report from Canada reports that chiropractors should be considered equal to primary care physicians in the treatment of Type-M disorders. I do agree with this. We, as chiropractors, treat neuromusculoskeletal disorders well if we do not limit are practice to the "acme" of chiropractic, the adjustment. It is a powerful tool/treatment in our arsenal; however, physiological therapeutics (heat, ice, and electrical modalities; manual resistance techniques; and rehabilitative exercises), education, and nutrition are utilized as well in the treatment of patients. Using these tools in the treatment paradigm allows DC's to more effectively treat their patients. Of course, history, appropriate diagnostic testing, and diagnosis must precede treatment.

By the way, Barrett and his followers and the national committee on health care fraud [National Council on Health Fraud] are questionable additional sources. (I do understand why they are present.) From my reading of their information, I find their resources to be outdated; hence, many of their arguments are fallacious based upon updated literature. Granted, some chiropractors fall into the path as Barrett, et al., ad hoc hypothesis(?) and other fallacies. Solutions: links to the American Chiropractic Association, Federation [Foundation?] of Chiropractic Education and Research, Pubmed with Key Terms as Chiropractic, Seamen, Rosner, J Manipulative Physiol Ther, etc.
Todd Hostetler, Senior Chiropractic Intern

reply: Since some of your colleagues seem to base their practices and theories on questionable sources, I think I'll keep my links to Barrett and the National Council on Health Fraud. In addition to their outdated critiques, they also critique some of the newfangled notions emerging in your profession.

31 Aug 1996
In regard to your comments on chiropractic:

First, your understanding of chiropractic philosophy is only partially correct. It is true that D. D. Palmer believed subluxations (vertebrae out of alignment or not showing proper biomechanical motion) could cause nervous "irritation", and that this, in turn, could cause a disturbance of normal physiologic function. This is only part of a bigger picture, however. The basic chiropractic philosophy is that the human body is inherently healthy and has the ability to heal itself when needed. This is apparent when you think about it--is it the band-aid that heals your finger when you cut it, or is it the cast that heals a fracture when you break a bone? Of course not, the body will heal itself--as long as there is nothing to interfere with the healing process.

reply: The human body is "inherently healthy?" You're kidding, right? Why do we get sick and die, then? Anyway, if by saying that the human body has the ability to heal itself you mean that healthy people have functioning immune systems, blood will coagulate and scab when we are cut, etc., who could disagree with that?

Now, how does our body interact or communicate with itself and with the environment. Guess what, 100% through the nervous system. By manipulation of the articulations of the spinal column the interference is removed and the body is let to heal on its own. We as chiropractors are not healing the body, but letting the body heal on its own.

reply: If the body can heal on its own, why does it need your manipulations of articulations? The idea that without your manipulations, the body would not heal on its own, does not seem to be supported by the empirical evidence of most people's lower back pain going away on its own. Comparing your manipulations with putting a cast on a broken arm is misleading. We know what function the cast plays; you are assuming the role played by manipulation.

Palmer did suggest that nerve irritation was mostly due to a subluxation impinging on a nerve, and this would then lead to nerve dysfunction. This bone pinching nerve theory has been proven to be a factor only under certain circumstances such as when there are advanced degenerative changes. There have been numerous studies, however, that found many indirect pathways for subluxation to cause nerve irritation. These are too complex and technical to discuss here but can be made available.

reply: Very interesting, but if nerves are "irritated" or damaged and this irritation causes pain, why wouldn't manipulation cause further irritation and damage and, therefore, more pain?

Remember also that this is only a philosophy, and as such should be changing as new data support some ideas and refute others. The philosophy of today is different although core components still remain. I also know that the accredited colleges or American Chiropractic Association would not endorse chiropractic treating heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and other serious and life-threatening situations--these are beyond our scope of practice. But who is to say these conditions and others such as asthma, ulcers and other GI troubles to name a few, could not be helped by chiropractic--at least in the beginning stages, or even prevented.

reply: Sounds like wishful thinking to me.

Yes, I admit, the research in this area is just beginning, but also remember, the chiropractic profession is only 100 years old and it's not like we had the government and other funding money we do today. Also, let me remind you about a recent New England Journal of Medicine article that stated only 15% of medical practices are validated by double-blinded, controlled clinical trials. Am I saying because the medical profession doesn't have the research that chiropractic does not need it either? Of course not. What I am relating is that in order to do research you must first have an idea to study. Also remember that research in not everything, clinical results are just as important. What is probably going to end up happening is that chiropractic will be used in conjunction with other therapies in a "multidisciplinary" approach for these visceral conditions. A typical chiropractic practice is made up of only a few percentage (five or less) of these "organic" conditions.

reply: I'm not one for trying to predict the future of such things as chiropractic, but I do have some opinions about spending our tax dollars testing metaphysical hypotheses and empirical possibilities. The government should stay out of metaphysics and before spending money on a possible cure for cancer by meditating underwater while injecting bee pollen there should be some solid empirical or theoretical evidence that such a practice is likely to prove beneficial. I'm not opposed to "pure" research, or experiment by trial and error, but with limited resources to spend, decisions on how to spend it should be based on some sort of merit system. The minimal requirement of such a system should be the ability to establish empirical or theoretical probability that a medical intervention will be effective. I don't say that this minimal probability be as high a standard as "beyond a reasonable doubt." Such a high standard would end all funding. But some proof beyond mere possibility should be required.

Now for your comment about low back pain. Apparently you have absolutely no idea what you are talking about here because an overwhelming body of evidence supports the superior outcomes (subjective, objective, clinical, whatever you want) of manipulation for low back pain. Perhaps you fail to understand the scope of low back pain in the United States and around the world. About 80% of adults will experience disabling low back pain at some point in their lives. While it is true that low back complaints are generally self-limiting, I would like you to name the majority of conditions seen in clinic or hospitals that are not. That is not even relevant whatsoever as to whether a condition should be treated or not. What determines a treatments effectiveness is if it can effect the condition in less time than that condition's natural history. The natural history for low back complaints is four weeks (not 2 as you stated). Now can you imagine having low back complaints for four weeks--or even two. Remember low back complaints affect PEOPLE. These people have lives, jobs, kids, hobbies. What happens to a person when they are not able to do these things.

reply: Well, it depends on the person. Some people have chronic back pain and are also employed as roofers or in jobs requiring a lot of lifting. They may have to find another line of employment or make sure they wear a back support and take care in how they bend to lift things (learn to squat instead of bending over with the legs stiff). Getting "cranked", as one of my friends calls it when he goes to his chiropractor, provides little more than temporary relief. This friend used to be a roofer. He once called me at about 5:30 in the morning to help him. His back pain was so great he couldn't even get out of bed to go to the bathroom. He was lying on the floor when I came over and he was still there in the afternoon when I returned after work. He was taken by ambulance to the hospital. He's been going to a chiropractor for years but this time he consulted a surgeon. The thought of going under the knife was so unpleasant that he eventually changed professions rather than deal with another potential paralysis episode. He took so long to decide what to do that eventually he healed on his own. He wears a back brace whenever he does lifting and has a job which puts very little strain on his lower back. As far as I know, he hasn't needed to go to his chiropractor since he changed jobs. I think it was changing jobs, not the years of "cranking" that relieved him of his pain.

Low back complaints are the second largest reason for a visit to a primary care physician. Low back complaints cost more than AIDS, heart disease, and cancer combined in terms of cost of medical treatment and indirect costs from work loss/decrease in productivity. Low back complaints are the leading cause of disability in Americans ages 25-45. Low back complaints are the number one reason for medical discharge from the military. Low back complaints are the number one reason for claims to worker's compensation, and these claims (30% of total claims) make up 80% of worker's compensation costs, again, because of high cost of medical treatment and work loss. In short, low back pain is a MAJOR, BIG-TIME problem in America and around the world. For you to make it sound as if low back pain is no big deal and will disappear without a problem is a gigantic mistake and just goes to prove your lack of understanding or research on the subject. By effecting the complaint in a faster time period than natural history you get that person back on the job faster, you take that person out of pain and suffering, you decrease the chance of that condition becoming chronic, and overall, you increase that person's quality of life. Apparently you have dealt with little or no people who experience chronic low back pain, or increased pain because of failed back surgery. These people's entire lives are affected.

reply: I'm sorry if you took my meaning to be that lower back pain "is no big deal." I did not intend to imply that nor did I intend to imply that no one ever benefits from treatment by chiropractors, physicians, massage therapists, exercise class, etc. If you want to bring in worker's compensation complaints, however, then we'll have to discuss fraud, which is beyond the scope of this article or these comments. Anyway, I have known people who've had successful back surgery. It changed their lives---for the better.

They are depressed, some cannot work, some can barely walk, and some have lost their families because of it. Even if you can reduce that person's pain by two weeks you have done a great service. Also by getting treatment instead of just leaving it, other more dangerous causes of low back pain (cancer, organ disease, etc.) can be ruled out, and healing can be supervised to ensure a more complete job with less chance of chronicity or repeat back complaint.

reply: The question is, though, if someone is seriously disabled, would they get equal or better results elsewhere. You haven't convinced me that if I ever find myself in such a condition I would be better off consulting a chiropractor than an M.D.

You also made reference to some of the above conditions as other causes of back pain (cancer, etc.) as a reason people should not go to a chiropractor. This is absolutely ridiculous. Chiropractors are trained to diagnose and rule-out other causes of back pain such as these. If the diagnosis falls outside of our scope of practice we make the appropriate referral. This is no different than the general MD who make the referral to the heart surgeon or other specialist.

reply: There is one difference between a general M.D. and a chiropractor, and it is that difference which leads many people to seek the services of the latter: the M.D. sees back pain as a sign that something is wrong with the body and it is possible that the M.D. will recommend drugs or surgery to relieve the pain. The chiropractor is likely to see back pain as a sign that something is out of alignment and is unlikely to recommend surgery.

Anyway, who do you think is more likely to know that a back complaint may have a more serious cause. An MD who sees a few back cases a week, or a chiropractor who sees a hundred backs a week. To become a chiropractor it takes at least 7 years of schooling. We are DOCTORS, Doctors of Chiropractic, and we are recognized with all the other powers and rights of other physicians. While you're at it I think you need some work on the chiropractic education.

reply: I don't say that "it is more likely" that back complaints have a serious cause. I just say that the cause may be serious. And, I'm sure you've come a long way from the days of Dr. Palmer.

Back to chiropractic documentation for low back pain. Recently the Department of Health's Agency for Health Care Policy and Research released a guideline entitled "Understanding Acute Low Back Pain in Adults". This is a major guideline with the purpose of defining what treatment(s) should be used for certain conditions. These guidelines are used by our government as well as in other countries, by health care professionals around the world, and by third-party payers. These guidelines are made by gathering a multidisciplinary panel of experts in that particular field and then finding and evaluating all the research for a particular topic. For low back pain the panel said that spinal manipulation is the best early treatment. What do you mean there are no reports on chiropractic and back pain--they reviewed all the valid studies from every discipline in the world!!!

reply: I don't mean anything by "there are no reports on chiropractic and back pain," because I never said such a thing.

Now why should chiropractic be the first method of therapy for low back pain? There are basically 3 reasons:

1. Chiropractic specifically, and spinal manipulation generally, has been proven to be the most effective early treatment. This fact can simply not be refuted, period.

reply: Well, since it can't be refuted there is no need to try. But some people believe that to exclude contrary evidence a priori is not good scientific technique. I believe that taking all the evidence, including the reports you cite, the case is not as strong as you think and it certainly isn't irrefutable.

2. Chiropractic is very safe. There have been no reports of complications from low back manipulation by chiropractors in the literature, although the risk has been estimated as a complication per 200 million manipulations. [The SkepDoc wrote to inform me that this claim is bullshit--my description, not hers. She writes: "Chiropractic insurance statistics have paid claims for damages, and there have been many reported complications. Most of them are for neck manipulations, but some are from lower back manipulations. One study found: 115 case reports included strokes (66), spinal fluid leak (5), spinal epidural hematoma (7), cauda equina syndrome (2), herniated disc (20), radiculopathy (7), myelopathy (3), diaphragmatic palsy (3) and pathologic fractures of vertebra (2)." See Adverse Effects of Chiropractic.] That would make chiropractic 10,000 times safer than anesthesia alone. Even taking aspirin is far more dangerous than having spinal manipulation. Now why would surgery or medications be indicated for a condition that you call self-limiting. In this case medical treatment is much more dangerous than no treatment alone. Now please don't get me wrong, medical and surgical treatment is necessary sometimes, but only in very specific and well-defined circumstances.

reply: I can't argue with you here. (Except for your reference to me claiming something about a condition being "self-limiting;" I don't say that. In fact, I don't even know what you are talking about.) The dangers from drug reactions or potential addictions, anesthesia, surgical misadventures of high magnitude (euphemism for "killed the patient") are greater than the dangers of chiropractic. This is one of the main attractions of chiropractic and other alternative health practices. Unfortunately, being safer does not equate with being better. It would, if you were talking about comparing two interventions used for exactly the same conditions which produce very similar results. Then, the safer would be the wiser choice.

3. Chiropractic is without a doubt less costly than medical treatment. It is true that we have a larger number of visits or treatments per condition, but that does not matter one bit. The name of the game is COST-EFFECTIVENESS.

reply: I'll take your word for it. Again, though, being cheaper would be better only if we were comparing interventions for the same conditions which produce the same results.

Now let's hear you respond to this. If you refute anything I say all I ask is that you SHOW ME YOUR DATA. If you want any information from me I will gladly get it to you.
Brian V. Jongeward, D.C.

reply: You have already claimed that you can't be refuted. So, I won't try to refute you, but thanks for the offer.

24 Sep 1996
Interesting stuff. As a fully paid up skeptic/cynic from my early teens, I found some of the stuff very interesting indeed. Not that I agree with all of your comments. I found your article on Chiropractic rather extreme - and noted the many responses from those who benefit temporarily from the "realignment'. I visit a chiropractor from time to time, and believe me, the temporary relief is worth the cost (no more expensive than the painkillers the regular medics would prescribe). I don't think its any more bizarre to believe in the therapeutic effects of chiropractic than the therapeutic effects of regular exercise.

reply: My main concern with chiropractic is the theory of subluxations and other theoretical explanations given for a variety of ailments extending way beyond lower back pain. As far as treating lower back pain goes, your testimony supports that of many other people who go to chiropractors and massage therapists on a regular basis.

My second reason for writing is to ask - why only discuss 'alternative medicine'? How about regular medicine? Having seen two people die recently from cancer, I was less than impressed with their treatment by the medics. For a start, no one pointed out to them that they were probably going to die (I suspect they stood a snowball's chance in hell of living). Instead they applied 'therapy' - chemotherapy. This seems to be the modern equivalent of bloodletting as a curative practice, except it is undoubtedly more painful and distressing. You will note I provide only anecdotal evidence here. I have not actually counted the proportion of chemically treated bodies which actually walk out of hospitals *cured*. So when are we going to see 'Chemotherapy' and 'Radical Mastectomy' in the index?
Bob Sugden

reply: I discuss only alternative medicine because of its general pseudoscientific or unscientific approach. Alternative medicine is generally based upon untested claims and is mainly appealing to desperate people. A dying person is easy prey for charlatans, not that there are not charlatans in traditional medicine. In fact, many of those offering miracle cures for cancer are physicians who were trained in traditional medicine. I don't discuss alternative medicine because the field is dominated by charlatans. It is because their cures are based more on hope than on evidence, that I discuss alternative medicine. Of course, treatment with chemotherapy involves hope on the part of both patient and physician. But, anyone who expects traditional medicine to stop people from dying will be disappointed. I don't criticize alternative medicine because it is fallible and imperfect. I, too, have lost some loved ones to cancer. Chemotherapy did not help them. Would they be alive today if they had taken shark cartilage and coffee enemas? There is no way to know, but I doubt it. However, your characterization of chemotherapy to bloodletting is unfair. I wouldn't even compare coffee enemas (an alternative medicine therapy for cancer) to bloodletting. I understand your implication that traditional medicine sometimes recommends therapies that turn out to be useless or harmful. I do not agree, however, that that fact puts traditional medicine in the same class as alternative medicine.

Finally, I discuss only alternative medicine because its very nature encourages people to experiment on themselves with either no theoretical guidance or with faith in the guidance of untested and purely speculative notions. If people want to do this to themselves, that is their business. And it is not difficult to see why a dying person would seek out any therapy, no matter how ridiculous it might seem. At death's door, you and I might be tempted to wear a pyramid hat and let cats rub our bellies, if someone told us that it might help us survive a little longer. We might also be tempted to continue with chemotherapy, even though the prospects are not promising. That fact does not put chemotherapy in the same class as wearing a pyramid hat.

20 Nov 96
Would it be fair to say that some alternative therapies are "marginal" therapies - acknowledged to have favourable effects, but also steeped in nonsense? Shouldn't the skeptical community hold two views on these therapies, not just one all-encompassing negative view, and acknowledge that they possibly do have some value?

reply: I think it's fair to say that some alternative or complementary therapies are "marginal" but I can't speak for the skeptical community, if there is such a thing. I don't know how other skeptics feel, but I think anybody should be able to offer and receive not only "marginal" but "nonsensical" therapies as well...as long as they don't endanger anybody's life but their own and as long as they don't expect the taxpayer or insurance company to foot the bill.

Chiropractic and Acupuncture spring to mind, but because I know more about chiropractic I will concentrate on that. The view that correction of subluxations can correct a wide range of diseases, including what might be called "non-mechanical" - ear infection for instance - is patently ludicrous. Nevertheless, apparently intelligent people, qualified chiropractors, will diligently represent these views if you ask them. I know, because I have asked, and I have been given these ludicrous answers.

(I am reminded of mentioning to my chiropractor that I had a heavy cold, and it might be fairer on his other patients if I avoided breathing directly on his HiLo treatment table. He explained that it wasn't a problem if you didn't believe in the "Germ Theory.")

But chiropractic therapies most certainly do create a sense of well-being, relaxation, cessation of muscle tension, correction of mechanical injury like whiplash, and relief of muscle spasm like a "crick in the neck." Anecdotal evidence suggests that chiropractic therapy really is good for lower back pain. I don't expect chiropractic to correct my back problems, but I do expect and I do receive significant symptomatic relief from manipulation. Pretty much the same effect as a good sports massage, but in different areas:

a) There seems to be genuine benefit - beyond the placebo effect.
b) Correction of subluxation to relieve muscle spasm doesn't intuitively seem unreasonable.
c) Chiropractic (by trained practitioners) seems not to be inherently risky.

(Yeah, I know I said "seems" three times then. Lack of hard evidence.)

So long as we can ignore the other rubbish, (difficult, I know) perhaps the skeptical community can afford to be not quite so dismissive of Chiropractic. By all means trash stuff like Iridology and Aromatherapy; but let's be a little more agnostic about some therapies which at least partly have some basis in common sense.

I guess it comes back to the old skeptical quandary - where do you draw the line between "Prove it to me" and "Don't waste my time trying to prove it to me." I'm happy to place Iridology in the "Don't waste my time" basket, but let's be a little more generous to Chiropractic.
Mark Roberts, Auckland, New Zealand

reply: I don't think I've been that unkind to Chiropractic, but then I'm not a chiropractor. In any case, I'm sure the iridologists and aromatherapists would disagree with your assessment of their arts. And I guarantee that when I get around to writing entries in the Skeptic's Dictionary for those subjects I will get some unfriendly mail blasting me for criticizing what I haven't tried and extolling the virtues of their sciences whose proof is in their many success stories.

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