Simon Singh & Prof. Ernst – The Truth About Chiropractic Therapy

By Grant Jacobs 06/09/2010 11


Some readers may recall that some time ago I wrote about Simon Singh being sued by the British Chiropractors’ Association. Simon Singh and Professor Ernst are author of a book, Trick or Treatment, which presents the background and evidence, or rather lack of it, for a number of suspect therapeutic practices including acupuncture, homeopathy and chiropractic. This case, among others, has sparked a demand for libel reform in England.

Those interested in this legal case or ’natural’ remedies, might like to learn that chapter 4, The Truth About Chiropractic Therapy, is available free on-line (click on the book icon to start the presentation).

There’s 50 pages of reading there for you! Judging by the ’temp’ in the URL, this is available only temporarily.*

You’ll need a fairly large screen in order to read it clearly. It’s not particularly clear on my  laptop, which has a approx. 13″ screen, but it is fine on the desktop machine. (My impression is that the issue is more that the fonts presented in Flash are poorly anti-aliased, if at all, than the small size of the text.)


* I haven’t been able to locate details, I’m short on time to keep looking. Sorry about that.

Other articles on Code for life:

British Chiropractors’ Association drops case against Simon Singh

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Preserving endangered species – of gut microbes

Career pathways for NZ science Ph.D. students

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I remember because my DNA was methylated

11 Responses to “Simon Singh & Prof. Ernst – The Truth About Chiropractic Therapy”

  • Recently Profs. Holt and Gibley have warned parents “against parents taking their children to see a chiropractor for any reason.”

    A local chiropractor runs a weekly series of advertorials. His latest (see bottom-left of page 5 of the October 21st 2010 edition) advocates that chiropractic treatment is good for the young to old, from 8 days to eighty. The timing makes me speculate his advertorial is in response to Prof. Holt & Gibley’s advice. Certainly his recommendation is in complete opposition to their advice.

    (I’d expand on this as a blog post, but I’m not up to it right now!)

  • Thanks for the link to that chapter, havent gotten round to getting hold of this book, so thanks.

    On the chiropractic note, it recently came to my attention (on facebook of all places) that chiropractors in NZ are legally allowed to refer to themselves as “Dr. John Smith, Chiropractor”.

    This annoyed me, as it seems that a regular person without any knowledge of the ”science” of chiropractic, would go to these practitioners assuming they are medical doctors who specialise in back pain etc. These people have no medical qualifications, no doctorate in any subject, yet are allowed to assume the title which, to me, legitimises their ‘healing powers’.


  • That chapter is still there, despite my concern about the ‘temp’ in the URL.


    Yup, Chiropractors can adorn themselves with the title ‘Dr’, provided that they include the ‘Chiropractic’ too. It seems a weird compromise by the medical bureaucracy. (Pretty sure I’ve written about this somewhere in my earlier chiropractic articles.)

    On thing that I haven’t yet had time to look into is how medical practices are set up. Quite a few have a GP, but also bizarre non-scientific practices under the same roof.

    There is in fact a school of some description in Auckland that teaches chiropractic. My recollection is that they award degrees.

  • OK, I’ll have a hunt around the website and google some things.
    Interesting to note tho, the NZ College of Chiropractic website has many references to ‘Dr. So and so’ with no mention of ‘Chiropractic’ following their name. Perhaps its not so well followed by the ‘Drs’ themselves.

    It would be surprising if GPs and chiropractics were set up in the same practice as no physician in NZ would or should refer a patient to a chiropractic.


  • Can anyone clarify the difference between a chiropractor, an osteopath and a physiotherapist.
    I had automatically assumed that chiropractic therapies would be appropriate for some muscle and skeletal conditions, and that the only pseudoscience was based around using it to “cure” unrelated conditions such as ear ache, asthma etc?

  • Michael,

    I could try a refresher article on chiropractic over the weekend? 😉

    Chiropractic has at it’s heart two main notions, both of which lack support. One is so-called subluxations, “partial dislocations” of the spine. The other is a form of ‘vitalism’, essentially the same general notion described as body humours, chi forces, etc., which most people would recognise as dated notions. I write ‘dated’ rather than pseudo-science, because although that’s also true, part of the issue here lies with trying to keep alive notions that have long been discarded. (For sound reasons.)

    (Interestingly, my visit to the web page of their own world body when researching this when I first wrote on the topic showed that they admitted a lack of evidence for their vitalism.)

    Trick or treatment, for example, writes “X-rays can reveal neither the subluxations nor the innate intelligence associated with chiropractic philosophy, because they do not exist.” (Page 35, or 211, of the chapter my article points readers to. Look for paragraph starting “In contrast,”.)

    I understand the reality is complicated by different practitioners using different mixes of what (supposedly) makes up chiropractic. (Or rather what would make it distinct, perhaps.) There is quite a bit of argument amongst chiropractics, too.

    Evidence based studies I’ve seen indicate that of what has been studied, the only treatments chiropractics offer that may be on-par in success with more conventional physical therapy is treatments for lower back pain. I should have written something about this some time ago.

    Trouble there is, if you can get just as successful treatment from a practitioner who has no pseudo-science baggage, why run the risk of using one who does?

  • This is the reason was why I asked about chiropractics legally being called ‘Drs’. Surely people will with back pain etc will confuse chiropractic with physiotherapy and opt for the chiropractic service because of the trust in the science that the Dr qualification should confer, yet for chiropractic, does not.

    Osteopathy practioners are also allowed to use the Dr in the USA (unsure about NZ), which I would think would confuse people even more.

    I can’t help but think that the ‘changes’ in bladder control in children might be due to too much pressing on said bladder during the treatment forcing the child to expel the contents prior to sleep. 😉

    (Postles A, Haavik Taylor H, Holt K. (2010). Changes in asthma symptoms and bedwetting in a four year old child receiving chiropractic care. Chiropractic Journal of Australia, 40(1): 34-6)

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