Antivaccine nonsense Complementary and alternative medicine Quackery

Chiropractic and antivax: Two quacky tastes that taste quacky together

Chiropractic is supposed to be the “respectable” face of “complementary and alternative medicine” (CAM). At least, that’s what chiropractors want you to think. After all, chiropractors are licensed in all 50 states and thus their specialty has the imprimatur of the state to make it appear legitimate. Unfortunately, chiropractors are, as I have said so many times before, physical therapists with delusions of grandeur—and poorly trained as physical therapists at that. They just can’t restrict themselves to the musculoskeletal system and can’t resist pontificating about and treating systemic illnesses that they should have no part in treating, such as allergies, asthma, diabetes, and many more. They also have a strong tendency to be militantly antivaccine, although there is a small contingent that is not. The vaccination-friendly (or at least vaccination-agnostic) group of chiropractors appears to be depressingly small, however.

Consistent with this, a few days ago I saw a notice on the website of arguably the oldest antivaccine group in the US still in existence, the Orwellian-named National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC) the International Chiropractic Pediatric Association (ICPA), which was founded by Dr. Larry Webster and represents doctors of chiropractic caring for children. Leaving aside for the moment the horrific shiver that ran down my spine to learn that there is actually an organization called the International Chiropractic Pediatric Association, I got an even more horrific shiver to see the actual notice on the NVIC website:

The International Chiropractic Pediatric Association (ICPA), which was founded by Dr. Larry Webster and represents doctors of chiropractic caring for children, has supported NVIC’s mission to prevent vaccine injuries and deaths through public education and to protect informed consent rights for more than two decades. ICPA’s 2013 issue of Pathways to Family Wellness magazine features an article written by Barbara Loe Fisher on “The Moral Right to Religious and Conscientious Belief Exemptions to Vaccination.”

Lovely. Just lovely. The ICPA is featuring an article by the grande dame of the antivaccine movement in the US, Barbara Loe Fisher, the woman who arguably was key in the 1980s to founding what evolved into the antivaccine movement we know it and detest it today. It goes way beyond that, though. Curious about what sorts of things the ICPA is saying about vaccinations, I moseyed on over to the ICPA website and the website of the Pathways to Family Wellness magazine and took a look.

It didn’t take me long to find Barbara Loe Fisher’s article, Opting Out: The Moral Right to Religious and Conscientious Belief Exemptions to Vaccination, although it appears not to be available online yet. I can predict what it probably says, because it’ll be the same thing Fisher has been doing for years and the same thing the antivaccine movement has been doing for years: Using and misusing religious and philosophical exemptions because of their antivaccine fears rather than any real philosophical objection to vaccines other than, “I think they cause autism.” Sadly, it looks as though Fisher has been a multiple contributor to the IPCA magazine, having published three articles before this one:

“Informed consent”? You keep using that term, Ms. Fisher. I do not think it means what you think it means. And it doesn’t. If you are claiming that autism is a risk of vaccination, that is not informed consent. That is what I refer to as misinformed consent. If you strongly imply that vaccines are responsible for diabetes, asthma, and learning disabilities, as Fisher does in this article, that is not informed consent. That is misinformed consent. If you claim that “highly vaccinated children are “so sick” because of vaccines, that is not informed consent, that is misinformed consent. If you write something like this:

It is not easy to stand up for the right to make informed, voluntary choices about vaccination when public health officials, the pharmaceutical industry and many medical doctors are putting pressure on all Americans, especially parents, to use every government recommended vaccine. The fact that the numbers of doses of government mandated vaccines have tripled in the past quarter century, while the numbers of chronically ill and disabled children have also tripled, offers an opportunity to have a long overdue public conversation about the effects of vaccination on individual and public health.

Remember > Freedom of thought and the exercise of free speech is protected under the U.S. Constitution. You have the right to talk privately and publicly about any concerns you have about vaccine necessity, safety and effectiveness, and to work with your elected officials to modify the vaccine laws in your state. Become an engaged, courageous citizen activist and protect your right to make vaccine choices.

In addition to promoting misinformed consent, you are a living embodiment of the Dunning-Kruger effect combined with the arrogance of ignorance resulting in a martyr complex.

But that’s not all I find in the IPCA Pathways to Wellness magazine. Take a look at this issue claiming to be about the science behind healthy babies. Other than regular chiropractic adjustments (presumably), apparently happy babies mean unvaccinated babies as well, although how happy babies dying of whooping cough or suffering measles encephalitis can be happy babies, I don’t know. But, then, I’m not a chiropractor. Neither is antivaccine activist Rev. Lisa K. Sykes, either, but she sure is as antivaccine as any chiropractor. Of the various factions of antivaccine activists (the Wakefieldians, the mercury militia, and the toxic avengers), Sykes is clearly part of the mercury militia, given her close connections to the mercury militia through her close ties to connection to Mark and David Geier and her role as president of the antivaccine group the Coalition for Mercury-free Drugs (CoMeD, Inc.). Not surprisingly, she trots out all the old antivaccine tropes against thimerosal-containing vaccines, which have been studied multiple times, with no correlation between thimerosal and autism found in large, well-designed epidemiological studies.

Basically, her article from last winter was about how the World Health Organization was considering how to handle mercury-containing thimerosal in vaccines as it worked on a treaty to ban mercury in various products worldwide. Because various medical groups were urging the WHO not to ban thimerosal in vaccines because it would have devastating consequences to vaccination efforts in Third World countries, where refrigeration is often lacking and the cost of vaccines would become prohibitive if only single dose vials could be used and no thimerosal could be used as a preservative. Naturally, Sykes calls this a “double standard.” I call it a reasonable compromise to maintain current efforts to vaccinate children in poor countries against deadly diseases based in social justice, particularly given that the hypothesis that mercury in vaccines is a significant cause of or contributor to autism is a dead hypothesis that hasn’t survived basic science and clinical trials.

Chiropractors desperately want to be taken seriously. They crave respectability. Many of them even seem to think that they can be primary care providers and want health insurance companies to pay for their services as primary care providers, an idea so ludicrous that it would have me rolling on the floor in paroxysms of laughter were it not for the horror I feel imagining chiropractors trying to manage common health problems that they are completely unqualified to deal with. If you really want to know why chiropractors are utterly unqualified for such a role (aside from all the other reasons, such as the vitalistic nature of chiropractic and its basis in treating something that doesn’t exist—subluxations—as the cause of all disease), just remember how a major pediatric chiropractic organization (the IPCA) is antivaccine to the core, as epitomized by this statement by the ICPA executive director:

ICPA also has initiated parenting support groups that meet monthly to discuss health and parenting topics. Meetings are hosted by local doctors of chiropractic and the Pathways website features a directory of local groups. ICPA Executive Director Dr. Jeanne Ohm said “We look forward to many more years of collaborating with NVIC to forward our shared goal of enhancing and protecting the ability of parents to make fully informed health and wellness choices for their children.”

Chiropractic and antivaccine: Two quacky tastes that taste quacky together.

By Orac

Orac is the nom de blog of a humble surgeon/scientist who has an ego just big enough to delude himself that someone, somewhere might actually give a rodent's posterior about his copious verbal meanderings, but just barely small enough to admit to himself that few probably will. That surgeon is otherwise known as David Gorski.

That this particular surgeon has chosen his nom de blog based on a rather cranky and arrogant computer shaped like a clear box of blinking lights that he originally encountered when he became a fan of a 35 year old British SF television show whose special effects were renowned for their BBC/Doctor Who-style low budget look, but whose stories nonetheless resulted in some of the best, most innovative science fiction ever televised, should tell you nearly all that you need to know about Orac. (That, and the length of the preceding sentence.)

DISCLAIMER:: The various written meanderings here are the opinions of Orac and Orac alone, written on his own time. They should never be construed as representing the opinions of any other person or entity, especially Orac's cancer center, department of surgery, medical school, or university. Also note that Orac is nonpartisan; he is more than willing to criticize the statements of anyone, regardless of of political leanings, if that anyone advocates pseudoscience or quackery. Finally, medical commentary is not to be construed in any way as medical advice.

To contact Orac: [email protected]

52 replies on “Chiropractic and antivax: Two quacky tastes that taste quacky together”

We need to start our own Orwellian named “National Chiropractic Information Center”! Love what you do, Orac! I’m trying to fight the good fight with my fellow anesthesiologists and surgeons here in Cleveland. Thanks for all you do.

Ugh, two local chiroquackters have this pediatric affiliation–one even got a news story last year (caution–the b.s. factor is strong– I guess I should be happy that my neighborhood quackter up the road doesn’t have this affiliation, but he does see kids anyhow.

It is interesting that this “pediatric” association reports that it’s members often host information sessions for parents. Well, I’m a parent, too. Maybe it is time to attend a session.

@Andrew: I’m sadly aware of just how much quackademic medicine has infiltrated the CCF. Indeed, the CCF is well ahead of UH and Case when it comes to “integrating” quackery with real medicine.

One of our scrub techs just went to a chiro and is raving about her back pain disappearing and she’s now going to take her 13 year old twins for their softball injuries. As the operating room skeptic I am getting nasty looks. I think it’s child abuse to send ones kid to a chiro. At least her kids are vaccinated.

Is there any sense of where the fault lines are between chiropractors who are woo-friendly and those that restrict themselves to PT, like different organizations or schools? I ask because I’m going to a PT clinic for sciatica and while they play up their chiropractic qualifications, the practice is mostly exercise and stretching oriented with some massage. The DC has only done a few manipulations on me (which provided instant relief early on) with nary a hint of suggestion that it’s supposed to do anything beyond the spine and sciatic nerve, and the general tone is “we can’t really promise anything but we expect this to help”. There’s also some question as to whether PT really does anything for sciatica (vs bedrest, which would drive me insane), but in some ways I think it improved my posture and flexibility even though I’m not at 100% yet.

Orac: “Chiropractors desperately want to be taken seriously. They crave respectability.” etc…

Over the past several decades I’ve accumulated many hours of one-on-one contact with “doctors” of chiropractic, in-person and online. Indeed, confronting D.C.s is kind of a hobby with me and I’d bet it’s safe to say that I’ve had at least as much contact with them than just about anyone else who follows this blog. As I mentioned in a previous comment, I had the distinction of being ejected from two lectures in a 6 month period. Why? For questioning the “facts” espoused by the D.C.s.

My experiences include lectures about chiropractic heart disease, diabetes, nutrition, pediatrics and more. The one thing all the doctors had in common was their total cluelessness about the subject matter. I’m not a scientist or a medical professional and, other than basic high school and college science classes, I have no scientific education. But I’ve had enough experience studying quackery and facing down quacks to develop a good supply of questions, most of which elicit responses such as: “you have a closed mind;” “science doesn’t have all the answers;” and ad hominem attacks against the legitimate authorities I quote. (Dr. Stephen Barrett seems a favorite target of much of the vitriol)!

A chiropractic/diabetes lecturer addressed a roomful of type II diabetics with a series of potential “alternatives” to their mainstream treatments. He suggested a shotgun of approaches, mainly centered around the egregious notion of chiropractic “nutrition,” enjoining the attendees to try one untenable diet after another. Keep trying until you find one that “works,” was his basic plan. The irony is that they represented total opposites: high protein/low protein, high fat/low fat. He claimed that Eskimos who live on a high fat diet live longer lives but when I questioned him about the statistics comparing the Eskimo population with the general population he looked like a deer caught in his car’s headlights.

A D.C. lecturing about “heart health” recommended the Gerson diet to keep your heart in good shape. When I pointed out that Gerson had been totally discredited decades ago, he responded that it was because of economics. M.D.s don’t like the diet because it keeps people healthy and they don’t have to spend so much money on doctor visits, cutting into their income. There was other drivel at this meeting but I’ll save the rest for another occasion. One comment: I did approach some mainstream medical professionals with some of his deep thoughts and received 100% confirmation that the guy was pulling his information out of one or more of his bodily orifices!

Another “doctor” of chiropractic told me that she had cured two children of asthma. Well, not exactly, she said. What she did was help the kids’ bodies to increase their resistance to the condition. Chiropractic, she said, doesn’t cure; it makes the immune system stronger.

Yet another D.C. insisted that aspartame causes every type of dread disease imaginable. When I presented him with statistics citing studies in 90 developed countries that contradicted his claim and that there has never been a substance that has had more scrutiny than aspartame and that it is harmless, he kicked me out of the room. “I’m the doctor here, not you!”

I could go on and on but my point has been made…

Become an engaged, courageous citizen activist and protect your right to make vaccine choices.

In other words, protect your right to make your child a disease vector.

Given that chiroquackters have either no or very limited prescriptive authority and in any event can’t administer vaccines, it’s not surprising that most are anti-vaccine. It is also no surprise that they offer “cures” for all the things they can’t prescribe for.

Even among skeptics, there are too many people unaware of chiropractic’s snake oil beginnings and its current mystical/supernatural overtones.

I visited a chiro at the strong recommendation of several local friends who are junior faculty in the sciences. The guy tried to talk me into insurance fraud on our first visit, gave me a full body X-ray before i even knew what was happening, and was prepared to start popping joints on the first day. The whole experience felt very slimy and un-clinical. The waiting room was filled with brochures for legal representation and worker’s comp; and he tried to sell me various “all-natural” pain-relief creams and pills.

Fortunately, I’ve recently learned that he was sued for malpractice and insurance fraud and he and his chiropractor wife have moved out of state. I imagine he’s still practicing somewhere. My friends have been advised that they can take their recommendations and stuff them.

Still, I got off easy. There’s a researcher in Houston who suffered a chiro neck injury during adjustment that has left his hands trembling and his health degenerating.

I am working my way through the “anti-vaccine chiropractor” posts at . So far he has twenty blog posts, and I am presently on the ninth.

The claims from the chiropractors are horrifying. Especially when the offended ones post comments to the blog.

I looked at the link you provided, and I have a question. Is smarm an infectious substance? I can’t seem to wash it off.
I truly pity children in the hands of people who believe that excrement.

This may seem off-topic, but I hope not. is there any significant copper content in current vaccines? I didn’t think so, but a report came out a few days back that implicated copper as a possible causative (or contributing) agent in Alzheimer’s disease. If there is any copper in vaccines, you can be sure the anti-vaxers will be all over it. Copper is the new mercury, or something.

Whilst woo increasingly becomes entrenched at formerly SB universities and hospitals, Mike Adams re-iterates “The 10 false assumptions of modern science ( and how to set science free with new paths of discovery) @ Natural News:.

he recommends Rupert Sheldrake’s book;
amongst the terms in this article we run across-

conciousness, creator, designer, quantum,intention, epigenetics, free will, holographically stored ( memories), telepathy and David Icke.

Woo-meisters cite examples of the woo infiltration of which our esteemed host speaks as proof positive of the on-going paradigm shift.

It’s only a matter of time.

@ daved:

Believe it or not, I heard exactly the same thing from Gary Null on one of his recent shows archived @ PRN.


I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before Gary Null and Mike Adams claim it’s a trace amount of copper from the copper pipes used to transfer the water (or media) used during vaccine creation….

In addition to promoting misinformed consent, you are a living embodiment of the Dunning-Kruger effect combined with the arrogance of ignorance resulting in a martyr complex.

I like the way this just rolls off the tongue…

I one spoke to a local chiropractor who had a booth at a street fair (really, how many genuine physicians try to drum up business at street fairs) and yes, the claim that all they do is “allow the body to heal itself” was produced like a Get Out of Jail Free card.

Do they help with back pain? Probably — at least at times. But going to a chiropractor for that seems too risky to me. Enthusiastic testimonials are tempting (“after the first visit I was able to stand up straight for the first time in months!”) — but I have to keep in mind that too many times these success stories are touted by the same people who are equally enamored of homeopathy and reiki.

c’mon…it’s the last generation of stars before ours went supernova that made the copper. That’s whose fault it really is.

So will there now be plumbers charging lots of money to remove copper water lines?

Chris — if so, they’ll have a win-win thing going, given current rates for copper scrap…..

@Denice – it astounds me that David “I am the Messiah” Icke has gained such credibility across the Pond.

On these shores he’s the “Turquoise-tracksuit-wearing former sports commentator who declared that he was the living incarnation of the Christ”

@ elburto:

I’m not really sure how well known Icke** is outside the UK but we can be sure that Mikey will help spread the word..

Thanks for reminding me about the turquoise nonsense.. I almost forgot about that and the (((shudder)) track suit..
almost as bad as the indigo nonsense. No, maybe worse.

As an added bonus, Mike gives us Sheldrake who also has appeared @ prn.

** pronounced *ache* as in, ” He makes my head ache” not *icky* although he is.

I read about Icke in Them by Jon Ronson. It seems that he did too many headers when he placed football/soccer.

Sastra: “I one spoke to a local chiropractor who had a booth at a street fair (really, how many genuine physicians try to drum up business at street fairs)”

In my area they show up at all the art shows, sidewalk sales, street fairs and, occasionally set up booths at farmers markets. Some of them bring their little black solid state subluxation detector boxes. Discount prices are offered for appointments. One guy even demanded payment in advance to get the discount!

Icke’s among the fringiest of the fringe in the U.S. still. The only other people I know who’ve heard of him are either a) People who like to look up lunacy on their own time or b) People whom I thought would be entertained by the reptilians-as-shape-changing-overlords theory.

Oddly, his theory has become something of a second-rate meme, both offline and on, in circles I run in, whether or not they know who Icke is.

Yeah, I wondered how long it would take in Australia for the pushback by antivax chiros against their Board’s “crackdown” on pushing antivax misinformation. Apparently it was near instantaneous:

“But high-profile chiropractors say they will continue providing information about both sides of the vaccination argument.”

“Chiropractor and author Jennifer Bahram-Floriani says it will not stop her colleagues from giving patients advice.”

“Chiropractors will certainly be working towards making sure that the information that they convey to parents is the latest, up-to-date information that presents both sides of the vaccination debate,” she said.

“I think it would be very rare that there would be chiropractors giving only one side of the argument.”

Ms. Both-Sides-Of-The-Argument is cited on an antivax site as the author of a book on “holistic parenting” in which she engages in bogus scaremongering about mercury in vaccines. It seems that providing “both sides of the argument” is about as genuine as the Australian Vaccination Network’s “Every issue has two sides, so we’re only going to give you our grotesquely half-baked one”. And part of “holistic parenting” is exposing your and other children to dangerous vaccine-preventable diseases.

David Icke is featured in the hip conspiracy movie Thrive. For some reason, he is their financial expert and explains the banking crisis. The producers evidently cut out anything having to do with shape-shifting alien lizards. That must have taken some major editing.

I do not understand much about the economy, but I know enough about enough to know that I do not want to go to David Icke for advice on banking.

“I moseyed on over to the ICPA website and the website of the Pathways to Family Wellness magazine and took a look.” thank you for doing that. I can’t seem to spend long enough reading these website without feeling a rising tide of rage against the burning stupid and starting to shout at the screen.

By the way, the top two “best sellers” in the AVN’s online shop are the $50 donation…and the $100 donation. 🙂

Get on over there and take advantage of these fantastic bargains!

I’ve had back and neck problems for 35 years, over the course of which I’ve visited at six or seven different chiropractors, sometimes for months. One time one actually did help me; something – not a vertebra, but something – was out of place and I felt it pop back and the pain was gone instantly. But all the other dozens of sessions were a waste.

Why did I keep trying it? In part because that one positive experience happened early on. Mostly because SO MANY people I know claimed to get relief from it. I don’t understand it. Why would it never work for me if it really worked for them?

The last one I visited because he had a massage therapist there who was covered by my insurance – now THAT helped. But the more I talked with him the more I realized he considered himself the equivalent of a physician and thought he could provide primary care. It really disturbed me. Then he told me that if I came for regular adjustments for several months he could put the curve back in my neck. There is no curve in my neck, and there’s never going to be because two adjacent disks in the middle of it are fused solid. Did he really believe he could actually do it? Who knows.

If anyone would care to help me add some logic and science to a discussion that is WAY over the border to crazyville, please feel free to come participate:

It’s a poll. Yes (non-vaccinating parents should be held liable if their unvaccinated child gets a vaccinated child sick) is currently ahead, but I can’t seem to find anyone else in the comments that isn’t spouting nonsense.

when I questioned him about the statistics comparing the Eskimo population with the general population

Greenlanders (or “North Danes” if you like) are not the healthiest sector of the Danish population, but there are confounding factors.

For the love of Christ. When does the pro-mainstream belly-crawling end and the science start?

Yes we know that the medical maffia put a fatwah out on Chiropractors back in the sixties. What the fuck else is new you low IQ dim bulbs?

I guess you people just are not that smart are you? No you are not.

@Character Reference – To which statements do you object and what’s your evidence for your objections?

Character Reference states: “For the love of Christ. When does the pro-mainstream belly-crawling end and the science start?

Yes we know that the medical maffia put a fatwah out on Chiropractors back in the sixties. What the fuck else is new you low IQ dim bulbs?

I guess you people just are not that smart are you? No you are not.”

This is exactly the type of pro-chiropractic response I posted about yesterday. It’s a diatribe against legitimate objections to a field that’s had 115 years to substantiate its claims of efficacy. It offers nothing positive to counter the criticism of a putative healthcare profession that, as Orac says, wishes to be respectable – and, by extension, respected. This comment offers nothing positive and reinforces all legitimate criticism.

Perhaps Mr or Ms Character wishes to reconsider and give us some reasons to accept chiropractic as a genuine healthcare modality…

I’m going to respond to every reason our foul-mouthed friend at 42 gave us to think there’s any sort of validity to antivax or chiro:

… There, that didn’t take long.

“Yes we know that the medical maffia put a fatwah out on Chiropractors back in the sixties.”

But of course, the AMA’s saying that it was unethical for physicians to associate with quacks qualifies as a “fatwa”.

Ever since the Wilk decision went against the AMA, a lot of chiros and their apologists seem to think that it is therefore illegal or immoral for EBM advocates to criticize chiropractic quackery.

Sorry, but you win respect for your trade by demonstrating that it works. And comments by the judge ruling in the Wilk case in 1987 still are relevant in 2013:

“The plaintiffs clearly want more from the court. They want a judicial pronouncement that chiropractic is a valid, efficacious, even scientific health care service… In the absence of (evidence based on a well designed, controlled, scientific study), the court is left to decide the issue on the basis of largely anecdotal evidence. I decline to pronounce chiropractic valid or invalid on anecdotal evidence.”

Meantime, CR, as Barbara Loe Fisher tells us, “Freedom of thought and the exercise of free speech is protected under the U.S. Constitution.”

That runs both ways. Too bad that free speech is abhorrent to you when it’s not complimentary.

Wow you guys are so very nasty ! You have no idea what you’re talking about or you would shut up.

D Miller: “Wow you guys are so very nasty ! You have no idea what you’re talking about or you would shut up.”

Clarification requested. Who’s nasty? Those of us with legitimate questions and gripes about chiropractic and KNOW what we’re talking about? Or the guy who submits a foul comment with absolutely nothing to contribute beside his vitriol?

Dangerous Bacon: “Boy, the chiros sure are in a surly mood lately.”

Yeah, they get that way whenever those pesky subluxations start acting up.

the medical maffia put a fatwah out on Chiropractors

Ha! Someone misspelled ‘raffia’.
That’s OK, it’s a common mistake.

Although how promising Chiropractics can be, they haven’t yet proven to be very effective in treating certain conditions. This is the reason why the medical society never acknowledged them.

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