MD, PhD, FMedSci, FSB, FRCP, FRCPEd

The ‘NATIONAL UNIVERSITY OF HEALTH SCIENCES (NUHS) started life as the ‘NATIONAL SCHOOL OF CHIROPRACTIC’, in 1906 in Davenport, Iowa. In 1908, it moved to Chicago, because its founder desired a more scientifically rigorous academic culture.  On their web-site, we are informed that the NUHS now offers degree programs in chiropractic medicine, naturopathic medicine, acupuncture, Chinese medicine and biomedical sciences. The university also offers certificate programs for massage therapy and chiropractic assistants. Researchers from the NUHS have recently published an article with findings which, I think, are remarkable.

The aim of this retrospective chart-review was to identify the percentage of non-musculoskeletal and musculoskeletal conditions treated by interns in the NUHS Student Clinic. The information was taken from the charts of patients treated in the fall trimester of 2011.

The results show that 52% of all patients were treated only for musculoskeletal conditions, and 48% were treated for non-musculoskeletal conditions, or musculoskeletal plus non-musculoskeletal conditions.

The authors draw the following conclusions: The NUHS Student Clinic interns are treating a greater percentage of non-musculoskeletal conditions and a lesser percentage of musculoskeletal conditions than practicing chiropractic physicians. The student interns also treat a lesser percentage of non-musculoskeletal and a greater percentage of musculoskeletal conditions than allopathic practitioners. This comparison would suggest that NUHS is nearing its institutional goal of training its student interns as primary care practitioners.

The very last sentence of the conclusions is particularly surprising, in my view. Do these findings really imply that the NUHS is training competent primary care practitioners? I fail to see that the data demonstrate this. On the contrary, I think they show that some US chiropractic schools want to promote the notion that chiropractors are, in fact, primary care physicians. More worryingly, I fear that this article demonstrates how, through the diligent work of chiropractic schools, the myth is being kept alive that chiropractic is effective for all sorts of non-musculoskeletal conditions. In other words, I think we might here have a fine example of unsubstantiated beliefs being handed from one to the next generation of chiropractors.

Evidence-based chiropractic my foot! They continue to “happily promote bogus claims”.

3 Responses to Do chiropractic schools promote quackery?

  • It is utterly FRIGHTENING to think chiros are on the way to being declared PCP’s. They have little to no training (academic or practical) in the basic sciences that underlie medicine. Can they interpret blood tests, prescribe properly for hypertension, or even set a broken bone? Do they know how to determine if a lump is cancer? I think the list of questions could go on for ages. To whom are they submitting this information–other than gullible state legislatures (see Jann Bellamy at sciencebasedmedicine.org)?

  • Professor Ernst wrote: “I think we might here have a fine example of unsubstantiated beliefs being handed from one to the next generation of chiropractors.”

    I fear that it’s not just the NUHS. For example, the President of the European Chiropractors Union, Øystein Ogre (DC), who is heavily involved in developing chiropractic education throughout Europe, claims in the video (go to 2:30 in) in the following link that a successful chiropractor “is being that person, the spinal expert in your area, that parents will consult when they are worried about their sick child”:
    https://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=685575191468899&id=391254640900957

    Furthermore, in an international web survey of chiropractic students about evidence-based practice (a pilot study in which of an estimated 7,142 student recipients of invitation letters, 674 participated in the survey), most respondents reported having access to medical/healthcare literature through the internet, but only 11% read literature every week and 21% did not read literature at all:
    http://7thspace.com/headlines/374600/international_web_survey_of_chiropractic_students_about_evidence_based_practice_a_pilot_study.html

    Of the 6,468 students who didn’t reply, it would be interesting to know how many couldn’t be bothered to, and how many were hard at work studying evidence-based practice.

  • Dr. Ernst,

    A goodly bit of reporting for sure.

    I mean no disrespect, and this is only a half-serious, half-hopefully-humorous quip, but you seem oddly disillusioned regarding what you called “evidence based chiropractic”, a bizarre phrase in itself. You suggested such a thing might real in the headline, which in my view asks an absurdly obvious question.

    Of course, this is just my own possibly flawed assessment, but isn’t the word “chiropractic” an invented name for the alleged treatment of a medically nonsensical cause of illness known as “subluxation”?

    For whatever it’s worth (little or nothing), are you not lending false credence to an utterly fantastic idea by framing it as a question that ostensibly could be answered in the negative? It even sounds a bit like one of those “debunking the debunkers” sort of thing – as if it were in favor of chiropractic – because of that wording. Upon reading, I do see that’s not the case, but it seems an odd hook.

    Thanks for writing, and for reading.
    Skeptek

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