Do You Believe in Chiropractic?

[originally published in KCN, August 2001 / cartoon provided by]

Do you believe in chiropractic?

I don’t.

Oftentimes I’ll encounter a new patient who will cut me short of my explanation on chiropractic by interjecting, “Don’t worry Doc.  No need to explain.  I believe in chiropractic.”

Believe in chiropractic? The idea of having to believe in chiropractic just doesn’t sit right with me.  Nobody ever talks about believing in medicine.  Chiropractic is not a belief system that you have to subscribe to or take stock in for it to work, nor is it akin to the rank and file of the Tooth Fairy, Easter Bunny, or Leprechaun.  No, chiropractic works just fine on its own, ruby slippers or not.  I don’t believe in chiropractic, I know in it.

I know that I spent eight years of schooling preparing to be a chiropractor — learning the art, science, and philosophy of chiropractic.   I know that I continue to build on that knowledge with regular postgraduate education, and  I know that the ever-growing piles of scientific research continue to back up what we do.  But more importantly, I know because I see people’s lives transformed everyday in my practice — people who were once enslaved to their pain and dysfunction, now break free and reclaim their health.  And I know that this is not unique to my practice, it is happening in every chiropractic practice — from Kingston to Tokyo.

Don’t get me wrong, I do believe in the effectiveness of chiropractic care.  And I do believe that chiropractic can help many people.  Larry Dossey, M.D., in his book Healing Words, touches on the power of believing in any particular therapy at hand.  Research has shown that for a positive therapeutic outcome, not only is it important for the patient to have faith in the effectiveness of the therapy, but the doctor as well.  So believing in the therapy can be very beneficial.  But even after having said that, chiropractic is producing results every day in newborns, infants, and animals for whom forming a belief in the therapy they are receiving really isn’t  possible.

So, if belief in chiropractic is not mandatory for it to work, why is it that some people refuse to acknowledge chiropractic’s legitimacy by ignorantly claiming to “not believe” in it?  Good question.  And one that I cannot begin to answer, except that it is most likely threatening them in some way.

“Let something appeal to us and we will make sense out of it.  Let something offend us, disturb us, threaten us and we’ll see that it doesn’t make sense.” – Jules Eisenbud

Perhaps the following bit of medical history may shed some light on this issue.

Health care owes a great deal of thanks to a young Hungarian obstetrician by the name of Ignaz Philipp Semmelweis.  Unfortunately, he never got the accolades he deserved during his lifetime.  In fact, he got quite the opposite.

It was during the mid 19th century that Dr. Semmelweis, who oversaw two teaching obstetric clinics in an Austrian hospital, couldn’t help but notice that “Clinic Number One” had a substantially higher death rate from an affliction known as childbed fever than did “Clinic Number Two” — more than four times higher.  What’s more, this was no secret to the public.  Pregnant women would literally “beg” to be admitted to the safer, “Clinic Number Two.”  Some, to avoid being admitted to the first clinic, opted to have their babies in the streets — so much so that they were tagged as “street births.”  What puzzled Semmelweis even further was that women rarely died from childbed fever when having their babies on the streets.

“To me, it appeared logical that patients who experienced street births would become ill at least as frequently as those who delivered in the clinic…. What protected those who delivered outside the clinic from these destructive unknown endemic influences?” —Ignaz Semmelweis.

Being a man of science, Semmelweis attempted to evaluate the two clinics side by side to deduce the deadly cause of childbed fever.  Everything was the same except that Clinic Number One was a teaching clinic for medical students and Clinic Number Two, a teaching clinic for midwives.

Still stumped, the light bulb didn’t go on until his good doctor-friend unexpectedly died of childbed fever himself after being accidentally pricked by a  student’s scalpel following an autopsy of a childbed fever afflicted woman.  It was then that Semmelweis postulated that perhaps the medical students were carrying “cadaverous particles” on their hands when they would come into to examine and deliver their pregnant patients after having performed their morning autopsies in the next room over. Oh, by the way, midwifes were not allowed to perform such autopsies and had no contact with corpses.

Semmelweis in a moment of inspiration decided that all medical students delivering babies in his ward would wash their hands in a chlorine solution after dissecting corpses, and after each patient examination.  He chose the “bleach-like” solution primarily to neutralize the putrid smell that would often emanate from the  hands of his students.  Keep in mind that  Louis Pasteur had yet to develop his “Germ Theory of Disease” and that the idea that things like bacteria could be a potential threat to one’s immune system was not even on one’s the radar screen.

The results of his change in procedure were remarkable.  Prior to the hand washing, one out of every eight women giving birth in his clinic was dying of childbed fever.  After the hand washing started, the death rate plummeted immediately to less than one in a hundred!

Semmelweis published his spectacular findings.  Truly, he had stumbled across something that would change the course of medicine.  And instead of being met with applause, he was hit with insults.  The orthodox obstetricians virtually declared war on the doctor, relentlessly attacking him at every opportunity.  He was eventually driven insane.  He died without ever knowing that his views would eventually become “common sense” knowledge, and that thanks to his discoveries, childbed fever would a disease that would virtually disappear — only to be found in the history books.

But why would the medical establishment dismiss something so obvious?  Why did they not believe in hand washing?   Because doing so would be admitting that by their own hand they were spreading the fatal infection — something they were not willing to do.

No.  No need to believe in chiropractic.  It’s beyond that.  It passed Santa Claus a long time ago.  What most people in my office can’t believe is that they waited so long to finally come in!

sources used for this article:
Dossey, Larry.  Healing Words:  the power of prayer and the practice of medicine. Harper Collins. New York.  1993.
Esteb, Bill. Chiropractic is Different (brochure) Back Talk Systems. 1999.
Ignaz Semmelweis. (viewed on 03/11/2010).
Robbins, John.  Reclaiming our health:  exploding the medial myth and embracing the source of true healing. HJ Kramer.  Triburon, CA.  1996
Explore posts in the same categories: chiropractic 101, germs, healthy living

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3 Comments on “Do You Believe in Chiropractic?”

  1. […] in Chiropractic? I illustrated this one recently for my chiropractor son who just posted a blog article on “believing” in chiropractic.  While people often say they “believe” in chiropractic, you will never catch them […]

  2. It’s a long battle believing on who’s true and who’s not. I think as long as it could contribute something, it will have a purpose.

  3. drlamar Says:

    Yes, I agree…. a long battle indeed. Thanks for your contribution. By the way, your video on your website is great! 🙂

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