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#7) Once you start seeing a chiropractor you have to continue for the rest of your life
This is one myth that I bought into before going into chiropractic school. Most of the chiropractors I knew at the time sold care packages and the insurance companies paid for X number of adjustments per year so of course they wanted you to come in at least that many times. Since I did not really know what a chiropractor truly did, I had trouble letting go of the fallacy that when a doctor “fixes” something then it should stay fixed. In my ignorance I thought that one adjustment should be enough to get a bone back into place and if it was not then that means the chiropractor was not doing something correctly. I understand now that I was setting chiropractors up for failure because my belief system was based on expecting the impossible. No doctor can “fix” anything in your body. Your body has to do the fixing and that includes alignment.
I once heard of a dentist joke saying something that is relevant to this topic. A dentist said; “You know that you don’t have to brush your teeth every day, right? You only need to brush the teeth you want to keep.” This is the exact same concept with chiropractic, you only need to maintain the parts of your spine and nervous system you want to keep functional. You don’t need to come, get checked and adjusted when necessary for the rest of your life but it would be healthier if you made that choice. There is a difference between a need and a desire. I need water to survive. I desire to maintain my function so that I don’t lose it and need emergency intervention in the long run. Most people that seek my help start off needing chiropractic care. They come in limping, on crutches, being carried, or on medication because they cannot function normally. This time of need for most people is relatively short and before long they no longer need chiropractic. The smart ones will, however, make a choice to utilize chiropractic for what it is best at which is preventative maintenance.
So really it comes down to this: You have very few basic needs and chiropractic is most likely not one of them. But, do you really want to go through life only covering your needs? How many things in life, that you work for, are actually desires above your needs? This is the difference between surviving and thriving. Both are important but one takes more conscious effort and action.
#5) Chiropractic is not safe for children
This myth comes mostly from people who either are not aware of how children are adjusted or confuse chiropractic with medicine. Some people imagine that kids with tiny spines are going to have their neck cranked all the way around and the chiropractor is going to jump up and down on their backs as if they’re a full grown adult. My daughter was adjusted when she was just two minutes old, so I can assure you that it is very different. Life is rough on a growing and developing body. As if squeezing through a birth canal is not enough, lots of bonks and falls await them as they grow. Children, too, have a spine with a nervous system and so it only makes sense that if their spine is torqued, twisted, or just slightly causing stress on their nervous system then this will have negative effects on their growing and developing bodies. The truth is, anyone and anything with a spine and nervous system will benefit from a good chiropractic adjustment, if they need it. But this post is not about the benefits to kids, it is about the evidence or lack thereof for chiropractic to be dangerous.
If anyone wants to do a search in the largest database of published peer reviewed scientific articles, PubMed, for chiropractic pediatrics adverse events only 4 articles will show up. One of these articles has nothing to do with chiropractic, one is on a specific condition (otitis media with zero averse events). The other two are of interest to this topic.
The first is from the University of Alberta and was published in the Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics. The study reviewed 13 published papers about spinal manipulation in general but not specifically chiropractic. In the conclusion the author writes; “neither causation nor incidence rates can be inferred from observational data. Conduct of a prospective population-based active surveillance study is required to properly assess the possibility of rare, yet serious, adverse events as a result of spinal manipulation on pediatric patients.” SO basically we are back to square one with no direct evidence linking chiropractic adjustments to injuries in children receiving chiropractic care. If you have not noticed so far from my blog posts, when you start reading the scientific literature for yourself it becomes obvious that scientific studies are not as “black and white” in their findings as the media makes them out to be.
The second is a similar style of study that the first recommended at a single clinic. Both parents and doctors participated in monitoring the children and documenting adverse events. The adverse events that occurred were relatively mild and similar to what some adults experience. The parents reported that 1 in 867 adjustments led to adverse events and the doctors reported that 1 in 1813 adjustments led to adverse events. To place this in perspective, take a look at this study that looks at how hospitals can decrease preventable adverse events caused by medical errors. After implementing the better system these events still occurred at a rate of 1 in 5. Which means that, at best, one out of five medical interventions lead to error or injury.
Now, I am not a fan of comparing medicine to chiropractic or vise versa. That is comparing apples to oranges. They each have their different benefits and limitations. However, historically the medical profession has lead the charge in spreading the myth that chiropractic is an undue risk to children but when we look directly at the evidence itself, medicine is far more dangerous. There is a reason for this, though. In emergency situations, tough calls must be made in order to save the child’s life that may involve some element of harm to that child’s body. Everyone agrees that this is an acceptable risk even though it is heart breaking. Very few would come away with the idea that children should never go to a hospital when they need it if they have a 1 in 5 chance of being injured. The same is true for chiropractic except, because of the different nature of chiropractic, the risk is hundreds of times less.
Everything comes with an inherent risk, though. This risk is increased by the fact that not every doctor acts in a professional or ethical way. There is also the fact that everyone makes mistakes. I have said this in a previous post and I will say it again. If you really want to see the risk associated with a profession, look at how much malpractice insurance costs. The insurance companies have a great financial incentive to charge riskier practices more money since they will be spending more money paying out to plaintiffs. This is how insurance companies stay in business, by being very good at risk analysis. In the end there is no scientific evidence that shows a good chiropractic adjustment from a competent chiropractor is an unnecessary risk to a child’s body.
For those of you out there who are still afraid of a chiropractor jerking your kid’s spine around, keep this in mind. A child’s adjustment is far softer than an adult’s adjustment. The force required to adjust a child is FAR LESS than what is required for an adult for two reasons;
#1) Children do not have as much muscular strength to resist the adjustment like most adults do.
#2) Children, in general, have not had the time that adults have had to develop the bad habits that lead to really bad subluxations.
Children are much easier to adjust and need fewer adjustments than adults because they are still in a state of ease with their body and do not over analyze or over compensate the way adults do. The bones of a baby’s spine are in multiple pieces before they fuse together to form a vertebra. This makes a baby’s spine much more able to create abnormal pressure on the nervous system with these extra pieces but this also means that an adjustment can be done simply by slightly pushing those pieces in the right direction with the very tip of a chiropractor’s pinky finger.
It seems that ignorance and fear are the basis of this myth and unfortunately the consequences of children not being adjusted when they need to can be far more severe than in adults. Any delay or decrease in development can affect someone for the rest of their life. This means that the same children, that those who buy into this myth are trying to protect, are the ones that will suffer the most. Children deserve to have the best start in life possible and chiropractic is one of the simplest and gentlest ways to help them. Every child should be checked by a chiropractor at least a few times during their formative years just to make sure there is nothing biomechanically interfering with their growth and development. It is just too simple to not give kids a chance to develop to their highest potential. Hopefully soon I will write a post about the benefits of chiropractic for kids and what to look for in a good pediatric chiropractor.
Stay tuned and adjusted.
What are your thoughts? Leave a comment below – I’d love to hear from you.
– Dr. Tad