In the past few weeks I’ve had a number of comments on my blog and direct messages from osteopaths and chiropractors unhappy with some of my blog content. Some valid points were raised and I’m in the process of amending blog posts accordingly. I also plan to review all of my old blog posts over the coming months and refresh them where needed. I’m always open to discussion about the contents of my blog and happy to make amendments if what I’ve written is shown to be incorrect. However, some commenters felt that significant proportions of my blog were unreasonable and that this was intended as some sort of “attack” on the two professions and that I am “scaremongering”. I’d like to explore that further here.
There have, for many years, been a number of serious issues in the chiropractic and osteopathy professions in the UK. This includes things like misleading advertising, treating conditions for which there is no evidence of effectiveness, claiming that childbirth is “traumatic” and many others. I’d like to make it clear that this does not mean that all chiropractors and osteopaths are “bad” and a danger to the public. I’m aware that there are some members of these professions who work very hard to ensure their knowledge is up-to-date, that their treatments are in-line with relevant guidelines and that they do not mislead the public. I would not seek to criticise these individuals. However, there are serious deep-seated problems within these two professions that do need to be addressed.
Here is a selection of some of the most serious issues. This is not intended to be an exhaustive list and is not in any particular order:
- Using cranial osteopathy and craniosacral therapy treatments. These are nonsensical treatments based on something that doesn’t actually exist.
- Treating babies for “birth trauma” and other infant conditions such as colic, tongue tie and feeding problems. There is no evidence that babies experience “birth trauma” and osteopathy and chiropractic have not been shown to be effective for any infant condition.
- Treatment of non-musculoskeletal conditions such as asthma, autism, ADHD or mental health problems. Osteopathy and chiropractic have not been shown to be effective for any of these conditions.
- Ongoing significant issues with misleading advertising in spite of many years of work and the issuing of clear guidance by the Advertising Standards Authority (with support from the General Osteopathic Council and the General Chiropractic Council)
- Offering unscientific and unproven treatments such as homeopathy, reflexology, reiki and naturopathy either delivered by a chiropractor / osteopath directly or within the same clinic.
- The leading osteopathic training institution, The University College of Osteopathy, offering osteopaths training in treatment of respiratory conditions in children. There is no evidence that osteopathy is effective for these conditions, some of which are serious and can be life-threatening.
- The leading professional membership organisation for osteopaths, The Institute of Osteopathy, found in breach of advertising guidelines.
- The leading professional membership organisation for chiropractors, the British Chiropractic Association, making unsubstantiated and misleading claims such as the “harm” of wearing high heels and skinny jeans (as well as many other issues). There is no evidence that these things are harmful and trying to scare members of the public into not wearing skinny jeans just undermines the reputation of the chiropractic profession.
- The osteopathic regulator, the General Osteopathic Council (GOsC), allowing advertising of training for osteopaths in conditions that they are not allowed to advertise to treat.
Even before looking at the effectiveness of the treatments offered by chiropractors and osteopaths (which is far from compelling but I won’t be covering in this post) it’s clear that there are serious issues within these two professions. I would therefore argue that rather than “scaremongering” or “attacking” these professions I’m actually protecting the public from unsuitable treatments and approaches. This is particularly important as the problems are clearly deeply embedded within these professions as they exist within the leading professional membership organisations, a leading educational institution and even the regulator. This is clearly not just a problem with a few fringe osteopaths and chiropractors.
The need for reform
Maybe there are some osteopaths or chiropractors reading this and thinking: “Actually I agree with this, I’d like to see this nonsense out of my profession” (or words to that effect). If that’s the case then you need to do something to tackle the issues. The level of reform that’s needed can only be achieved from within the professions themselves rather than from outside. It won’t be easy because the issues are so deeply embedded but it is necessary if osteopaths and chiropractors want to be taken more seriously as healthcare professionals.
Thanks for reading. Any comments / questions / discussion points always welcome – please use the comment box below.