So, you've been having some back pain and you don't want to go to a doctor or surgeon because obviously they will prescribe medication or surgery. And you don't want either of those things. (Good for you!)
Since you're naturally-minded, you look into natural alternatives. You may find some exercises or herbal suggestions to help. And inevitably, someone is going to suggest that you go to a chiropractor. After all, they are the spine experts, no?
Origins of Chiropractic
The first so-called chiropractor was a man named D.D. Palmer who claimed to be a magnetic healer. He was also an avid spiritualist. In other words, he connected with evil spirits and openly gave credit to learning the principles of chiropractic treatment during a seance. He said the ghost of a 50-years deceased doctor, Jim Atkinson, shared them to him.
Palmer ended up "healing" a deaf man using these principles. And thus, the chiropractic religion was born. Yes, Palmer saw chiropractic as a religion and stated that he was the head, much like Christ or Muhammad.
Even with that history, it would seem the chiropractic practice today must be far different from what it was, right? Here's an update:
"By one estimate 88 percent of chiropractors self-identify as Christians. At the same time, research suggests that more than 80 percent of chiropractors subscribe to metaphysical beliefs about Innate Intelligence. The vagueness with which chiropractors typically describe Innate, subluxations, and adjustments allows Christian patients to hear what they want, interpreting chiropractic techniques as “science” instead of “religion.”
What exactly is "innate intelligence?"
According to chiropractor Mike Reid,
"We are spiritual beings who are a piece of an entire bigger picture with a purpose in life ... As chiropractors, we already know that the universal intelligence lies within us as innate intelligence, causes our heart to beat, digests our food, and allows us to think as free people ... Listen to your innate ... Sit in a lotus position with your palms opened up. See yourself as one and the same with the universe."
Basically, there are a lot of spiritual undertones in the chiropractic world, even today.
But perhaps you aren't concerned about the spiritualistic roots. So let's look into the physical side of chiropractic care.
The scientific evidence for chiropractic
Palmer said that 95% of all disease is due to "subluxations," a phrase coined to imply that the spinal joints can go out of place, putting pressure on the nerves, interfering with the energy flow between the brain and body.
For something that has been practiced since the late 1800's, you'd think there would be a lot of research with valid outcomes to show the efficacy of the chiropractic profession. Interestingly, that's not the case. This many years later, there is still very little evidence as to the effectiveness of chiropractic.
According to this journal article,
"The chiropractic subluxation stands pretty much today as it did at the dawn of the 20th century: an interesting notion without validation."
Basically, not even chiropractors can prove or agree that subluxations exist, much less that they can "correct" them. Or that even if they did "correct" them that it would have any health benefit.
According to the article, subluxation theory was, and continues to be, a philosophy which is believed without evidence to support it. However, there is no shortage of claims as to what chiropractic care can do including organ health, improving infant nursing, and boosting immunity.
One author stated that perhaps there hasn't been much research done because they don't want to do research. Because well-done research doesn't lie. And so far the claims made have not been substantiated, but are based on philosophy alone.
So what IS going on when you feel the snap, crackle, or pop?
Since the spine is meant to be both flexible and stable, it has many bones, ligaments, muscles, tendons, and intervertebral discs that ensure it can't just "go out of place." In fact, the force needed to make a vertebra (a segment of the spine) displace is far greater than the force purported to be exerted by chiropractors during an "adjustment." In fact, the force on our spine while running is greater than the force they claim to exert.
Technically, if the spine could move that easily (by gentle hand pressure), and you were to run, or fall, or jump on a trampoline, our spines could potentially displace so much that we would be paralyzed. Does that seem reasonable to you? Were we really created with such a fragile design? I don't think so!
Let's also consider what repeatedly applied force through the vertebrae can do...
If a segment of the spine, or vertebra, is pushed through the limitations of the stabilization and protective barriers of the ligaments, tendons, muscles, and other tissues, it can actually create a pathology, even if there wasn't one already. Especially if done repeatedly. While muscles and tendons have elastic properties to them which allow them to lengthen and return to their position, ligaments do not. Ligaments, which connect bones to each other and to other structures, are designed with little to no elasticity so that they can not and should not be stretched. They're like the load-bearing walls of a house. If they are removed or damaged, it puts too much stress on other structures that weren't designed to carry such force. In other words, if the ligaments are forcibly stretched past their limitation, they will not return to their previous size and shape and therefore are not longer able to support the structure of the joint, therefore creating instability, wear and tear, and damage to other structures.
If the spine was continuously manipulated, i.e. pushed past the limitations of the ligaments and other structures, it could cause severe damage and lack of stability in the spine. Which would potentially cause spinal "subluxation" (if that were a real thing), not correct it. It sure would bring in a lot of business, though, if you thought your spine was continuously going out of place and needed to be corrected. And over time it would go out of place more and more easily because there would be less and less integrity to hold it in place. Circular reasoning at its finest.
So what IS that pop you may hear and feel when you go to the chiro? Most likely it's a pressure release of air between the joints. What it is NOT, is the the spinal column "moving into place."
Adverse Effects of Chiropractic Care
There is also a good possibility you will experience discomfort or increased symptoms within a few hours of chiropractic treatment. Chiropractors openly share this as a normal thing that occurs and purport that it means you are healing.
According to this literature review, adverse effects following chiro care are quite common - about 30-61%. It concludes that "chiropractic manipulations carry a small risk of serious consequences, a large risk of minor adverse effects; and...there is little or no evidence that they are effective."
The reality is, if you feel worse after any type of treatment, the treatment isn't working. It's really creating another thing for your body to heal from in addition to the initial problem you had. Similar to the "side effects" from medications.
And while that risk of serious consequences is small, it can be fatal. For example, I personally had a college professor whose friend died on the chiropractor table after a cervical (neck) spine adjustment. It severed the carotid artery in her neck. While not a common occurrence, it does happen on occasion.
A Few Conclusions on Chiropractic Care
I have no doubt that people can have good things happen while also going to a chiropractor. However, it doesn't seem to be directly related to the treatment they are being provided. Outcomes are similar (and often better) without chiropractic care as with. The fact of the matter is, you may be better off doing nothing than going to a chiropractor. Most back pain will improve on its own in about 6-12 weeks but can sometimes take a few months depending on your health and lifestyle. So since most chiropractors want you to come to them a few times per week for a few months for an "adjustment," it's safe to say that whether you go to a chiropractor or not, you will most likely experience improvement in your level of pain/symptoms.
But even IF some people have good physical results from going to a chiropractor, there are far more effective strategies such as good sleep habits, hydrotherapy, therapeutic exercise, massage, and spending time in nature. And if you could use some extra support, there are specialists such as lifestyle medicine practitioners, nutritionists, massage therapists (depending on the type of massage of course), and physical therapists whose practices are not controversial or spiritually "inspired" and do have Biblically-sound evidence to support it.
Since God has provided many healing modalities and means to stay healthy, those are our best options. Going to someone who practices a modality that was inspired by spirits not of God, whether that particular person is a Christian or not, is not only unnecessary, but I daresay, insulting to our Creator (Leviticus 20:6).
The only true way to health and healing is through natural principles of physiology set in motion at Creation as evidenced in Biblical accounts and supported by science. And that is far better than any alternative, conventional, or medical technique or drug available.
"Should Christians Go To A Chiropractor?"
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The Healing Gods: Complementary and Alternative Medicine in Christian America
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