As a twenty – nine-year-old female who has thankfully yet to experience chronic neck or back pain, my understanding of the term ‘Chiropractor’ has been limited to that of someone who addressed back problems.
My interest in the practice however peaked when, whilst listening to an archive of The Joe Rogan Experience podcast, UFC commentator and host Joe Rogan opined “I don’t believe in Chiropractors at all, I think it’s 98% horseshit…I think that manipulation that they do…it’s just popping your neck, and it just feels good.”
The root of Rogan’s views would soon become apparent.
Having experienced elbow pain which he suspected was caused by a bulging disc, he attended a Chiropractor who he claims assured him that the origin of his pain was not due to a disc protrusion.
After a year of treatment and no sign of the pain lessening, Rogan decided to have an MRI, the result of which revealed a bulging disc that was subsequently treated by medical doctors and cured.
“I remember being angry,” He stated in studio. “I was being treated by a professional who didn’t really know what the f*ck they were talking about.”
My interest now in his experience heightened, I looked for further examples from The JRE podcast where he spoke about Chiropractic Care.
This led to an episode featuring Yvette d ‘Entremont, aka ‘The Sci Babe’, a public speaker, science blogger and former analytical chemist, who on foot of her article ‘Chiropractors are bullshit – you shouldn’t’ trust them with your spine or any part of your body’ (direct much?) had been invited on to the show.
Like her article, Entremont’s conversation with Joe left the audience in no doubt as to her feelings on Chiropractic Care.
From the get go she expressed scepticism towards the origins of the practice, which dates back to 1895, when a magnetic healer named David Palmer allegedly solved his friend’s hearing loss by manipulating his neck, and went to town on the lack of scientific evidence based research behind it’s claims.
One such concept that they discussed in length which does in fact have no biomedical basis, often being categorised as pseudoscientific, was that of ‘vertebral subluxation.’ This is a supposed misalignment of the spinal column which leads to a set of signs and symptoms that are often termed ‘vertebral subluxation complex.’
Entremont also poked fun at the ‘training’ that Chiropractors receive, pointing out what she insisted was a 100% acceptance rate at the founding College of Chiropractic – Palmer College of Chiropractic.
Both Rogan and Entremont also alluded to the reported risks that neck adjustments carry, in terms of potential stroke.
While the origins themselves of the practice do have a somewhat far reaching element of mysticism, and the research that Yvette pointed to in her article and on air was undoubtedly concerning, I couldn’t help but feel that there had to be another side to an argument that currently was quite biased.
This inclination was further strengthened when I read that Chiropractors were the go to for many MMA stars, more on which I will detail below.
And so, I started digging…
First of, I wanted to get to grips on exactly what a Chiropractor was.
According to spinehealth.com a Chiro is a ‘health care professional focused on the diagnosis and treatment of muscular disorders, with an emphasis on treatment through manual adjustment and or manipulation of the spine.’
In terms of sourcing opposing arguments to counter that of Joe’s and Yvette’s, a rebuttal piece written in response to Entremont, the author of which in respect of full transparency was a Chiropractor, who went by the name of ‘ChiroBabe’ – (the jabs in Entremont’s aka ‘SciBabe’s direction beginning before the first sentence had been written) included reasonable counter arguments to many of her points, to include that
- The Palmer acceptance rate referred to in Entremont’s piece was incorrect (it’s actually 44.8%) and therefore her attempt to undermine the validity of the college by claiming that it allowed anyone pass its doors was invalid.
- The low insurance premiums that Chiropractors must pay point to it being anything but the dangerous profession that Entremont claims
- The practice was anything but in the dark ages, with chiropractic deep tissue therapeutic techniques such as the ‘active release’ being utilized by athletes at the highest level of competition from the NFL, NBA and the US Olympic committee team.
- Her view that while it may be out there, the subluxation theory is no more far reaching than the theories behind other alternative therapies such as acupuncture.
In terms of the subluxation theory, it is also important to note that many internationally accredited Chiropractic Colleges distanced themselves in an open statement from this belief back in 2015, stating that it’s inclusion in a modern Chiropractic curriculum in anything other than an historic context was ‘inappropriate and unnecessary.’
I also found an excellent New York Times article entitled ‘For Bad Backs, It May Be Time to Rethink Biases About Chiropractors’ which features studies that reveal that no serious or adverse events were reported following spinal manipulation in various case studies.
But data and academic arguments were one thing; I wanted to look at the people who attended Chiropractors.
As previously mentioned, one set of individuals who regularly make use of Chiropractic Care are MMA fighters.
Considering the full contact nature of MMA, together with the key element that Brazilian Jiu Jistu plays in the sport, it is not surprising that back and neck injuries are rife.
Take Cody Garbrandts back injury earlier this year which resulted in his title fight against TJ Dillashaw being pushed forward, not to mention Derrik ‘The Beast’ Lewis and his need to pull out UFC 216 due to two bulging discs.
Nate Diaz, Michael Bisping and Michelle Waterson are but a few names on the UFC roster who each avail of Chiropractic care to help with recovery, while legends such as Royce Gracie and BJ Penn himself have also sought their help.
Having suffered back and neck injuries, Penn credits Dr Pete Goldman, a BJJ black belt and an experienced chiropractor operating out of San Francisco, who has worked with many well-known BJJ practitioners, for saving his career.
“10 years ago Dr Pete gave me so much relief from my herniated disc in my neck that it has never been a problem again.” BJ told BJPenn.com
Another great, Strikeforce Champion Gilbert Melendez spoke to The Underground about the benefits of seeing Dr Goldman, “If I have a regular head cold, I call him up and say “Hey, man, I need to get adjusted.” It’s not just for my injuries, it’s for me having good energy and feeling right, feeling balanced.“
One of the renowned techniques that Dr Pete and other Chiropractors utilize is known as the ‘zone technique’, which was founded by Dr Thurman Fleet in 1931.
The zone technique follows the belief that many pains, diseases and discomforts can be cured by balancing one of the six zones within the human body through stimulation of vertebrae along the spine. It theorizes that when the points along the spine are stimulated they send signals up through the spinal chord to the zone in the brain, resulting in a balancing of the body and healing.
And so, while I personally can’t see myself getting my neck adjusted anytime soon (I can’t even watch the videos doing their rounds on You Tube), despite the mixed reviews in terms of the benefits versus risks of Chiropractic Care, its methods have undoubtedly helped and continue to assist people all over the world in resolving chronic pain and other injuries.
The responsibility therefore rests with each individual to undertake the relevant research before deciding whether or not to engage with Chiropractic Care. The data for and against is out there, so much of which I couldn’t possibly hope to cover it all in one article.
One thing that nobody should do however is take one person’s summation of a whole practice as gospel, just because they said so.