Spinal Strategists

Feeling Bad? Got A Cold? Flu? TB? Polio? See Your Chiropractor!

May 1974By Comments

“Oof!” I grunted as my breath left me.

“I think you’ll come to enjoy your treatments after a while,” said my chiropractor. “Most of my patients actually look forward to their sessions.”

“I’m—oof!—sure I will,” I gasped while the bones in my neck popped in succession as my head was twisted farther and farther around.

I was getting the full benefit of the $35 I had paid for a complete “chiropractic spinal analysis.” So far, I had been poked, palpated, questioned, massaged, hot-packed, and x-rayed. Now I was undergoing the pièce de resistance of chiropractic art—the adjustment. Adjustments consist of forcibly pushing the bones of the spine into a straight line. It hurts a little and makes a distressing popping noise. Chiropractors feel that adjustments can cure some diseases and help to prevent others.

The US Public Health Service estimates that four million people in the United States visit a chiropractor for various ailments each year. In Texas, there are between 850 and 900 practicing chiropractors, or DCs. There is a chiropractic college in Pasadena and a state association. Medicare, Medicaid, and Workmen’s Compensation all pay for chiropractic treatment, as do some health insurance policies. Many people will swear up and down that without their chiropractors they’d be in wheelchairs or worse.

Medical doctors in general, and the Texas Medical Association (TMA) in particular, detest chiropractors. “Chiropractic,” says TMA, “is an unscientific cult whose practitioners lack the necessary training and background to diag nose and treat human disease. Chiropractic constitutes a hazard to rational health care in the United States because of the substandard and unscientific education of its practitioners and their rigid adherence to an irrational, unscientific approach to disease causation.” Medical doctors are not supposed to associate with chiropractors or refer patients to them. The TMA wages an ongoing battle in the Texas Legislature with the Texas Chiropractic Association (TCA), and the TMA public relations office is crammed with anti-chiropractic leaflets and books. The two groups apparently spy on one another. I was briefly suspected by a chiropractor of being a “medical plant.”

The public seems to be more or less unaware of this mini-war. Public attitudes range from complete ignorance of what a chiropractor does to unreserved devotion to a particular chiropractor. Most of this devotion comes from peopie in rural areas where the chiropractor is sometimes the only health care person in town, but there is no lack of urban adherents to chiropractic care. It is not unusual to hear people claim that a chiropractor cured an intractable sinus problem, or asthma, or a “slipped disc.”

Chiropractic was one of many medical theories of disease causation and treatment that sprang up in America in the 19th century. In addition, there were naturopathy, naprapathy, magnetic healing, homeopathy, osteopathy, and allopathy. Of these, only osteopathy, allopathy, and chiropractic have survived. There are scattered practitioners of the other systems, but they usually are ar rested for quackery before they have been in practice too long. One of the reasons that the prepotent American Medical Association was founded was to oppose quackery.

Chiropractic was discovered by Dan iel David Palmer, a grocer and magnetic healer, in 1895. Chiropractors like to point out that this is the same year that Wilhelm Röntgen discovered the roentgen ray, or x-ray, which is the main diagnostic tool of the chiropractor. Palmer, in his Textbook of the Science, Art and Philosophy of Chiropractic, Founded on Tone, says that on the same street where he had his office in Davenport, Iowa, there was a janitor who had been deaf for seventeen years. The janitor mentioned that his deafness had started when he felt a bone pop in his back as he was lifting a heavy load. Palmer reasoned that if the vertebra were snapped back into place, the man might be helped. Sure enough, when the mis aligned vertebra had been adjusted, the man could hear again. Palmer dropped his magnetic healing and grocery business and began to stump for his new science of chiropractic. Palmer College of Chiropractic is still in existence in Davenport.

Palmer decided that the cause of all disease stems from “subluxated,” or misaligned, vertebrae. When a vertebra is out of line, he reasoned, nerves which lead from the spine to other parts of the body are pinched, cutting off the flow of “vital nerve energy” to the various or gans. When the misaligned vertebra is put back into place, this energy is restored, along with the patient’s health. The official definition of modern chiropractic, as published in the U.S. Vocational Guide, reads: “Chiropractic is a system of treatment based on the premise that the nervous system controls all other systems and physiological functions of the human body; that interference with the nerve control of these systems impairs their functions and induces disease by rendering the body less resistant to infection or other exciting causes.”

Today, the chiropractor uses x-rays to determine the location of misaligned vertebrae. He then snaps these vertebrae back into place by manipulation of the spinal cord. Some chiropractors, called “mixers,” also use non-prescription diet ary supplements, and heat and water therapy. They do not use drugs, perform surgery, or immunize against disease, and generally do not operate special chiropractic hospitals. They are accused by medical doctors of keeping patients with treatable diseases from going to medical doctors, and of sometimes indirectly causing the deaths of these patients. The chiropractor, in turn, accuses the medical profession of trying to run him out of business for economic motives, and says that MDs cause just as many deaths with their use of drugs and surgery.

I was the first patient of the day for “my” chiropractor. The reception room was small, reminiscent of the waiting rooms of country doctors, and neat. There were several copies of W. Clement Stone’s Success, magazine around. I was given the inevitable form to fill out: name, address, age, Social Security number, insurance, when did you have this accident? have you seen an attorney? what is his name? Chiropractors see lots of Workmen’s Compensation cases. They are useful witnesses for attorneys who can’t get MDs or DOs (osteopaths) to certify a plaintiff’s disability.

Soon, I was ushered into the doctor’s office, a small dark room lighted only by a long light panel used for viewing x-rays. The room was cluttered; there was a desk, adjustment table, cabinets, books, stray mail, and a black wool coat trimmed in white mink.

My chiropractor, a young attractive woman with a pleasant voice, looked over my forms and asked me about my complaints. They were created for the occasion, and vague: abdominal pains, diarrhea, nervousness, a few headaches, sinus problems. Nonetheless, my doctor felt she might be able to help me, especially with the head aches and sinus trouble. While talking, I noticed that my chiropractor held a bachelor of science degree in home economics from The University of Texas, a special certificate to treat children’s nervous and learning disabilities, and a DC (doctor of chiropractic) from Texas Chiropractic College.

Texas Chiropractic College (TCC) is housed in a former country club building in Pasadena. Pictures of the school prominently display the triangular swimming pool. It is difficult to determine how many students attend the school—TCA head Charlie E. Walker would say only that the school graduated three times as many students in 1973 as it did three years ago. Anyone licensed to be a chiropractor in Texas is required to complete four years of chiropractic college and two years of undergraduate college. The school works closely with San Jacinto Junior College where aspiring chiropractors take courses in the basic sciences of anatomy, physiology, hygiene, chemistry, bacteriology, pathology, and public health. A passing grade in these courses is required for certification in the basic sciences by the State Board of Examiners in the Basic Sciences, a prerequisite to the licensing of MDs and DOs as well.

TCC students have to take courses at San Jacinto Junior College because coursework undertaken at TCC is not accepted as transfer credit by The University of Texas, the criterion which the basic science board uses to judge accept ability of credit. Instead of taking the courses at San Jacinto, candidates for certification can take the basic science examination, but board records show that in the past two fiscal years, no chiropractic candidates have done so. By comparison, three DO candidates and 715 MD candidates have taken and passed the state exam in the same period.

W. D. Harper, BS, MS, DC, EEC, FICC, is president of TCC. He is also the author of the chiropractic textbook, Anything Can Cause Anything. Dr. Harper attained some minor notoriety when he testified in the 1965 case of England v. Louisiana Board of Medical Examiners, where a group of chiropractors sought a court order which would allow them to practice in the state. They lost, and Louisiana remains the only state in the US where the practice of chiropractic is forbidden.

Harper’s testimony included his theory of the cause of disease:

Q: In your book, Dr. Harper, I get the impression from reading it that at one point you say that some workings of the individual psychic thought could cause a subluxation?

A: Yes, because psychic irritation of the nervous system can through irritation of the cord and into the anterior horn cause muscle contraction and in turn produce a subluxation in which case the subluxation becomes one of the symptoms of the complex, not the cause of the phenomena as long as the original irritation, be it clinical or psychic, remains.

Q: Could you tell us what vertebra is affected by cross-examination?

A: All of them.

Q: So that the gamut of disease is possible as a result of being a witness?

A: Chronic irritation of the nervous system.

Q: You could get polio?

A: It’s possible.

The college catalog lists seven other permanent faculty members, all except one of whom hold bachelor of arts or bachelor of science degrees in addition to their DCs. Of the nine associate faculty members, none is listed as holding any degree other than DC. Courses are taught in pathology, neurology, anatomy and physiology, roentgenology, physical therapy, technique and principles of chiropractic, practice management, insurance, law, obstetrics and gynecology, kinesiology, cardiology, geriatrics, pediatrics, first aid, nutrition, spinal dynamics, and ethics. There is an “extern” program during the last two years when the students practice at the college’s clinic.

TCC entrance requirements call for a high school diploma and 60 semester hours of college credit. The catalog states: “In the fall of 1974, a student can enter the Texas Chiropractic College with 60 sem. hrs. of academic credits in random subjects, but it would be advisable to get 8 hrs. of Biology and 8 hrs. of Inorganic Chemistry if possible before registration.” The school charges $600 per long semester and $200 for the summer term. In addition, students must pay tuition at San Jacinto. Once a student has fulfilled the basic science requirements, graduated from a chiropractic school, and passed the licensing exam given by the State Board of Chiropractic Examiners, he can set up practice.

My chiropractor’s practice seemed to be going well. A glance at her appoint ment book showed she was engaged for two weeks ahead, but she never seemed hurried in her treatment of me. After our interview in her office, she took me into her examination room. Here, the cluttered motif was carried over. The room held a long table, a huge rectangular frame crisscrossed with strings on pulleys, a dirty sink with a can of Comet in it, a shelf holding a thermometer in a Taster’s Choice jar, a file cabinet with x-rays poking out, and various instruments.

First, she ran her hands up and down my back, writing notes on my chart in a rather bemused manner. Then, I stood inside the steel frame and the doctor maneuvered the strings up and down to determine, I think, whether my shoulders were level (they were). Next, I put a white plastic contraption on my head. It consisted of a circular headband with two protractors mounted on it, one in front and one on one side. As you move your head forward and back, a needle on the side protractor bounces; the front protractor does the same thing when you move your head from side to side. The chiropractor wrote the figures she derived down on my chart. Another protractor, this a giant one, fitted around my shoulders. When I placed my chin in the chinholder, which was attached to the needle, and turned my head, the chiropractor wrote down more measure ments on my chart. Finally, she took my blood pressure. A standard cuff was fitted around my right arm; after it was inflated, my doctor put her stethoscope to my arm to listen for the blood flow.

“Hmm, you must have low blood pressure, I can’t hear anything,” she said. “We’ll try the other arm.”

That didn’t seem to yield any results either because she looked puzzled and didn’t write anything down. After looking over her information, the doctor said she’d need some x-rays to really determine my problem. They were only $30, she said, and she could do them right then.

In the x-ray room, I was backed up against a wall while the diminutive doctor struggled with the heavy machine. We got four nice shots of my spine and head from all angles, and I was sent back to the office to wait while my films were developed. While I was waiting, the doctor gave me a voluminous “health evaluation form” to fill out. There were four pages of questions: are you bothered by loud thumping of your heart? do you tremble when you talk to your boss? is your family sickly? The answers were rated 0–3. I noticed that the form had been printed by the Parker Chiropractic Research Foundation and that a chart on the wall came from a group called Share International.

These two organizations are owned mainly by a chiropractor named James W. Parker, and are headquartered in the same office on Burleson Road in Fort Worth. Dr. Parker and his foundation are business phenomena in chiro practic circles. A graduate of Palmer College, Parker organized the Parker Chiropractic Research Foundation, Inc., in 1960. The stated purposes of the corporation, which has made Parker a very rich man, are to conduct and operate chiropractic schools, to conduct seminars for chiropractors and the general public, to own, lease and construct chiropractic hospitals and clinics, and to manufacture and sell “merchandise of every class and description.”

It is illegal for a chiropractor to have branch clinics in Texas, so Parker bought a chain of about eighteen clinics and leased them to young chiropractors, allowing them to buy his interest after a couple of years. But the real business of the foundation, in addition to disseminating floods of brochures, is to con duct seminars in practice-building for the chiropractor. These seminars got a black eye in 1969 when Ralph Lee Smith, author of At Your Own Risk, The Case Against Chiropractic, managed to infiltrate a session at the Texas Hotel in Fort Worth.

When he arrived at the seminar, Smith reports he was given a 336–page multigraphed book called Textbook of Office Procedure and Practice Building for the Chiropractor. At the first meeting, “Dr. Jim” told his audience, “At these sessions, I intend to teach you all the gimmicks, gadgets, and gizmos that can be used to get new patients . . . thinking, feeling, acting determine the amount of money you will take to the bank. . . . Remember, enthusiasm is the yeast that raises the dough.” Participants were given tips on convincing patients that acute problems are symptoms of chronic ones, how to advertise for patients, how to maintain an office, and how to handle patients.

Chiropractors say Parker is merely a good public relations man and that there is nothing wrong with public relations. It is true that MDs have their own “practice management seminars”—the TMA sponsors one each fall, and at one of last year’s sessions, the talk was called “How to Keep More of What You Make.” At MD seminars, however, the emphasis seems to be placed more on what some people consider the doctor’s excess profits and their manage ment, rather than how to get business. Fair or foul, Parker’s seminars are well attended and his brochures pop up in chiropractors’ offices all over America.

Parker’s other company, Share International, Inc., was founded in 1962. It is the manufacturing arm of the Parker empire with the stated purposes of buy ing, selling, and printing chiropractic supplies and equipment, publishing periodicals for chiropractors and the public, and buying, selling, and making goods of every class and description. One source reports that at chiropractic con ventions the Share International display takes up a whole room, and visiting chiropractors are given grocery carts in which to gather up their booty.

The Parker firms are still doing a big business in Texas. Parker is also on the faculty of Texas Chiropractic College, where he teaches practice management.

Parker, according to Smith, says x-rays should be given to most patients that come into the office and that they should be the “big 14 by 36 glamor photos if for no other reason than psychological.”

My chiropractor didn’t disappoint me—when she came in with my x-rays, they were indeed the “glamor photo” size, and I must say they looked very nice, although I was a little worried about that much of my body being exposed to radiation. When she mounted the films on the light panel she pointed out three subluxations, although I couldn’t quite see them. One of the misalignments, in my neck, was severe, she said. It seems that my neck is straight instead of curving outward—it could be the cause of my headaches, she observed, and decided a few adjustments were what I needed.

With some trepidation and much curiosity, I hopped onto the adjustment table. First, my back was smeared with a preparation that smelled and felt very much like Ben Gay. The lights in the room were doused and I was left to bask in the ultra-violet light. When, after about ten minutes, my chiropractor returned, she used a vibrator to loosen me up enough for the adjustment to “take.” It felt so nice, I almost forgot why I was there.

After being vibrated for a while, I still wasn’t loose enough, so I was covered with a wet heating pad and left to cook a little longer. When I had finally relaxed enough, my chiropractor placed both hands on the small of my back, and, after consulting my x-ray, pressed down hard. I felt and heard the bones pop. The same procedure was performed a little higher up between my shoulder blades, and then she moved to my neck. Neck adjustments are accomplished by sharp twisting motions, and the sound is really loud.

After each adjustment, I wiggled my toes to make sure I could still move. I’d just finished reading Ralph Lee Smith’s book, and as the chiropractor moved to ward my neck, I remembered the story he told about a Missouri woman who died after her neck was adjusted by a chiropractor in 1953.

Smith says that the woman sought out a chiropractor to treat a stiff neck problem which her medical doctor told her was due to muscle strain. At the chiropractor’s office, says Smith:

He took her head in his hands and moved it sharply, first in one direction and then in the other. Each time something popped and the woman screamed. “I’m falling,” she said several times, but the chiropractor continued to manipulate her neck . . .

After the adjustment the chiropractor and the woman’s husband helped her to a chair. She was unable to hold her head up, her hands and face were numb, and she began to vomit. She said that she felt no pain but she appeared to be in convulsions. She was helped to a cot where she continued to vomit and seemed to be without control of her movements. At this point the chiropractor called a medical doctor. The doctor recommended that the woman be taken to a hospital which was done; but she did not respond to treatment and died about eighteen hours later.

Medical doctors attributed the cause of the Missouri woman’s death to intraspinal bleeding and compression of the spinal cord.

In cases such as this, it is quite difficult to sustain a malpractice charge. In the 1951 Texas case of Nicodeme v. Bailey, the El Paso Court of Civil Appeals denied damages to a woman who claimed her neck had been permanently injured by a chiropractor. The usual test for malpractice is whether or not the treatment administered was in accordance with the accepted practice of other practitioners of the same school of medicine in the community. In both the El Paso and Missouri cases, other chiropractors testified that the chiropractor accused of malpractice was following accepted standards of treatment for chiropractors in that area, and damages were not awarded. It seems that it is easier to sustain a malpractice charge against a medical doctor, or against an osteopathic physician, who may also use drugs, surgery, and a variety of diagnostic techniques in addition to manipulation, than against a chiropractor with his limited techniques.

Fortunately, I was to have no such problems. After what seemed an interminable time, my chiropractor finished my adjustment.

She told me that, in view of the seriousness of my subluxation, I would need to return twice a week for four to six weeks at $7 a visit. I was beginning to be anxious to get away (I had been there two and a half hours) and I hastily agreed to return. As I was dress ing, a bill for $35 was poked through the curtain. I paid in the waiting room, made two appointments for the next week, and gathered a handful of pamphlets as I left.

Later at home, nursing the beginnings of a very sore back, I looked over my collection. I had picked up seven brochures: “Be Regular with Chiropractic Care,” “Chiropractic Medicare and You,” “Migraine Headache,” “Does Your Child Have Learning Problems?” “Why Chiropractic X-rays?” “This May Answer Your Question,” and “Carl the Cold.” Four of the seven bore the imprint of the Parker Foundation. I liked “Carl the Cold” best.

“One interesting thing about me,” Carl says, “is that I have defied medical science in its efforts to find out just how and why I can get into your system at all. There is general agreement that if body resistance is low, I can make my entry more easily, and hang around to make you uncomfortable longer. And, of course, I can lead to those more serious complications more easily. I have one serious enemy—the Doctor of Chiropractic.”

Carl goes on to explain that resistance to colds depends on nerve energy supply. By realigning the vertebrae, he says, the chiropractor can help your body restore itself to normal health.

The same brochure series lists several other titles including Arthur Arthritis, Louie the Liver, Nellie Nervousness, Asthma the Strangler, Constantine Constipation, ’Umphrey the Ulcer, Stan Stomach Trouble, Phoebe Female Trouble, Newt Neuritis, Curtis the Spinal Curvature, and Carey the Kidney.

Although all the brochures had mentioned disease, my chiropractor had been careful not to say that I had a disease or that she would be able to cure anything. Instead, I was told that I had three subluxations which might be causing headaches (the other complaints were skipped), and that adjustments might help to clear up the headaches. However, one of the brochures had stated “everyone whose spine is out of line is sick, to a greater or lesser degree, and he continues to be sick until these mechanical defects are eliminated.” So if I have three subluxations, I must be sick, and if I’m sick (although I wasn’t when I went in), why doesn’t the chiropractor say so?

The answer lies in Texas law. Chiropractors cannot practice medicine and therefore cannot purport to treat a disease. The Texas law is one of those Catch–22 kinds of things which arose as a result of MD–DC warfare. The law sharply circumscribes the chiropractor’s field of practice, limiting him to adjustment of misalignments of the spine. The Texas Chiropractic Act of 1949 defines a chiropractor as “any person who shall employ objective or subjective means without the use of drugs, surgery, X-ray therapy or radium therapy, for the purpose of ascertaining the alignment of the vertebrae of the human spine, and the practice of adjusting the vertebrae to correct any subluxation or misalignment thereof . . .”

Until this year, most chiropractors were able to live with the law. Then, in late February, Attorney General John Hill made a ruling which interpreted the Chiropractic Act as prohibiting the chiropractor from practicing medicine. Hill’s ruling was made in response to a request from the Constitutional Convention’s Committee on General Provisions which was considering whether or not to include Article XVI, Section 31, of the present Texas Constitution in the re vised version. As usual, there was a minor scrap going on between the TCA and the TMA over the matter, and the attorney general’s ruling got the committee on general provisions neatly off the hook.

The section in question is short and seemingly simple: “The Legislature may pass laws prescribing the qualifications of practitioners of medicine in this State, and to punish persons for malpractice, but no preference shall ever be given by law to any schools of medicine.” (“Schools of medicine” here means theories of treatment, not actual schools.) The TMA, through lobbyist Ace Pickens, argued for including the section unchanged in the new constitution; the TCA, through Charlie Walker, its lobbyist, asked that the section be thrown out. TMA argued that the section protects the public by ensuring that the legislature can never prescribe lower standards for one group of practitioners than for another. Thus, said TMA, even though there may be different methods of treatment, the public can rest assured that all practitioners of medicine have met certain minimum requirements.

The TCA said that the real reason TMA wanted the section was so it could drive chiropractors out of business. Walker said that the section would allow the legislature to require chiropractors to take the same boards and undergo the same schooling as medical doctors, thus eliminating chiropractic as a separate branch of the healing arts. In essence, argued TCA, the section would make medical doctors of everyone.

These arguments understandably put committee members in a quandary. The TMA is considered to be a powerful lobby, backed with as much money as it takes to do the job. But TCA has money, too, and lots of voters would not take kindly to abolishing chiropractic which is what chiropractors claimed would happen if the section were left in. A couple of delegates on the committee were approached by their personal chiropractors. So, it was decided to seek an attorney general’s ruling on what would happen if the section were retained.

Hill’s ruling said that Texas chiropractors do not practice medicine and because they “cannot lawfully treat the body generally for diseases or disorder … we believe the courts will hold that chiropractic … no longer is a branch of the practice of medicine.” If chiropractic were not a branch of the practice of medicine, it would not be subject to the “no preference” clause of Section 31, and so the committee recommended retention of the article and section, thus satisfying the medical profession with out endangering the chiropractor—and getting committee members out of an other tight spot created by the old rivalry.

Charlie Walker is on hand for most of the legislative battles with the MDs— he calls them “medics”—and he feels that the provision is a “Sword of Damocles” hanging over his profession. Walker is a likeable person who seems really to believe in the powers of chiropractic. He says he holds no brief against the medical profession and he and his family go to medical doctors for some ailments. Walker likes to think of chiropractic as a sort of specialty branch of medicine, akin to neurology or orthopedics. He believes chiropractors could work with MDs, supplementing their care in the area of spinal manipulation. However, no matter how much Walker may believe in the benefits of chiropractic, he can no longer say that a chiropractor can cure, or even treat, a disease.

In this sense, the constitutional battle was a loss for TCA.

Dr. Walker says that legislators are so afraid of TMA, that even when they express private agreement with chiropractic’s positions, and may even go to a chiropractor themselves, they often will not vote with chiropractic for fear of alienating TMA and its political arm, Texpac, which hands out money at election time. Even though he doesn’t feel that the legislature will ever outlaw chiropractic, he thinks the TCA must always fight a defensive action.

Actually, Walker’s lobbying record (and that of another former lobbyist for chiropractic, Waggoner Carr) isn’t bad. TCA has succeeded in getting Workman’s Compensation and Medicaid and Medicare coverage for chiropractic services, although the association lost a fight in the last session to have chiropractic services included as a routine item in health insurance policies.

Instrumental in that defeat were TMA lobbyists Ace Pickens and Sam Stone. (Phil Overton, who heads TMA’s lobbying team, is becoming less and less active.) Pickens, a former state representative from Odessa, is legislature–wise and knows how to talk. Stone is an attorney who has considerable medico-legal experience. Their attitude toward chiropractic can be kindly described as scoffing. The TCA is taken seriously, however, and TMA seldom misses a chance to damage chiropractors in legislative battles, although they claim they are not trying to drive their rivals out of business.

Some legislators think differently. After the constitutional convention fight, Senator Roy Harrington of Port Arthur was quoted as saying, “The medical association said they had heard of no move to get rid of chiropractic, but we all remember moves on the floor to do just that.”

The inclusion of the section in the proposed new Constitution comes close to eliminating chiropractic, as far as its practitioners are concerned. Chiropractors are in the anomalous position of being “doctors” who do not treat disease. Of course, the section can be circumvented by the “straights” in the profession—those who use manipulation exclusively. Since straights think disease stems from subluxations anyway, the fact that they are limited to correcting misalignments of vertebrae is immaterial. But for “mixers,” the law presents a problem. Mixers use other means of therapy such as heat and light treatments and dietary supplements in addition to manipulation, and the recent interpretation of the Chiropractic Act could be construed to prohibit them from using these other methods.

One mixer’s office I visited was superficially not unlike my chiropractor’s. There’s a large neon sign outside with his name on it, and there is a small, rather shabby waiting room. Beyond the reception area is a larger room with three adjusting tables, and in a partitioned section of the large room is the mixer’s private office. Again, the office is amazingly cluttered—this time with books, newspaper clippings, charts, and drawings. Here is another adjusting table, and there is just enough room to squeeze behind the desk.

The mixer is militant about his methods and the new law. He says he’ll go on treating patients as he sees fit as long as he can. He pulls out copies of laws, ethics, textbooks, letters, all about chiropractic. He resents the fact that hospitals will not allow him to see x-rays of patients who came to him after visiting a medical doctor.

He is quite free with his x-rays. He showed me about five sets of his patients’ subluxations along with letters and reports from their charts. While looking at the x-rays, I noticed an unusual table in a nook to my left. It was covered with straps. Underneath the table were some chains, and above it the wall looked like a tack room— there were straps and harnesses and buckles of all kinds. The mixer told me later that the harnesses were used for putting patients in traction on the table and for stretching them when their spines were compressed. The table wasn’t a pleasant sight.

Brochures in the mixer’s office came from the American Chiropractic Association—the International Chiropractors Association is for straights. They included works on heart trouble, abnormal blood pressure, sciatica, the need for Chirocare (national chiropractic health insurance), women in chiropractic, and one lone brochure for a catering service.

In “Heart Trouble,” the authors say: “Chiropractic is the only system which logically seeks and effectively corrects the cause of heart disease. The taking of drugs is ineffective because drugs can only stimulate or inhibit the action of the heart. They cannot and do not correct the cause of the condition. This can only be done by relieving the pressure on those nerve fibers which supply the heart and this only the Chiropractor is capable of doing.”

I left the mixer’s office rather hurriedly.

Are chiropractors really hazardous to your health? Before I actually went to one, I not only believed that they could be dangerous, but that they might be ogres as well—I went to a female because I was afraid to disrobe in front of a male chiropractor, “doctor” or not. I found my chiropractor to be a nice person. She seemed concerned about me, she did not write off my complaints to “nerves” as many medical doctors might have done, and she was willing to spend quite a bit of time with me. Medical doctors could learn a lot from my chiropractor’s bedside manner. They might also find that spending a little more time and being a bit more patient could lower their malpractice in surance rates.

Chiropractors pay substantially lower malpractice insurance premiums than medical doctors. One chiropractor told me that he paid only $16 per year for malpractice insurance while many medical doctors pay $5000 or more each year for similar coverage. Social science buffs attribute much of this cost to the fact that medical care is becoming more expensive, more specialized, and more impersonal; and a patient who feels no personal attachment for his doctor is a lot more likely to sue for injuries, real or imagined, than is one who feels that his doctor has honestly tried to help him and has an interest in him as a person. Unfortunately, the old saw about “take two aspirin and call me tomorrow” is all too true.

Perhaps, but unfortunately, there is no firm scientific evidence that chiropractic has any benefits at all. Until recently, no one, including chiropractors, had ever experimented to see just how much vertebral displacement is necessary before a spinal nerve is impinged upon. In the September–October, 1973, issue of American Scientist, Edmund S. Crelin, MD, reported a study he had conducted at Yale University School of Medicine. He took the vertebral columns from six cadavers within three to six hours after the death of each. Using a drill press and a metal vise, Crelin exerted up to 200 pounds of pressure on the columns in an attempt to find the point at which the vertebrae would begin to impinge upon the nerves running from them. He found that even when the spinal column was bent past the point which the body would allow it to bend in a living person, the nerves running from the spine were not interfered with.

His conclusion: “This experimental study demonstrates conclusively that the subluxation of a vertebra as defined by chiropractic — the exertion of pressure on a spinal nerve which by interfering with the planned expression of Innate Intelligence produces pathology — does not occur.”

Medical authorities are unanimous in their agreement that chiropractic does not work. There are varying opinions on whether or not it is definitely harmful. Some physicians will say privately that it’s okay to visit a chiropractor, while others contend that physical damage is sure to result. It is true that there are many “horror stories” of what chiropractors have done to their patients, but using these as arguments against chiropractors is fruitless because there is certainly no shortage of medical horror stories.

The only basis for argument is scientific evidence, which indicates that chiropractic treatment cannot cure disease. Experimental studies which show that it always hurts are next to nonexistent, consisting mainly of testimony from physicians about patients they have seen who have been hurt by chiropractors.

So the decision as to whether or not to use a chiropractor is left to the in dividual. The practice of chiropractic is legal in Texas and the profession seems to be well-entrenched. Chiropractors will be around for at least a few years longer.

As for me, my neck aches, my back aches, and I’m not going back.

Martha Hume is a former assistant editor to Texas Medicine, the scientific journal of the Texas Medical Association.

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