Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Update on Glasgow Chiropractic

Back in July, I blogged on Glasgow Chiropractic's claims to cure asthma, carpal tunnel syndrome, colic and period pains.

Following a complaint to the General Chiropractic council, Glasgow Chiropractic tweaked their website to remove some of their claims and to included a surprisingly truthful statement that "Chiropractic has never cured anyone of anything".

Since then, they have completely revamped their website, bringing in a ChiroMatrix, a "leader in Chiropractic website design" with the strapline "Raising healthier families".

This is quite a subtle but interesting shift happening within chiropractic - Chiropractors are salespeople, and as any sales guru will tell you , integrating your business with your client as much as possible makes repeat business more likely and therefore the business increases profitability. No longer are chiros happy to hand wave and back-crack, if they can peddle a philosophy of constant need, regular checkups, and a long-term 'wellness plan', they are on their way to the bank because:
Every person is unique, therefore everyone requires a customised wellness plan. The purpose of our wellness program is for you to achieve good spinal alignment, have a healthy diet, exercise, and maintain a positive mental state.
Long termism, think more of the model of the dentist, rather than the doctor.

Phase 1 of the Glasgow Chiropractic's "What to expect" is initial intensive care. Here we find the Humpty Dumpty language of what it means to cure:
Chiropractic does not 'cure' anything! If you are looking for a list of symptoms that Chiropractic has been shown to 'cure' then you will just end up more confused than when you started.
No, you'll end up realising that there is no real evidence that chiropractic has any effect over placebo or similarly administered therapy. But they wouldn't say that, now would they? They'd rather call you 'confused'. I can understand how someone would be confused - here they repeat the 'chiropractic has never cured anyone of anything' line then one paragraph later state
There are many 'conditions' that Chiropractic care has shown to provide assistance with.
- there's glory for you!

Phase 2 is Corrective Care. Bearing in mind the push for repeat business, how does this sit with you:
In order to prevent a rapid recurrence of symptoms, it is often necessary to continue receiving care even though your symptoms are gone.
Nice little earner - a therapy which does nothing will continue to do nothing long after whatever it was it was supposed to do is not even needed! Taking a leaf out of the homeopaths book, they have the 'heads-I-win-tails-you-lose' argument -
Do not be discouraged if you have mild flare-ups in your symptoms on occasion. This is normal.
Homeopaths have a similar get-out clause - called aggravation. i.e. if the problem gets better it shows the sugar pill is working, if the problem gets worse, it still shows the sugar-pill is working. Similarly with Chiropractic, if the pain goes, it was due to chiropractic, if it doesn't that in no way means that the therapy is not beneficial - how can you lose! As sugar on top,
this phase of your care may last anywhere from a few months to a couple of years.

Phase 3 is Wellness Care

When you make routine chiropractic care a part of your lifestyle, you avoid many of the aches and pains that so many people suffer through, your joints will last longer and you will be able to engage in more of the activities you love.
A completely unfalsifiable statement, but a slick sales ploy nonetheless.

It turns out that
Some of our offices are equipped with the very latest in technology designed to non-invasively test your nervous system very accurately. This technology uses a number of cutting edge techniques to give you a very detailed report on the integrity of your spine and nerves. These systems are called the 'Discovery Insight' or the 'Neuro-Infiniti' - please ask at reception about what technologies apply to you.
Doesn't that all sound very sciencey and exciting! Here is a bit more information on the Discovery Insight Subluxation Station. (Bear in mind, subluxations are a very undefined woolly concept in chiropractic, with no real agreement about what they are, so how anything can 'detect' them is a mystery). From the ad, it was used by NASA - oooooh.

Except it wasn't, as they've distanced themselves from it. Indeed, the Chiropractic Journal has launched an investigation regarding the sales practices of the companies behind such machines. Without a hint of irony they state:
The Chiropractic Journal has 23- year history of representing doctors of chiropractic and watching their backs. We will not sit by and see doctors taken advantage of by charismatic salesmen concerned and motivated purely by profit.

One last bit on Glasgow Chiropractic, in case you had thought they had launched the "cure nothing/heal the person" Chiropractic 2.0 free of therapeutic indications, here is a photo of the Glasgow Chiropractic stand in an East Kilbride shopping centre, complete with old school (and removed from their website) claims of colic.

I'll be sure to let the Advertising Standards Authority know.

So either their stand or the website is talking rubbish. I reckon it's both.

H/t to Blue Wode and Zeno



  1. Excellent post.

    As you indicate, the chiropractic "three phases of care" recommendation is a practice building tactic which is often promoted using 'patient education' materials such as those found here:

    The subluxation station is also a practice building tactic in the shape of a piece of equipment which, apparently, is designed to seriously impress patients with its dubious images:

    And a chiropractic 'aggravation', which is more commonly known as 'retracing', is, indeed, usually passed off by chiropractors as a necessary 'healing crisis':

    "Chiropractic patients occasionally experience the phenomenon of retracing. Retracing is the re-experiencing or re-awakening of pain or other symptoms, including memories or even emotions that seem suddenly to erupt to the surface. It appears to be a part of the healing process.


    Patients going though a particularly intense retracing pattern may feel as if they've had a serious relapse or are perhaps even getting worse.

    Although retracing experiences usually last a short time and often pass relatively quickly, patients have been known to terminate their care as a result of them. During this period it is especially important that the patient tell the doctor what is going on. Patients who terminate their care as a result of retracing symptoms will be cheating themselves of a healing experience."

    Bearing in mind that most chiropractors in the UK work in private practice, all of the above can be boiled down to two words: Caveat emptor.

  2. I love how the Alt.Reality gang don't get irony. The self awareness-free statement from the journal is a wonderful find.

    The usefulness of the "chiropractic subluxation stations" is multifold, saleswise.

    (i) "Blind 'em with science" (impress them with a shiny gadget which whirs and prints off whizzy graphs)

    (ii) more spurious and highly subjective variables measured means more things that "could be a little bit out of line" (and hence require treatment / adjustment - ker-chinng!)

    (iii) "comparison" - if you have fancy charts it is easier to shill for repeat business as you can make people think they need to come regularly to have their values "compared" with what they "recorded" before - and then this feeds back into (ii).

    The advertising of these kinds of machines to the chiropractors often makes (iii) quite explicit as part of the sales pitch.

    Caveat emptor indeed.

  3. Great post.

    As I wrote a while back, the "medicalization" of everyday life is not just something drug companies do. CAM practioners also do it - the idea that you need chiro (or nutrients, or homeopathy, or whatever) to feel good and stay well is medicalization as well.

    Interestingly, I suspect that this is the future of CAM. As real medicine gets better and better at treating real diseases, there will be little left for CAM to do except cater to the worried well. No-one uses CAM for bacterial infections because antibiotics work. No-one uses CAM for smallpox because vaccines eradicated it. When we can cure cancer no-one will use CAM for that either.

  4. I now await Crispian Jago writing up a parody of the infamous "Bring in the machine that goes 'ping!'" sketch.

  5. I complained to ASA about this mob back in 2008, so they will no doubt be familiar with the process.

  6. I wonder if any you guys have attended a chiro for intense treatment for any real health issues?.
    Thought not because if you had, you would not be critisizing their work.
    I could not walk every morning for a year.
    I was diagnosed with DDD after a MRI scan, at age 30 2 discs gone.
    I started treatment and yes expensive but I swear after 7 weeks I had no pain at night and I was able to walk again.
    My health in general improved millions.
    Oh and I was told they cant cure but can reduce the pain to a minimum so I could get a better quality of life again.
    And yes he achieved that and I got to the recovery stage and was down to one a fortnight, I stupidly stopped going and I can feel my self slowly going back the way again after 18 months of not attending, so I am proof they are not con men or did My discs grow back again ?

  7. hi! i've been to glasgow chiropractic this morning, i'm very disapointed and i don't really know what to do for those people who go there and don't realize what's going on...

    some chiropracters are really good and really helpfull (but they need a real medical background such as physiology or whatever), but glasgow chiropractics are [edit], don't go there! personnaly i've had an increase of pain after the firs appointment and all that that woman said was that she was my only solution, and that the other qualified people i may have seen before are useless (and we're talking about good sports osteopathes and physiologists with a really serious medical background and an experience such as following a french team to an olympic level). I didn't want to argue with her because i'm french and not so comfortable with that kind of situation in english but i'm a sport people and horseriding instructor with a good level and really used to take care of my body (because of so many falls!) and i can't believe that kind of people are authorized to move people's spine!! spine issues are always very serious!

    because i'm not british i don't know how to do this but i really think some supervision must be done over those people by a doctor or a physiologist or whatever, because they will end up messing with someone's spine or any other joint... and even if you have to sign that paper about non responsability there, they are responsible for the pain or the disasters they may cause to people.

  8. Hi Anonymous,

    Sorry to hear of your experience.

    If you aren't happy with how a chiropractor has dealt with you, you can complain to the General Chiropractic Council.

    They are legally obliged to investigate every complaint and can be contacted here:


  9. couple of things "Dr" T. in your bio you say not medical...well theres your first clue...don't comment on things you know nothing about. Chiro started when a doctor adjusted the back of a deaf janitor. After a while the janitors hearing came back. I understand being sceptical of something you know little about. yes chiro isn't a cure because chiro helps the body to help itself. if your background was in medicine you would realise the significance of these little things called nerves...heard of them? the pretty much are the reason you can see hear taste smell touch and live..and you guessed it the spine carries and protects all theses nerves too and from the brain. so clueless T you spine is pretty much pound for pound the most important bone in your body. therefore chiropractic treatment is useful as it helps keep your nerves free and un-obscured. signals can pass between brain and body, chemicals can be released, immune system can function. so yeh to round up, get a life, get a clue and stop being such a little bitch.

  10. I am a British chiropractor and I hope that as with all medical practitioners the are some whom the profession is aware of but cannot "disband" with significant patient complaints. Please if you are not happy with any medical practioner you should go straight to their governing body. In our case it is the GCC.

    We are not all sales people, I was a scientist before I was a chiropractor and I have successfully helped many people get out of pain and show them how to help themselves with exercise and nutrition.

  11. Interesting blog. I had a serious neck problem after lifting my toddler onto my shoulders. I attended Glasgow Chiropractic for a while and parted with plenty cash. But eventually came to the conclusion that it was all a con. Each visit I had to fill out a sheet detailing any pain I'd felt since the last one. The chiropractor never looked at this before cracking my back a couple of times. It was like a production line. All these people waiting in a queue, paying £25 a pop. The final straw was when he cricked my neck and I yelped. Never went back! I am sure there are good chiropractors out there but this crew put me off for life. And I still have a sore neck to this day, they perhaps made it worse, who knows!

  12. I think a sports orientated chiropractor can be useful, primarily for back pain management. I personally am not convinced about seeking chiropractic assistance for anything outside this relatively narrow scope.

    A good sports orientated chiropractor will also recommend physical strengthening *or* stretching exercises (typically similar to those recommended by a physiotherapist), which he will expect you to do after leaving his office. He will be open to you seeking (1) physiotherapy (typically a combination of physical examination, massage and strength exercise recommendations) and (2) plain massage from other practitioners (preferably a masseur with sports injury experience). If a chiropractor talks in relatively solid terms, and sticks to the remit of musculo-skeletal injuries, I feel comfortable with them. Any talk of "wellness", and I am inclined to find another practitioner.

    If you live around the Glasgow area, I would have no qualms recommending Ian Dingwall, who in my experience brings a hard-nosed approach to chiropractic. (Including looking at body mechanics, strength imbalances, length/tension relationships of musculature.)

    Please note that I *not* affiliated to him in any way. I merely found him via a search of the following site (under 'Members'):

  13. The guys at Clarkston Glasgow Chiropractic totally relieved me of my back pain, but it took over a hundred visits at £29 a shot for a 30 second "adjustment". They claimed they would never turn anyone away on financial grounds, but when I told them I couldn't afford ongoing treatment they accused me of not valuing my health! Their only advice was to take out a block booking and pay them hundreds up front to save me £29. Worse, they would wait till you were on the table, within earshot of everyone in the waiting room, then say you needed an extra session or two that week. As if you are going to say you can't afford it when there are other patients present. I had to take on a second job to pay for treatment. That in itself damaged my health. "Dr." Matt (yeah, you know who you are) severely injured my hip due to his lack of professionalism. I mentioned a recent injury, he didn't take a history, but proceeded without warning to force the hip against its socket. I had to attend a physio for help. When I didn't go back they sent me letters threatening that if I didn't resume treatment I would suffer a relapse. Right. 3 years on and I'm still fine. Except for my hip. And who owns Glasgow Chiropractic anyway? The "receptionist" at Clarkston seems to be in charge! The practitioners told me they hire out the tables, just like a hairdresser hires out a chair in a salon. Whoever owns the organisation is making a mint, not the chiropracters themselves. Why is the owner remaining anonymous? Check out the picture of his yacht on their website! The one with the picture of a spine on the main sail!