Answers to Questions about Chiropractic:
Did My Chiropractor Give Me a Sales Pitch?

Samuel Homola, D.C.

Question

I have had trouble with hip pain since giving birth to my daughter about 20 months ago and had decided to do something about it when I came across a table set up by a local chiropractor's office in a grocery store. I asked a few questions, and they offered me a $20 visit that included x-rays and a consultation. My husband and I went in this morning for the consultation and were taken to a room with a white board full of scribblings and pictures. The chiropractor came in and did what seemed to me to be a sales pitch full of scare tactics. He talked about subluxations and how they were the root cause for all disease and health problems. I was wondering if he would eventually say they were also the cause for global warming. This was the first time I had ever heard the word. He showed me my x-rays and said I had a minus 5 curve in my neck and 8 degrees of scoliosis in my spine. My hips, which were the reason I came in, were not really discussed. Basically, he said the aforementioned problems were causing my hip pain. I asked him about other conditions that could be causing the hip pain and he kind of blew it off. I don't really want to go through 36 sessions and find out that my hip problems are being caused by some form of arthritis. I don't really know who to believe in this. When my husband and I started asking questions, the chiropractor seemed to get a little defensive. He told us that if we were skeptics, his office was not the place for us. I am very confused. What do you think?

Answer

The approach used by the chiropractor you described reeks with scare tactics and misinformation. You should not, under any circumstances, follow through with such a program. See an orthopedist about your hip problem. If he thinks you need manipulation, he can recommend someone for you.

I always advise patients to avoid chiropractors who use scare tactics. Such chiropractors will often recommend long courses of treatment for "correction" of insignificant curves in the spine. They will usually also find "dangerous subluxations" using surface electromyography, thermography, a "Subluxation Station," or some other questionable procedure designed to locate subluxations. Many chiropractors are now using a "space-age technology" Pro-Adjuster device that is supposed to locate as well as correct subluxations. X-ray exams included in free visits are nearly always said to show "subluxations" that require 30 or 40 visits to correct followed by regular adjustments to prevent degenerative changes. Such pitches are part of a practice-building procedure in which x-rays or colorful printouts from subluxation-locating devices are used in a "Report of Findings" designed to frighten both patient and spouse into undergoing a long course of corrective care followed by lifetime maintenance care.

Chiropractors who advertise free exams or provide screenings in stores or shopping malls should be ignored.

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Dr. Homola is a second-generation chiropractor who has dedicated himself to defining the proper limits on chiropractic and to educating consumers and professionals about the field. His 1963 book Bonesetting, Chiropractic, and Cultism supported the appropriate use of spinal manipulation but renounced chiropractic dogma. His 1999 book Inside Chiropractic: A Patient's Guide provides an incisive look at chiropractic's history, benefits, and shortcomings. Now retired after 43 years of practice, he lives in Panama City, Florida.

This page was posted on June 23, 2008.