How UK Chiropractors' Attempt To Silence One Critic Created The Backlash That May Change Chiropractics In The UK

from the can-a-chiropractor-fix-that? dept

Last year, we wrote about a really troubling incident in the UK, where the British Chiropractic Association had sued Dr. Simon Singh for noting that there was little scientific evidence to back up some of the marketing claims used by the BCA concerning what chiropractors could treat. Rather than responding with evidence, the BCA responded with a lawsuit. As we noted at the time, the backlash against the BCA was pretty impressive, with it calling a lot more attention to the questionable medical claims, as well as tremendous anger towards the BCA and chiropractors for the actions against Singh. It was a classic Streisand Effect in action. What was also interesting was how a group of bloggers then teamed up to do the investigative work that no full-time journalist was doing (and who says bloggers can’t do investigative journalism?) to debunk the BCA’s claims.

While the lawsuit continues, the loosely organized group of folks who had been fighting back against the BCA have continued to work their magic. Brandon writes in to let us know that they’ve been going one-by-one through every chiropractor who’s a member of the BCA and examining their web sites for false marketing claims — leading to a situation where a stunning one out of every four chiropractors in the UK is under investigation for misleading marketing or advertising. This isn’t just the Streisand Effect, this is the Streisand Effect on steroids. In trying to hush up one critic, the BCA has unleashed a large group of concerned folks who are organized (perhaps loosely, but quite effectively) to bring about massive change concerning the BCA and chiropractor marketing practices in general.

The article linked above also goes through more details of how this group has helped dismantle the BCA’s weak attempt at showing scientific evidence for some of those marketing claims:

The statement, supported by just 29 citations, was ripped apart by bloggers within 24 hours of publication, before being subjected to a further shredding in the British Medical Journal. It emerged that 10 of the papers cited had nothing to do with chiropractic treatment, and several weren’t even studies. The remainder consisted of a small collection of poor-quality trials.

More seriously, the BCA misled the public with a misrepresentation of one paper, a Cochrane review looking at the effectiveness of various treatments for bed-wetting, claiming that the authors had simply concluded that, “there was weak evidence to support the use of [chiropractic].

One day someone will write a big case study (or perhaps a book) about what happened here. An attempt to silence a critic may end up resulting in massive changes to not just the British Chiropractic Association (the article notes that many chiropractors are horrified and want to leave the organization), but also how people view chiropractors and how chiropractic services are marketed.

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Comments on “How UK Chiropractors' Attempt To Silence One Critic Created The Backlash That May Change Chiropractics In The UK”

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kevjohn (profile) says:

My father is a golf pro, and as such is susceptible to back injuries from torsion and just lugging an awkward 40 pound bag for hours on end. He has gotten good results with his chiropractor that he has been unable to find anywhere else. Don’t know why they need to exaggerate what they can actually accomplish. Sounds like they have Billy Mays running their marketing.

Comboman (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

I don’t think anyone is saying the chiropractic treatments don’t have any benefit * The problem is that CPA members were claiming to be able to treat everything from bet-wetting to cancer; claims that have absolutely no backing.

(* However, as long as were treating anecdotal stories as evidence, when I got chiropractic treatments for my back pain it worked for about a week (and then I needed a new treatment). After a few years of that costly cycle, I tried massage therapy. The massage treated the immediate pain, but I was also taught how do specific exercises to strengthen the muscles that caused my back pain. I haven’t needed a treatment of any kind for over a year.)

kevjohn (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

I agree with you. I probably didn’t make my statement as clear as I could have. What chiros do is very worthwhile and helps a lot of people. I’m just curious as to why they would confuse the issue with all the other wild claims a lot of them appear to be making.
No, aligning my back will not give my hair more bounce and shine than the leading salon brands! 😛

Andrew says:

The problem is that doctors are saying that chiropractors can not do anything to help you. In my situation i had chronic back pain for 6 years and after 6 visits to the chiropractor the pain was gone. That was 15 years ago. Some people have problems where they might need constant treatment. just like asthmatics need constant medication or people with many many other “medical”conditions need constant medication. As in any field where money is concerned there will be those that don’t care about patient’s getting rid of the underlying cause as they can make more money from more visits and more medication.And also the hypochondriacs.

Like with any medical care you have to research your doctor /chiropractor and ask questions about how the treatment will work. Then do some research on the web and see if the answers you have are what people are advising. “research is more than looking at one or two blogger comments”.

At least there are a few positive comments on here, shows that not everyone is jumping on the negative of the story as is seen in most forums.

Java (profile) says:

Re: Re:


I have seen Chiropractors off/on over many years. There are some things that they can actually help with, but there are still those that believe CP care can cure any problem, which it clearly cannot.

I have had low back pain for about 8 months. After seeing several doctors and getting numerous pain killers and other drugs prescribed, there was no progress being made. I saw a spinal ortopedic surgeon and after MRIs, X rays, he provided serveral options and near the top of the list was CP care. Within 2 treatments, pain was substantially reduced (not gone but much better than before). With some improvements in pain reduction, my CP has also started me on some PT to strengthen the back and stomach muscles so that they will help keep my spine in place as we progress on the treatment. He also does not believe in weekly treatments forever. Once resolved, he said routine check ups are a good idea but that multiple treatments are really not needed.

By the way, he does not believe that CP care can cure cancer or other diseases.

Not all CP docs make wild claims.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Chiropractors are quacks. Most back pain will resolve itself in a few weeks, so if you happen to go to a chiropractor, you’ll think he did it.

If you have real back problems, go to a physiotherapist, or if you have occasional back _muscle_ pain, go to a massage therapist. Anything that requires you to come back forever (even for “maintenance”) is a scam.

Lawrence D'Oliveiro says:

Re: Placebo Effect

Andrew wrote:

The problem is that doctors are saying that chiropractors can not do anything to help you.

Technically, what they’re saying is that chiropractors aren’t any more effective than taking sugar pills. It’s well known that the simple fact that you’re getting any kind of treatment, effective or not, or indeed any attention at all, can often do wonders for a condition. But doctors have a code of conduct that says they must not lie to their patients.

Dr. Timothy says:

Where is the outcry here?

The American Medical Association (AMA) has been using the same tactics, but much worse, against anyone outside their own organization who makes any claim or insinuation of anything, anyone, or any product being able to heal or provide health benefits. Huge contributions in Washington DC help their efforts.

Oroboros (profile) says:


There are many good articles about chiropractic at

I’ve seen three different chiropractors over the years for relief of back and shoulder pain that is likely the result of repetitive stress. I don’t buy the subluxation theory because there’s no scientific evidence of it. I equate it to the theory of “chi” in acupuncture. But I will say that being adjusted feels very good and I enjoy it as long as there is no pretense to be treating anything other than my back/shoulder problems.

Richard Lanigan (profile) says:


Hi Hugh,
Dont know about all the plagues in Egypt? Try this.
However you have 24 vertebrae stacked on top of each other. The vertebrae are connected by joints which are innervated by nerves which also innervate the muscles crossing the vertebral joints. Sensory information is transmitted to the sensory area of the brain, by “mechanoreceptors” in the joints and muscles being stimulated by movement. This information converges on the spinal cord and is relayed to the brain as are “action potentials” from the sympathetic chain which runs down the thoracic spine ( regulates autonomic function ie heart rate).
Sceptics would argue that loss of movement in these joints does not matter, because the pain which sometimes accompanies this problem will resolve in its own time. If the object of treatment is pain relief and joint function is not important to wellbeing then the sceptics would be right, however I disagree, the function of mechano receptors is important if only for the relief of pain. “ Melzack and Wall pain gate theory”.
How do nerves effect organic function? Guy dozing off on the train, his head falls forward. The stretch on the mechano receptors in the muscles on the back of the neck, fire into the spinal cord and brainstem area to do with alertness and the guy is aroused and reacts to the stimulous.
That is not to say chiropractic cures anything however improving joint function will Effect the Central Nervous System, and I would say is worth trying before pills, however I am just a simple quack and the MD would prefer you take the pills.

Dr. Paul Hollern (user link) says:


In the US, Chiropractic has a 67% negative name recognition. This is directly attributable to violating the marketing principle called the law of line extension.

In short when you try to be everything to everybody you essentially become nothing to everybody. Resulting in a subcouncious thought process causing these effects.
Trust goes down.
Resisitance goes up.
Defenses go up.
Confidence goes down.

These are the subcouncous effects and why chiropactic has a 67% negative name recognition.

It is too late to take responsibility as a profession.

For more specifics on that marketin principle you can read Al Ries book “Positioning-battle for the mind.

Dr. Paul Hollern

Andrea Blackford says:

Re: Self-Resonsibility

Speaking of battle for the mind, there is an excellent book called “Battlefield of the Mind” that discusses how to take control of our feelings and actions when they seem to us to be beyond our control.

On another note, hello Dr. Hollern, I understand you are doing some marketing for my father’s Chiropractic clinic. I took a look online today to see if there were some new links about him, but didn’t see much yet. It looks like you were still setting up something for him though; can’t wait to see it when it’s complete.

Have a great day,

Andrea (Papia) Blackford

Paul Benedetti says:

Canadian book on chiropractic

Reporters HAVE done investigative work on the claims of chiropractic. See the book, Spin Doctors by Paul Benedetti and Wayne MacPhail, Dundurn Press, Canada. It is an investigation into the claims made by chiropractors and their questionable practices, including the sometimes fatal upper neck manipulation.

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