In which John Riddell continues his pub night discussions.

Chiropractic and the sin of Onan

If you are potentially offendable, and litigious, please do not read this. That said, I was at the pub yesterday and talking, as you do, about how the secularisation of Western society has made inevitable those mass killings by nutters, like those two computer nerds, you know, at that school, um, you know, the one before the last one. Anyway, none of us were designated drivers, so logic didn’t have much to do with it, but someone mentioned superstitions and I foolishly used chiropractic as an example. Well, you’d think I’d just divorced his sister. “It’s scientific”, he said. “They do x-rays. It works.”

I was now faced with a common problem for a skeptic. How to explain that it isn’t, and it doesn’t, and not appear like an arrogant closed minded bigot. Simply saying “But it doesn’t work.” does not work. They know it works. They’ve been feeling sick, and come out feeling better. Never mind that pain is dependant on attitude. If your mother slaps your face and says she doesn’t love you, it hurts a lot. But you will let a friend, pretending to be your mother, do it night after night in a local amateur theatre production.

And if you’ve had one too many beers to explain post hoc ergo propter hoc, you try an example.

Did you know that the sin of Onan (Genesis 38:9) was supposed to stunt your growth? It made you go blind. While Christianity held the hearts and minds of the people, it was regarded as a sin. You weren’t even allowed to call it by its real name… Since Victorian times, attitudes to sex have changed. It is no longer regarded as a sin. We can call it its real name. Sometimes. We are talking about masturbation. We do still need a strong warning at the front of the article. The interesting thing is that now doctors tell us that sex is good for us. A regular sex life is strongly correlated with increased life expectancy. But our body chemistry does not care how many are in the bed. Could it be that masturbation is good for us?

If we look at life expectancy during Victorian times and compare them with today, we notice there has been a considerable change. People live longer now. Why? Is it because more people are doing it now?

People do feel better after visiting the chiropractor. Well, at least the people that didn’t get killed by that neck twisting thing they do. But why do people feel better? There are many explanations. Only one of them is that the chiropractor accurately diagnosed and fixed the problem.

When you think about it, it’s a lot like masturbation. It hasn’t been proven that it is good for you. That it makes you live longer. But maybe you should give it a try. Just in case. People say they feel better afterwards. But then again, some people say that it is bad for you.

There are in fact many reasons why people live longer now. I suspect none of these have anything to do with masturbation. The same applies to chiropractic.

It is not up to me to show that masturbation is good for you. I’m not claiming it is. And it’s not my responsibility to show that chiropractic is bad for you. It’s up to the chiropractors to show that it isn’t.

Chiropractors make claims. They claim to be able to diagnose a number of diseases by analysis of the spine. These claims have not been validated scientifically. Chiropractors examining the same patient come up with widely differing diagnoses and suggested treatments. Try it yourself. If you go to a chiropractor, listen to what he says. Ask him which vertebrae are misaligned. Find out which have subluxations. Write it down, and the next time your back plays up, go to a different chiropractor. See if they give the same answers. Under controlled conditions, they don’t.

I recently saw (on TV) a back fixing guru with a whole string of real medical qualifications claiming that the real cause of most back pain was attitude. Psychology. He thought that all you had to do was to take charge of your life and tell the pain where to get off.

Not long before that I had read a pamphlet by a medical insurance company. It said that too much rest was bad for backs, and getting active again was the best cure.

Now I have three possible explanations. Chiropractic, Attitude, and Activity (or lack of it.). While the explanations are different, the treatments are effectively the same. All three “treatments” end up with the sufferer being more active than before, and believing that their back pain is being reduced. All three “work”. But the chiropractic option costs money.

So it is important to know if the chiropractic bit is the bit that works. Or if it is bad for you. Can they accurately diagnose stuff? Does all that scary bone wrenching with the nasty cracking sounds actually fix the problem? Or will it have long term harmful effects? Will it stunt your growth? Or do people feel better because a nice man tells you he can fix the problem, and so you become more active and the increased activity is what really fixes you? We don’t know, because the chiropractors haven’t done the experiments. The experiments that have been done do not back up their claims. That’s why chiropractic isn’t part of conventional medicine. So until the results support the claims, when I get a bad back, I’ll go to my doctor first. Make sure it isn’t serious.

I think I can feel mine seizing up now. I better go do some work.

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