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.

Filed Under: backlash, chiropractors, streisand effect, truth in advertising, uk

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  1. identicon
    Richard Lanigan, 7 Mar 2010 @ 12:05pm


    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.

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