C is for Chiropractor
So I’m midway through a course of chiropractic treatment. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m definitely skeptical when it comes to ‘alternative’ medicine. I would never consider consulting a chiropractor for (say) cancer or asthma, I’m going because I have recurrent episodes of neck and upper back pain. I also have migraines and, although this chiropractor claims that the manipulations will help I would not have sought this treatment out for the migraines alone.
I’ve done some research. Found some articles written by a skeptical practitioner, and some double blind studies to figure out what chiropractic can and cannot be expected to do. Of course, the skeptical source I found claimed that chiropractic treatment was equivalent to ‘conventional’ treatment, while this paper in the BMJ (formerly British Medical Journal) shows that for the particular pain studied, chiropractic was better than standard hospital outpatient treatment (pdf download). A literature review published in Europe PubMed showed that chiropractic treatment for migraines was fair to very good, but more well controlled studies were called for.
Then there are the studies of risks. Brian Dunning has claimed that risk-benefit analysis would drive him away from chiropractic. He has also pointed out that any ‘completely harmless’ treatment for a medical condition is almost guaranteed to be completely useless. So, I took a look at some actual risk assessments of chiropractic manipulations (the ones without the woo, which are focused on back and neck issues). The first study, published in Neurology, questioned neurologists in California, and found a certain number of cases of individuals who suffered neurological trauma after chiropractic manipulations. The other study looked at medicare recipients between the ages of 66 and 99 with neck pain, and compared the risk of stroke between those who sought care from a chiropractor and a conventional physician. The conclusion was that for the period of observation the differences in risk were probably not statistically significant.