Skeptical Chiropractor: No Sacred Cows

Chirocyclist with sacred cow in sidecar

Chirocyclist with sacred cow in sidecar

 “But it sounds so negative…like you don’t think chiropractic is worthwhile.”

My wife wasn’t really digging the “skeptical chiropractor” moniker I have bestowed upon myself.

“You’re missing the whole idea of the skeptic movement,” I told her.  “I’m not a ‘cynical chiropractor,’ bitter and sneering.  I’m skeptical: questioning,  reasoning, seeking answers.”

“Isn’t there a nicer word?” she asked.

People think that skepticism is a rejection of all new ideas and grumpy skeptics sit around bah-humbugging everything that may be challenging to their ideology.  This is simply not the case.  As a skeptical chiropractor, I am extremely curious about new ideas, techniques and procedures.  I love revolutionary concepts!  I can’t get enough of extraordinary claims!  As long as folks can back up their b.s. and their claims are consistent with logic, reason and science.  In other words, you can sell woo-woo somewhere else — we’re all full up here.  But if you’ve got something offbeat or unusual, I’d like to take a closer look.

By being a skeptical chiropractor, I need to see substantial evidence before I believe something to be true.  This doesn’t mean I don’t believe anything.  Socrates said, “All I know is that I know nothing.”  That’s a bit drastic for my nickel.  For example, I have seen enough evidence confirming the efficacy of spinal manipulation for back and neck pain.  I am not closed to the idea of controversial research but I am satisfied with what I have seen so far to recommend and perform this treatment for patients.  Likewise with low level laser therapy for some conditions.  And Graston technique.  And lots of other science based treatments I use clinically on a regular basis.

On the other hand, crystals, magnets, applied kinesiology and homeopathy aren’t passing by the ol’ crap-o-meter.  I remain doubtful that these will prove to be effective but continue to be open to any new high quality research that comes about.

I do not have any sacred cows within my profession…at least I don’t think I do.  And by being among the stone throwers, I feel I can help improve chiropractic, a profession that I love,  from the inside.  But this, of course, is the most difficult part about being involved in chiropractic and remaining a skeptic.  It would be so much easier to move into the total credulity campsite: anything goes, any time, any where!  Just believe and everything will work out great!  Drink up from the subluxation Kool-Aid bowl!

Alas, I don’t predict that happening any time soon.  Got any throwin’ rocks?

Dr. Brett Kinsler is a skeptical chiropractor in Rochester who blogs at www.rochesterchiro.wordpress.comHe doesn’t really dig Kool-Aid.

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Blogito Ergo Sum: Skeptical Chiropractor


I like to use the term “skeptical chiropractor” to describe some aspects of my professional personality.  Lately, I have been asked to further define the phrase.  I’ll try…you let me know what I’ve missed.

1. Being a skeptical chiropractor means not clinging to a set of beliefs.  I try not to have any set of principles that are not based upon scientific evidence or, lacking that, at least based on rational, logical thought thought and reason.

2. I am willing to change my thinking as the scientific evidence changes or improves.  If my practice was only based on 100+ year old beliefs, this would not happen.  And while I may be passionate about my convictions, the core is logically founded and I possess enough open-mindedness to alter those cores if and when I am presented with additional, quality evidence. 

3. I do not take it personally when science changes and challenges my practices.

4. I question new methods, procedures and products and do not blindly accept information simply because “some expert” says it is so.  Any gurus I subscribe to are those who I respect because of their critical thinking, not simply rote absorption of their sermons.  I begin from a point of doubt and add confidence as supporting information dictates.

5. I examine new information for bias and attempt to strip that away in looking only at factual information.  I also try whenever possible to remove my own bias in the presentation of information, advice or treatment of patients.

6. I completely avoid using the term “vertebral subluxation” as it is an entity that is unproven, unscientific, confusing to professionals and patients alike and wrought with controversy.

I hope this helps shed some light on what it means, in my opinion, to be a skeptical chiropractor.  As for skepticism in general, let me know if you’d like my JFK conspiracy theory, sightings of Bigfoot or an opinion on crop circles.


Dr. Brett L. Kinsler is a skeptical chiropractor in Rochester, NY.

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