Chiropractors running scared

Awww…just when I was planning a blog post examining some of the outrageous and unsubstantiated claims being made on the websites of countless British chiroquacktors, I come across the email — courtesy of and copied below — telling them to take down their websites. As I’ve been sitting back munching popcorn for the last week while others have been toiling away in pursuit of truth and justice I can’t, alas, take any of the credit for provoking this extraordinary panic action, so I feel I must at least do my bit to help spread the good news. It’s only fair.

A quick recap:

Last year, Simon Singh wrote a piece for The Guardian newspaper in which he said the British Chiropractic Association claims its members can “treat children with colic, sleeping and feeding problems, frequent ear infections, asthma and prolonged crying”. Singh said there wasn’t “a jot of evidence” for these claims and accused the BCA of “happily promoting bogus therapies”. Turning down offers from the Guardian for a 500-word rebuttal where they could have countered the allegation about bogus therapies with the evidence they insist exists, the BCA instead sued Simon Singh. At the preliminary hearing, Justice Eady ruled that in using the word ‘bogus’, Simon Singh was stating that the BCA was being dishonest and that, should the case go to full trial, the onus will be on Simon to prove that the BCA were being deliberately dishonest. Simon, to our delight, has declared he will appeal.

For those who don’t know what chiropractic is:

Well, the inventor of chiropractic hypothesised that vertebral joint misalignments — for which he invented the term subluxations — interfered with the body’s ability to heal itself and that therefore all manner of ailments can be sorted out through manual manipulation of the spine. (Click here for an example of how chiroquacks can kill.)

Whilst it may be true that some chiropractors today have shed that hypothesis and are striving to promote chiropractic as a respectable treatment for back pain, a great many chiropractors continue to claim to be able to treat conditions that have nothing to do with the back, including colic, ear infections and asthma. What’s more, some of these chiropractors are deliberately misleading the public by calling themselves ‘Dr’ without making it clear that they are only Doctors of Chiropractic, which is not a medical qualification.

So, angered by the BCA action and Justice Eady’s decision, nerds and skeptics all over the country have been provoked into challenging, exposing and complaining about false and misleading claims being made on chiropractic websites. Kudos in particular to Zeno who complained about no fewer than 523 chiroquacks!

The email, which has been enthusiastically greeted by science bloggers, is from the McTimoney Chiropractic Association. Unfortunately, they have taken down their own website —  the link is to the google cache and won’t last — so I don’t know who they are but who cares? Whoever they are, their description of the campaign against chiroquacktic as a “witch hunt” seems apt. For what better way to describe the ludicrous pre-science notion of subluxations than as witchcraft?

One would have thought that sometime between Simon Singh’s article first appearing in April 2008 and the preliminary hearing over a year later, someone would have come up with the scientific support for the claims they make and all the members of these chiroquacktic assocations would have referenced it on their websites. Or at least they would have privately acknowledged that the evidence doesn’t exist, that the claims are indeed bogus and simply cleaned up their websites so they couldn’t be challenged in this way. (I’ll hazard a guess that anyone who took the trouble to complain on behalf of all of us too busy or lazy to do so will have shown a bit more foresight that the chiroquacks and  saved copies of all the websites they complained about.)

That the email advises members they risk prosecution if they don’t follow the advice to take down their websites and remove patient leaflets sounds like an admission that they’re promoting bogus therapies and any chiroquack following this advice will look as guilty as hell.  It’s a lose-lose situation.

No wonder they’re crapping themselves.  I wonder if chiropractic works for that?

Here’s the email in full:

Date: 8 June 2009 09:12:18 BDT


Dear Member

If you are reading this, we assume you have also read the urgent email we sent you last Friday.  If you did not read it, READ IT VERY CAREFULLY NOW and  – this is most important – ACT ON IT.  This is not scaremongering.  We judge this to be a real threat to you and your practice.

Because of what we consider to be a witch hunt against chiropractors, we are now issuing the following advice:

The target of the campaigners is now any claims for treatment that cannot be substantiated with chiropractic research.  The safest thing for everyone to do is as follows.

1. If you have a website, take it down NOW.

When you have done that, please let us know preferably by email or by phone. This will save our valuable time chasing you to see whether it has been done.

2. REMOVE all the blue MCA patient information leaflets, or any patient information leaflets of your own that state you treat whiplash, colic or other childhood problems in your clinic or at any other site where they might be displayed with your contact details on them.  DO NOT USE them until further notice. The MCA are working on an interim replacement leaflet which will be sent to you shortly.

3. If you have not done so already, enter your name followed by the word ‘chiropractor’ into a search engine such as Google (e.g. Joe Bloggs chiropractor) and you will be able to ascertain what information about you is in the public domain e.g. where you might be listed using the Doctor title or where you might be linked with a website which might implicate you. We have found that even if you do not have a website yourself you may still have been linked inadvertently to a website listing you or your services.




4. If you use business cards or other stationery using the ‘doctor’ title and it does not clearly state that you are a doctor of chiropractic or that you are not a registered medical practitioner, STOP USING THEM immediately.

5. Be wary of ‘mystery shopper’ phone calls and ‘drop ins’ to your practice, especially if they start asking about your care of children, or whiplash, or your evidence base for practice.



Although this advice may seem extreme or alarmist, its purpose is to protect you.  The campaigners have a target of making a complaint against every chiropractor in the UK who they perceive to be in breach of the GCC’s CoP, the Advertising Standards Code and/or Trading Standards.  We have discovered that complaints against more than 500 individual chiropractors have been sent to the GCC in the last 24 hours.

Whatever you do, do not ignore this email and make yourself one of the victims. Some of our members have not followed our earlier advice and now have complaints made against them.  We do not want that to happen to you.

Even if you do not have a website, you are still at risk. Our latest information suggests that this group are now going through Yellow Pages entries. Be in no doubt, their intention is to scrutinise every single chiropractor in the UK.

The MCA Executive has worked tirelessly over the last week keeping abreast of development and contacting at risk members.  We have decided that this is our best course of action to protect you and the Association at this time of heightened tension.  This advice is given to you solely to protect you from what we believe is a concerted campaign, and does not imply any wrongdoing on your part or the part of the Association.  We believe that our best course of action is simply to withdraw from the battleground until this latest wave of targeting is over.

Finally, we strongly suggest you do NOT discuss this with others, especially patients, Firstly it would not be ethical to burden patients with this, though if they ask we hope you now have information with which you can respond.

Most importantly, this email and all correspondence from the MCA is confidential advice to MCA members alone, and should not be shared with anyone else.

Please be aware that the office phone lines are likely to be busy, so, if you need our help, please send an email to the office and we will get back to you as soon as we can.


Berni Martin

MCA Chair.

Best wishes,


Nicki Choules-Rowe

Administrative Officer – Executive Liaison

McTimoney Chiropractic Association

Related posts by Skepticat:

The BCA v Simon Singh

BCA v Singh: The nerds are revolting

Related posts by other bloggers:

Zeno’s blog: Dont panic! Mr Mainwaring!

Lay Scientist: Chiropractors in Mass Website Withdrawal

Gimpy’s blog: McTimoney Chiropractic Association cut and run

David Colquoun: It would seem that the MCA think chiropractic is bogus

jdc325’s weblog: The McTimoney Letter: Remarkable Chiropractic Website Withdrawal

7 thoughts on “Chiropractors running scared”

  1. A remarkably telling tacit admission of clear bogosity!

    They (chiro-quax) just don’t learn, do they?
    They stumble from one P.R. disaster to another.

    I hope that they sow the seeds of their own demise.

  2. I’m a chiropractor, anyone got any questions they would like to ask me. Maybe I can dispell some of the myths I have read on different blogs.

  3. Hi Maria,

    let’s assume you’re a new patient to our clinic. I would ask you firstly to tell me all about what the problem is.

    I would then ask more in depth questions about this complaint, for example, where does it hurt? Does it radiate to any other areas? Do you have any sensory changes (ie. pins and needles, numbness etc.)?, what makes it worse? What makes it better? How did it happen?…………you get the picture.

    Only then would I ask the person if they suffered from any other problems such as headache like symptoms, neck pains, problems sleeping, shoulder pains etc. If they say yes to any or perhaps even all of these then I include these areas in the thorough spinal, orthopedic and neurological examination we carry out.

    So if this is treating the whole person then yes, but there should always be a problem to fix in the first place in my opinion.

    This is where I hope to answer the second part of your question. Do you get regular check ups at the dentist to avoid tooth decay? Do you get your car serviced regularly to prevent major engine problems?

    Our bodies are constantly put under stresses of everyday living, therefore, some patients like to have problem areas worked on at regular intervals (every one-six months perhaps) to help prevent their problem returning. Not every patient requires or wants this. It is always the patients choice, and I advise accordingly.

    I do this by using spinal manipulation, massage, postural advice, exercises programs, dry needling (like accupuncture) etc.

    I hope this answers your question Maria, if not then please feel free to prompt me to do it better 🙂

    And just a general last comment, I have no problem with anyone being sceptical as to whether chiropractic works for different conditions, everyone is entitled to their opinion. It is, however, stepping over the line when certain people assume that we are only in the profession to con people out of their money. This is simply untrue for the 99.9% of hard working honest chiropractors helping people every day.

  4. T,

    If I am not too late, please provide definitive evidence that chiropractic is safe and effective for anything other than low-back pain. I also exclude neck manipulation since there is not enough information to do a risk/benefit analysis.

    You only need to provide a few (2-3) articles, original research (not reviews), that you assert are the best available. Also, the articles should be about chiropractors, not anyone else (e.g., physiotherapists). It would be nice if the topic is a visceral disorder.


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