So saith Chiropractic Assistant Lily Phenomene, of Carine Glades Chiropractic*, in this comment from the Stop The Australian Vaccination Network Facebook page.
Why? Well, I had the temerity to equate homeopathy and chiropractic with "witch doctors". HOW DARE I?
Well, here's the thing. Well, technically, here are the things. Chiropractic, in its original form, is little more than faith healing. Faith healing dressed as physiotherapy, but faith healing nonetheless.
Allow me to explain.
D.D. Palmer, the originator of chiropractic, posited that health was maintained by a poorly-defined "energy" he referred to as "Innate Intelligence". Blockages - called subluxations by chiropractors - in the transport of this "Innate Intelligence" are asserted as the cause of organ weakness and, therefore, disease.
Innate intelligence is explained as an energy "flowing down" from god. Yep, you heard right. Archetypal vitalism is at the root of chiropractic.
- "Subluxations" are the primary "cause" of disease, and restoration of nerve flow is essential to healing.
- The "Innate" is said to represent 'Universal Intelligence' (God); the function of 'Innate Intelligence' (Soul, Spirit or Spark of Life) within each, which D.D. Palmer considered a minute segment of 'Universal.'
- The fundamental causes of interference to the planned expression of that Innate Intelligence are Mental, Chemical and/or Mechanical Stresses that create the structural distortions that interfere with nerve supply.
From the NCAHF fact sheet on chiropractic (2001) by WIlliam T. Jarvis PhD
So please explain to me exactly what differs this assertion of divine energy from the claims of witch doctors and faith healers?
In fact, not all chiropractors subscribe to this hypothesis of the divine. Over the years, chiropractors have unashamedly adopted and co-opted techniques and ideas from other branches of therapy, both legitimate and quack, taking what Palmer defined as the fundamental core of Chiropractic and augmenting it with other modalities, against the Palmers' original and strictly hammered-out principles.
The entire problem was one of survival in the mind of B.J. Palmer-a preservation of the ideas and principles promoted by his father. Chiropractic must remain chiropractic in order to survive as a "separate and original healing art," and the only thing original in chiropractic is the doctrine of vertebral misalignment as a universal cause of disease -- the cure of such disease being effected only by spinal manipulation.
From Bonesetting, Chiropractic, and Cultism, 1963, Samuel Homola DC
B.J. Palmer failed in his quest to maintain chiropractic as a fundamentalist cult of the subluxation, however over the years other chiropractors have attempted to tread the same path - bringing chiropractic back to the One True Cause Of All Disease: The Subluxation. These zealots are still with us, promoting with pride the discredited idea of subluxation as the cause of all our ills, claiming they can treat colic, bedwetting, ear infections and asthma, and even revelling outright in the faith-based nature of chiropractic. It's not like I haven't written about this before.
This is not a phenomenon confined to the faith heartland of the USA, either. Here in Australia at least one, possibly several, professional chiropractic boards of practice have been stacked by subluxationist zealots such as Newtown-based anti-vaccinationist Nimrod Weiner, who has been arrogantly pushing for the re-ascendance of the subluxation since his time at Macquarie University. The population of chiropractors who attempt to restrict their practice to ailments such as lower back pain, for which some evidence exists, are perhaps acting as physiotherapists under another name, but they're also being marginalised by a vocal subset of quacks and being elbowed aside in the rush to promote nonsense. A clear symptom of the problem is that most of the professional support for the AVN comes from chiropractors. You don't give money to a solidly discredited anti-vaccination organisation unless you're riddled, lousy in fact, with misinformation.
There are no solid numbers on what proportion of Australian chiropractors subscribe to the absurd, faith-healing fundamentalist side of the profession (a 2005 US study found around 25% subscribing to Palmer Upper-cervical/HIO technique), but what is clear is that they're a very vocal subset, out of proportion to their actual size.
So... again, I'll ask. Given that subluxation is all about an ill-defined spiritual energy, and given that classical chiropractic posits a simplistic and unsubtle solution to this 'issue', and given that so many chiropractors are unflinching in their embrace of the faith-based nature of Palmerian chiropractic....
Why am I not allowed to call it witch doctoring?
* please note. I am not suggesting that Lily subscribes to any of the above nonsense. I have no way to know either way, since she is currently declining to respond. I merely point out that she's certainly prey to knee-jerk reactions and perhaps not fully alongside the origins of chiropractic, despite being paid as an assistant in said profession.