The Royal Treatment

Harmony is essential to life. Health does not exist in its absence. Harmony is a relationship of balance and order. Harmony is about just the right amount, not too much, not too little. This is a foundational premise of chiropractic; sickness only has two causes – too much and too little. By locating and removing the source of disharmony within an individual the body is provided an opportunity to return to a state of harmonious balance.

If this isn’t something you have thought about before, or you aren’t willing to take my word for it, (and why should you?), let me give you some examples of the principle of harmony at work in the natural world.

Lets start with math, because you can’t fake math, the Fibonacci sequence in particular. The fibonacci sequence is a natural pattern that is ubiquitous in the natural world: 1-1-2-3-5-8-13-21-34-55-89-144 etc. Each number is derived by adding the two previous numbers in the sequence together. It is the pattern followed by the branching of plants, the growth of pineapples, pinecones, sunflower seeds, flower petals and the arrangement of seeds in a apple core etc. You can find this pattern in the length ratios of the bones in your fingers, your forearm and hand and the architecture of your inner ear. The numbers even appear in your DNA, which is 34 angstroms long and 21 angstroms wide for each full cycle of the double helix. Amazing!

This ratio is not limited to plants and animals either. let’s examine the orbital geometry of the planet Venus relative to the Earth and Sun. Using Earth as a fixed reference point, the orbits of Venus and the sun trace a pentagonal path every 5 cycles of Venus orbit, which happens every 8 years. Because Venus has a shorter year than the Earth does, it takes 13 Venusian years for Venus to complete this cycle. 5, 8, and 13, the Fibonacci sequence in the orbits of the planets. Again, amazing!

So don’t take my word for it that the principles of harmony govern the natural world which we are all a part of, just look at the math.

The prince of Wales recently published a book on this topic titled Harmony – A New Way Of Looking At The World. In this book he lays out the ecological and social challenges we face and outlines some ideas that mankind might want to pursue in order to reestablish harmony in our ecological and social interactions. One social challenge is our failing health. The harmony within our bodies has been disrupted and our ill health is the result.

Prince Charles turns out to be an advocate for using alternative medicine to reestablish the internal harmony within our bodies. Like me he abhors the term alternative, finding it pejorative. He decries the medical establishment for ignoring these natural alternative methods or attributing their benefits to placebo. Using them on livestock as he does, he claims he must have the worlds smartest cows if alternative medicine only works by placebo effect.

Rightly, he notes the ability of natural healers to locate a disruption in the harmony of the body by assessing the tone of its structure and using natural methods to restore harmony to the body, allowing it to heal itself.

I was struck by the elegant simplicity of his observations. This is all chiropractic is. It is the identification of the loss of harmony within the body, the location of the disruption in that harmony, the removal of the disruption and restoration to harmony. It follows the law of nature. It does not attempt to manipulate the workings of the body towards a particular end. It does not turn the tone of the body up or down. It simply locates the source of the disruption in that tonal harmony and removes it. The body itself then decided whether things need to be turned up or down.

Nothing could be simpler. Nothing could have greater impact.


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Health Sovereignty

There are few things that practically all of America can agree upon these days, but one of them is the idea that a capacity for self-determinism is a good thing. It’s practically what made America in the first place. A few British colonists wanted some sovereignty – defined as self-determination or freedom from external control – so they threw a bunch of tea into Boston Harbor and quit paying taxes. A couple years of brutal warfare later and a new sovereign nation, the United States of America, was born.

For all of our love of freedom and sovereignty, Americans have abdicated sovereignty in one of the most important areas of all, without even realizing it. In my opinion, most of America is no longer health sovereign, and we are paying dearly for that loss. There are a number of reasons for this. one is the general inability we have to recognize the difference between sovereignty and freedom. Freedom alone only creates the potential for sovereignty. Sovereignty itself requires a certain skill set and resources in addition to freedom.

When slavery was abolished in 1865, life did not improve for most of the freed slaves. They were free on paper, but most of them ended up in the equivalent of refugee camps ridden with disease like smallpox. Many starved to death. In some places their plight was so dire that many thought the black race might completely disappear from the continent. Many chose to return to working the plantations they had been freed from in order to survive. They were free, but not sovereign. Only a modest percentage figured out how to bridge the gap from freedom to sovereignty.

Sovereignty is a mindset coupled with the resources necessary to implement the ideals of that mindset when the opportunity of freedom arises, or is created. Without that mindset and those resources, even absolute freedom cannot create sovereignty.

It is ironic, and tragic, that in America, the greatest concentration of wealth and resources in the history of the world, the average person is almost completely dependent on others for the maintenance of their health. Something is interfering with our ability to become health sovereign. Probably a lot of somethings. But I am willing to bet that a good number of those interfering somethings come from one source. What I believe is standing between Americans and health sovereignty is something called binary thaumaturgy.

Yeah, big words and bizarre big words at that, but they are the best words to describe this process affecting us. The term is a combination of two concepts: binary thinking and thaumaturgy. Of the two, binary thinking is simplest so lets start there.

Binary thinking is George W. Bush style thinking “You are either for us or against us”. Binary thinking is the separation of the world into groups of polar opposites. It is a natural human tendency hardwired into us for survival. Is that animal by my favorite watering hole dangerous to me or not? It is very useful tool in a hostile world where snap decisions need to be made that your life might depend on. In a complex modern civilization where the difference between beneficial and harmful are more nuanced it becomes less and less useful.

The trouble with binary thinking is that it is very limiting. If there are only two possibilities for any given situation, a great deal of opportunity will pass by unnoticed. Because binary thinking is hardwired into us it is natural for some binaries to become so dominant in a society that a sort of binary automatism occurs in which nearly everyone accepts one or the other pole of the binary as truth without even realizing they have made a choice. Because the process occurs at a subconscious emotionally driven level there is no opportunity to step outside the binary and develop a third option or ternary. If a possibility doesn’t fit into the established dominant binary it is essentially invisible.

Thaumaturgy is what establishes the dominant binaries in our society. In the past it was a word for wonderworkers that performed miracles, either real or by sleight of hand.  Some of its synonyms are enchantment and bewitchment. Today it is used by some in self development circles to describe the process of manipulating the subconscious mind to limits it focus with the end goal of altering a persons subconscious thought processes. This can be very useful when a person’s subconscious thought patterns are sabotaging their potential for growth. By limiting the focus of the subconscious non-rational mind, the limiting pattern can be reprogrammed to a healthy pattern that removes limitations to the expansion of consciousness. It is a bit like going back in time and correcting a mental misstep or wrong turn. You could think of it as practical enchantment.

Where thaumaturgy becomes problematic is when it is used to limit the focus of the mind for the purpose of manipulating masses of people into buying things or buying into ideas. You see, pushing the buttons of one individuals subconscious requires a highly evolved skill set. Nuanced manipulation is extraordinarily difficult. It requires an intimate knowledge of the individual being effected, the thaumaturgist must be able to intuit not only what is subconsciously driving that individual, something the individual may not even know themselves, but also determine which drives need to be focused upon and how. Pushing the buttons of a whole society is actually much easier, but also more limited in scope.

Manipulation of the collective subconscious is achieved through repeatedly triggering the primitive emotional drives present within all of us. These are the drives you see active in a four year old, fear, greed, envy, etc. Where this is most obvious is advertising. What do beautiful women and ski lodges have to do with luxury watches? Nothing at all really, but at a core physiological level I love the thrill of skiing and beautiful women, so I must have the overpriced timepiece, even if my cellphone keeps time more accurately and automatically adjusts timezones when I travel. The beautiful woman and the ski lodge triggered a subconscious emotional drive that short circuited my rational mind which knows  I could probably spend a night or two at that cabin for the price of the watch with the beautiful woman I am already with.

The process sounds innocent enough, after all Caveat Emptor, let the buyer beware. If I am foolish enough to part with my hard earned money for something as useless as a watch because I associate it with an actress it must be some moral deficit on my part. But there is a darker side to thaumaturgy at this level that goes beyond simple advertising. This kind of thaumaturgy only works through repetition and by dimming down the conscious rational mind. Gradually, over time, thaumaturgy has a tendency to degrade the level of consciousness to the level at which it is employed.

If the consciousness of society as a whole is constantly being triggered to dwell at the level of the basic emotional drives present in a four year old, you can see how that might be a problem. How can a society functioning at the emotional level of a four year old do anything truly productive or enlightened? How can such a society be truly sovereign? Sovereignty doesn’t exist for a four year old. They want their mommy to fix everything and then make cookies.

In some of you this has probably already triggered a binary, the us vs them binary. Some of you are probably thinking this is a method of population control being employed by a small powerful group of social elites, the Illuminati perhaps. Here is where it gets really dark and scary. There doesn’t have to be an evil elite perpetrating this upon us. There is a second problem with mass thaumaturgy, the thaumaturgist is not immune to his own work. Because he or she shares the same primitive emotional drives as the public, he or she experiences the same limitation of consciousness as them. The thaumaturgist is caught in his own trap. At the beneficial level of thaumaturgy this isn’t the case, because the drives being manipulated are not shared by the practitioner and client. They are unique to the individual in front of him.

As a result you can expect that as the use of thaumaturgy at the level of basic emotional drives proliferates within a society, you will see a gradual decline in the consciousness and emotional maturity of that society. Anybody for a weekend of reality TV?

So where does all this fit into your health sovereignty?

Health sovereignty fits in where binary thinking and thaumaturgy meet, with binary thaumaturgy. This is the thaumaturgy of modern politics. You take two opposing ideologies, conservative and liberal for instance, find a way to associate them with basic subconscious emotional drives, and hammer away at those drives until the conscious mind can longer mount a resistance against them. For better or worse, health care in America has always been tied up with politics, so thaumaturgy and binary thaumaturgy are utilized on a regular basis in the medical world.

I first realized this when I noticed something irritating to me. My elderly patients had a tendency to “believe” in chiropractic. I am happy and grateful that they value the service I provide, but belief shouldn’t factor into it. Chiropractic is a time tested, scientifically researched healthcare model that has been helping people for over 100 years. It isn’t the tooth fairy. The first couple times I heard it I didn’t think much of it. Then I started looking for it. I noticed that my twenty something practice members never mentioned a “belief” in chiropractic. They would say things like ” this is great, it really works, I wish I had tried this sooner.” For them it was just one of several possibilities to try.

My elderly patients were caught up in a binary!

For many of these particular individuals I was their only doctor. Not because I suggested this, but because they didn’t trust medical doctors, comparing them to greedy butchers on more than one occasion. They were reacting to medicine and medicals doctors at a visceral level, the level of subconscious emotional drives. I would not be surprised if for every one of these people in my office there was another person with 8 failed back surgeries that would rather have to use a motorized chair to get around than go to one of those “Quacks” or “Witchdoctors”, both of which I have been called in my relatively short career.

Perhaps this all seems like conjecture on my part, making something out of nothing. But there is some history behind all this that clarifies my logic. In 1963 the American Medical Association established a Committee on Quackery. The purpose of this organization was to control and eliminate the chiropractic profession. At that time chiropractic was growing very quickly and was perceived as a threat to the dominance of the medical profession. In 1976 an antitrust lawsuit was initiated against the AMA by a doctor Chester Wilk. The case, known as Wilk vs. AMA would initiate over a decade of legal conflict which would eventually find the AMA guilty of violating antitrust laws.

Notice that many of my elderly patients would have been young adults forming families during the period when the committee on quackery engaged in an anti-chiropractic propaganda campaign. During this time members of the AMA could have their membership revoked for associating with a chiropractor in any way. Many would even refuse to accept a referral from a chiropractor, even if it meant withholding necessary care from someone in desperate need. Medical students were told that chiropractors were like “rabid puppies, cute but lethal” and that they would be killing their patients if they allowed them to see chiropractors.

The AMA was using binary thaumaturgy to maintain complete control of American healthcare. You were either with them or against them. Choosing chiropractic at that time required belief in it. There was a strong risk of individual and family consequences for choosing to side with chiropractic. It took courage to go against the medical propaganda telling you that you were taking your life into your hands by visiting a chiropractor, and also risking the possibility of being shunned by your medical doctor should you choose to return. I can only imagine what it must have been like to take a child to a chiropractor and risk the good graces of not only your doctor, but your in-laws as well.

My twenty something practice members were born after the Wilk suit. They were not exposed to the level of anti-chiropractic propaganda and vitriol that their parents and grandparents were. They don’t need to believe in chiropractic to come see one. There has been some residual damage caused by the committee on quackery that chiropractors have to deal with, but relationships between medical doctors and chiropractors are improving. There are even some chiropractors practicing in hospitals.

How can anyone caught up in this kind of manipulation be sovereign? You cannot be sovereign when caught up in a binary. The conscious rational mind must be involved in the evaluation and decision making process for an individual to be sovereign in that area. But this is not the way healthcare options are presented, even in so called alternative care or wellness type options such as yoga or chiropractic.

In medical advertising the message often triggers fear, images of people falling and being unable to get up, stories about active professionals being stopped in their tracks by a heart attack, and always the caring tender physician is there to make the scared four year old triggered by those images feel better. The only thing missing is the milk and cookies.

Wellness advertising usually triggers the drive for sex or immortality, sometimes both. The cover model on the yoga magazine is always attractive, even if he or she is elderly the message is about how well they are fending off old age. These are things we all want and when presented with the possibility to attain them the inner 18 year old is happy to jump at the opportunity, if he or she is triggered strongly enough.

These things are not all bad. There is nothing wrong with wanting a good doctor when the unthinkable happens. There is nothing wrong with wanting to feel and appear youthful and vibrant. The world would be a boring place if people didn’t care about these things. Our emotional drives exist for a reason. They can be very beneficial to us, as long as they are subservient to our rational conscious minds.

Our goal should be to limit the amount of thaumaturgy we are exposed to, learn to recognize binaries and exercise the strength of our conscious minds by finding ways to escape them. This is the first step to achieving sovereignty, learning to free your mind.

If all of this seems outlandish to you, humor me and for one day look, listen and watch for binaries. Look for images and soundbytes that are designed to trigger subconscious emotional drives to sell you on ideas or products. If you don’t see any then pronounce me full of it and don’t bother reading this blog anymore.

If you do notice them, binaries in particular, try this – try to come up with an outside possibility, a third option, a ternary. The first one will probably be difficult, it might feel like your mind is wading through mush to get there. Once you find one, the rest will start to arrive, more possibilities than you might have imagined possible, and it will feel good. If you keep it up, you just might free your mind. Share the experience with others and you can be a part of creating a free and sovereign society.

If you wish to learn more about these concepts, I suggest reading about them in the blog of John Michael Greer, Pluto’s republic, and The Trouble With Binary Thinking or listening to his interview on the C-Realm podcast #347 Totalitarian Centrism


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Chiropractic and Marijuana Part II

I am surprised that the mainstream medical community is fighting for marijuana in the first place. Not because it is an illicit drug. They use cocaine and morphine on a regular basis during surgery. I am surprised because marijuana is a whole plant traditional herbal remedy. We don’t see medical doctors rushing to add other traditional healing herbs to their recommendation pad. (It is still illegal to prescribe marijuana, the cards are only a recommendation) There are many other herbs out there just as powerful and effective as marijuana for a broad range of medical uses, so what makes Mary Jane so special?

The answer to that question can be found by examining another recent alternative medicine crossover, the probiotic. Based on what you see in advertising and hear on the radio, you might think the health benefits of probiotics are a new discovery. The truth is that they were being studied for their health benefits since the late 1930’s. Alternative health care practitioners, chiropractors included, have known of their benefits and been recommending them for decades. So why is mainstream medicine finally choosing to play catch up?

The simplest answer is patent law. For a variety of reasons the number of patented probiotics has skyrocketed since 2005, the major patent holders being such players as Nestle, kraft, Danone, Proctor and Gamble. These are corporations that make certain the public is aware of their products and how they might benefit from them. As these patents have been awarded the amount of money poured into researching them and developing health claims in relation to that research has skyrocketed as well. Without doctors there is no research, so they got an invite to the party.

This has not been without controversy. There have been settlements in response to advertised health claims. Still, the amount of effort and energy being put into promoting the cultural acceptance of probiotic foods as medicinal foods has been extraordinary.With the patent comes the profit. It’s all about the profit incentive created by the ability to regulate and c0ntrol.

Whoever controls marijuana will profit massively from it. This is the driver behind the medical research of marijuana and the current attempts to develop a regulatory framework for the drug by nearly half the states in the country. This is also the reason I doubt the whole plant will ever gain acceptance into the practice of mainstream modern medicine, the actual prescription pad, not just a recommendation slip in exchange for a $200 cash exam fee. If the whole plant is legalized, the pharmaceutical industry loses out, and they want their slice of the brownie.

What is likely to happen is the separation of the plant into each of its 500 different active compounds. These compounds will be researched and formulated into medications that will become the intellectual property of whoever develops them. This will be done in the name of safety, to standardize the dose, to ensure only the active ingredients necessary to treat this or that disease will be given to any one person, to ensure quality standards are met, etc. etc. This will increase the value of each plant far beyond the illicit street value.

So what does this have to do with chiropractic and you? Barring the scenario of the plant being completely legalized for recreational use, marijuana is unlikely to ever see the inside of a chiropractic office. It relates to chiropractic and to you, because it illustrates a new attitude the medical community is adopting towards natural remedies.

The line between natural, what many would call “homeopathic” type remedies and the world of mainstream medicine is beginning to blur. Herbal remedies and “natural” health solutions will not remain the sole property of alternative medicine for very long. Medicinal plants such as marijuana as well as probiotic microorganisms are quickly on the path to being treated with a new level of respect by the mainstream medical community. Medicine has a history of limiting access to those therapies it chooses to administer. If alternative medicine becomes mainstream, you can be certain they will become its gatekeepers as well.

What is beautiful about traditional herbalism is its accessibility and price of entry. With a little knowledge and skill most herbal medicines can be grown in your backyard or harvested from a small stand of forest for the small price of the time and effort. It is a kind of medicine that places the locus of control squarely in the hands of the user. In relation to my practice at Healing Rivers Chiropractic, it is personally empowering Healthcare.

At its core that is what alternative medicine is all about, teaching individuals how health happens, so they can pursue it on their own. The alternative physician is there to facilitate the process, not to control it. We are not the gatekeepers of a mysterious world of white coats, laboratories with centrifuges and titrations. We are teachers who clear out obstacles to self-healing so you can be empowered to take control of your own life. Sometimes that means removal of physical obstacles within the body; this is a major premise of chiropractic. Sometimes it means the supply of a missing nutrient the body requires to initiate the healing process as in the case of herbalism.

This is what is at stake with the medicalization of marijuana. Marijuana is a gateway drug. It is the drug with the potential to place a gateway between the general public and the herbs that can heal them, with the medical physician as gatekeeper.

So, what is my stance on medical marijuana? My stance is that it is an herb no different from any other. They all deserve our respect. We all deserve to experience their benefits when appropriate. My concern is that our terrible relationship with wild plant medicines will foster an environment of fear that corporations will exploit in order to gain control over this personally empowering form of healthcare.

My hope is that the situation with marijuana will create a dialogue about plant chemistries that generates a healthy relationship with Mother Nature’s pharmacy, ensuring alternative medicine remains in the commons, accessible to the general public in a way that empowers everyone, not just a few guys in white coats.

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Chiropractic and Marijuana

For the current version of this article visit the upgraded and current version of this blog here. I upgraded my site and did not migrate over a great many of these posts. The new site has much better content including articles, some videos and podcasts. More podcasts on some great topics to come there in the future!!

After the legalization of marijuana in several states this last presidential election, I found myself pondering a question I couldn’t have imagined existing only a few short years ago: Would I recommend marijuana as an herbal supplement in my chiropractic practice if it were legalized?

I don’t smoke, never have, and have no interest in it. But I recently found myself in a state licensed legal grow room and it hit me, this is for real, this is happening, chiropractors are going to have a decision to make soon. Marijuana, already an everyday aspect of American life, will be out in the open and legal. What will that America look like and how will this affect my practice and profession?

Chiropractic is defined as a drugless profession. But we do make nutritional and herbal recommendations on a regular basis. As the word “drug” can be defined as any substance that has a physiological effect when ingested or otherwise introduced into the body, being a truly drugless healthcare practitioner is much harder than it would seem. If I tell someone to add cinnamon to their diet in the hopes it will increase their insulin sensitivity, am I recommending a drug to them? By that definition I am, even if the FDA classifies cinnamon as a food and I am well within the legal limits of my scope of practice.

Cinnamon isn’t particularly unique among foods in acting like a drug either. By the above definition practically everything we eat is a drug, salt and sugar included. Sugar alters energy metabolism by impacting insulin ad cortisol levels, and salt effects blood pressure and water balance. Exercise and chiropractic do as well, but they cannot be considered drugs, as they are actions and not substances.

It was Paracelsus, the father of modern Toxicology, that said “All things are poison, and nothing is without poison; only the dose permits something not to be poisonous.” All of nutrition can be viewed this way. Nutrition lies along a continuum, on one end is energy and the other is medicine. Both ends contain the potential to be deadly poison if consumed in the wrong amount.

On the far limits of energy we have sugar and fat. At the far end of medicine we can find the poisons used in chemotherapy: taxol derived from yew bark for instance. In the middle we can find medicinal foods with chemicals that help us in our everyday lives. We need more than fat and sugar to live, we need vitamins, minerals co-factors, etc. all of these are poison in excess. Think of it like this, energy to poison: lard, carrot, lettuce, milk thistle, marijuana, yew bark.

I can sense the objections building in the readers mind, they were present in mine as well: “marijuana is different, it is psychoactive; milk thistle isn’t psychoactive. It has to be different than recommending an omega 3 supplement.”

But it isn’t. The more I looked into it the more I realized that just as all substances are poison in excessive amounts, they are also psychoactive to varying degrees. Omega 3 for instance, is a likely candidate for preventing major depression in pregnant women. The side effects of blood sugar imbalance almost read like the symptoms of a marijuana high: impaired memory, slow thinking, irritability, confusion, hunger, slowed reaction time, increased heart rate, etc. Over-consumption of fat also has an effect of mood and behavior, generally increasing lethargy and dulling the mind.

Effecting physiology effects the mind. The body is mind and the mind is the body, it’s a package deal. With that in mind, everything we ingest, intentionally or otherwise becomes a psychoactive drug to some degree.

The intent of this article is not to advocate for marijuana. The intention of this article is to present a new way of viewing the world. I think by now, most of the readers of this blog-post will be beginning to explore the implications of this concept, that everything we consume is a drug. Americans love drugs. We take tons of them everyday, even by the way we traditionally think of them as either illicit substances or pharmaceuticals.

Americans have a respect for drugs. We see them as dangerous. when a drug has potent and life threatening immediate effects it is carefully controlled, regulated and distributed. Taxol from yew bark for instance, isn’t sold over the counter, it must be prescribed and carefully measured out by a highly trained expert. We are frightened of drugs like taxol. We highly respect them which, ironically, makes them quite safe.

It is the other drugs that I would argue are the most dangerous, the cheap ones, the ones you can get anywhere, the ones we don’t respect, the ones we don’t even think of as drugs, the ones that don’t have an immediate toxic effect, rather an effect that, while quite real, takes years and years to manifest itself, like soda pop and potato chips. These are the most dangerous drugs.

The greatest danger is not in the substance itself, the danger is in our lack of knowledge of and respect towards the substance. Every year people overdose and die from illicit drugs, have adverse outcomes to properly and improperly prescribed medications and we are mostly aware of those dangers. But how many people suffer through life with diabetes, heart disease and cancer as a result of not respecting the poisonous nature of the foods they eat? Remember, even the healthiest organically grown food on earth becomes poison when consumed in excess.

My hope is that. one day, humanity will form a healthy respectful relationship with all members of the chemical world. I hope it will be soon that we look at all the chemicals around us and see them as they, are assessing the potential benefits and harms paired together within each molecule, without politics or emotions getting in the way.

As for marijuana and my chiropractic practice… that is a much more complex issue, one I will explore in part two if this post.

Peter Fox DC

Healing Rivers Chiropractic

Davenport, Iowa

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How effective is this treatment?

A recent article by a Washington Post blogger commented on an analysis of the effectiveness of over 3,000 different medical interventions. The analysis was performed by the British Medical Journals Clinical Effectiveness project.

The results indicate that only 35% of medical treatments are likely to be beneficial and without negative side effects. Fully 50% of these medical interventions are complete unknowns in terms of their effectiveness. Basically, we do not know if over half of our medical interventions are likely to work or not.

When I first saw this article my knee jerk reaction was that this shows the incompetence of the medical profession as a whole. Chiropractors are often the doctor of last resort, so we see the mistakes of the medical profession more often than their successes.It must be easy for sanitation workers to develop a negative view of the people they clean up after. After all, they spend their whole day cleaning up our smelly garbage.

Then I thought about how extremely knowledgeable and competent many of the medical doctors I know are, and how much they genuinely care for their patients and seek to provide them the best care possible. I remembered the arguments I have had with friends who went to medical school and how passionate they are about saving lives. In the end it’s not always the mistakes of medical doctors that chiropractors see in their offices. Usually those doctors did a great job, it’s just that those patients would have been better served with chiropractic first.

So I decided to look at the study and see what it really says. The results weren’t so surprising when I looked at how they structured their investigation.

The study was an analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials – the gold standard of evidence in the evidence based medicine research hierarchy. These studies are notoriously difficult to design and perform and are extremely expensive. They attempt to take an intervention performed in the chaotic real world and strip it down to a few small variables that can be controlled and studied.

For some interventions this isn’t terribly difficult. For others it is near impossible. For example, how does one develop a control group for an intervention that isn’t well understood – chiropractic, acupuncture, massage? If you do not know how it works exactly, how can you develop a fake treatment that won’t work to compare against? How do you perform a believable fake massage or chiropractic adjustment? These difficulties, coupled with the great expense involved, make performing adequate numbers of Randomized Controlled Trials on these interventions unlikely.

And there is the rub. If there weren’t an adequate number of those trials for an intervention, they were lumped into the unknown effectiveness group.

Then there is the Randomized Controlled Trial (RCT) itself. Another article by the British Medical Journal analyzed the effectiveness of parachutes on the basis of the Randomized Controlled Trial. As there have been no RCT’s of parachutes (you can’t throw live, blindfolded people out of planes without a parachute) they determined that the effectiveness of the parachute could not be established by the Gold Standard of evidence based medicine.

That article was a spoof, a bit of British humor meant to entertain doctors stuck at the hospital during the Christmas season. They do a spoof article every Christmas and they are all very entertaining to anyone who has undergone a healthcare education. What isn’t funny about this parachute article is how similar it was to the article studying 3,000 real medical interventions. During times of a budget crunch studies like this can be used to justify restricting treatments or not covering them through private or public health insurance plans. As Medicare consumes an ever increasing percentage of our nations GDP, you can be certain that studies like this will be performed to choose where to trim the fat. When the political pen-stroke falls, it is likely to cut out some very beneficial treatments, simply because they are not conducive to the gold standard study design.

My point is to take exaggerated stories like this with a grain of salt, realize that science has its limitations and when merged with public policy decisions those limitations can take on a life of their own. In the end effectiveness is measured by the individual, not by bureaucrats and their paper or scientists in carefully controlled laboratories that in no way resemble real life. Science is a tool meant to serve us. We are not its slaves, as any paratrooper can be thankful for.

Peter Fox DC

Healing Rivers Chiropractic

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The $5 a Month Probiotic Class

Come join Dr Fox at Greatest Grains on Harrison street February 23rd at 11:00 am to learn how to make probiotics at home for cheap. This ambitious one hour class will teach you how to safely and easily ferment vegetables, dairy products, fruits and honey into delicious foods and beverages that will provide a broad spectrum of probiotic organisms.

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