The purpose of this paper was to compare the characteristics of the chiropractic technique systems that have utilised radiography for subluxation detection with the characteristics of religion, and to discover potential historical links that may have facilitated the development of those characteristics.

The authors found 23 technique systems requiring radiography for subluxation analysis. Evidence of religiosity from the early founders’ writings was compared with textbooks, published papers, and websites of subsequently developed systems. Six criteria denoting religious thinking were developed: supernatural concepts, claims of supremacy, rules and rituals, sacred artefacts, sacred stories, and special language. All of these were found to a greater or lesser degree in the publicly available documents of all the subluxation-based chiropractic x-ray systems.

The authors concluded that the founders and early pioneers of chiropractic did not benefit from the current understanding of science and research, and therefore substituted deductive and inductive reasoning to arrive at conclusions about health and disease in the human body. Some of this thinking and rationalisation demonstrably followed a religion-like pattern, including BJ Palmer’s use of radiography. Although access to scientific methods and research education became much advanced and more accessible during the past few decades, the publicly available documents of technique systems that used radiography for chiropractic subluxation detection examined in this paper employed a historically derived paradigm for radiography that displayed characteristics in common with religion.

As I was pondering these amazing statements, a friend alerted me to the promotional material by a chiropractic college in the US. The website of this institution refers to subluxation – have we not been told that this term now belongs to the realm of chiropractic history? –  in many places, e. g. :

Dr. Brian Kelly talks about the subluxation debate, and introduces to a comprehensive resource on the subluxation. Visit LifeWestPress to order your own copy of the “Atlas of Common Subluxations of the Human Spine and Pelvis.”

… an introduction to the literature concerning the scientific examination of the subluxation and its physiological and anatomical basis. The physiology, neurology, and biomechanics of subluxation and adjustment are surveyed.

The focus of Knee Chest Upper Cervical Chiropractic Care is to address the Upper Cervical Subluxation. This includes detecting the Subluxation, designing a customized correction with the assistance of imaging, and patient management.

Atlas of Common Subluxations By William J Ruch, D.C. “One of the most significant chiropractic clinical text of the decade” -Dr. Deed Harrison D.C. The serious results of subluxations of the spine can now been seen in color. by studying the dramatic consequences of chronic

Gonstead B provides an emphasis on patients who present with subluxations of the cervical and thoracic areas of the spine. Some case management protocols are also discussed. This course includes instruction in static and motion visualization, inspection, and palpation; skin temperature…

The president of this college tells us that “….We believe chiropractic is a vital part of health care and that the chiropractic lifestyle is something that the public is placing in high demand right now…” (Dr. Brian Kelly President). Inspired by such big words, I study more of the promotional material furthermore which informs us that:

We must study and understand the reason why chiropractic holds an impactful and necessary place in the future of our entire planet’s health. We must truly understand and own the principles of safe and eective healthcare for all.  Philosophy is not just “for fun”. Philosophy is the glue that holds all of the elements of our educational process together.

At this stage I begin to wonder whether they have more to offer than ‘philosophy’ – how about some evidence? I looked and looked hard, but my efforts were in vain. Evidence does not seem to be a focus of this college. Instead we are offered obsolete concepts like vitalism:

Vitalism is the understanding that there is more to the basic function of the human body than just a bunch of parts and mechanisms. There is something more to us than just many parts of a machine. Vitalism is the study of the underlying elements of the organization of intelligence in the human body (and in any living system) and how that intelligence runs the system. From a vitalistic viewpoint, the care provided by a chiropractor takes on a unique and critical role in supporting the human body’s natural inclination to heal itself and to remain healthy over the course of a lifetime.

Now I am acutely reminded of the well-documented fact that DD Palmer, the man who invented chiropractic, had toyed with the idea of founding a religion. Perhaps he has done exactly that and we have not yet noticed? More importantly perhaps, I get the feeling that all this talk (on this blog and elsewhere) that chiropractors are working ever so hard to leave their bizarre past behind and join the rest of us in the 21st century is little more that wishful thinking.

16 Responses to Chiropractic education seems to be a form of religious indoctrination

  • A little bit more about ‘Dr’ Brian Kelly and his contribution to holding back science-based chiropractic education and any hope of serious chiropractic reform:

    A 2001 graduate of the Phillip Institute of Technology (now the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology – RMIT, Australia), he started his chiropractic career working full time in Melbourne (read about the current state of chiropractic in Australia here ). He then moved to New Zealand where he became president of the New Zealand College of Chiropractic (NZCC). Under his leadership, enrolment at the NZCC grew and it achieved accreditation with the Council on Chiropractic Education Australasia, all the while maintaining its vitalistic approach to chiropractic. Significantly, he served on the board of the notorious Australian Spinal Research Foundation for 11 years, and, in 2010, he introduced a dubious diplomate program in diagnostic imaging to the NZCC through the American Chiropractic Board of Radiology (DACBR). He moved to the United States in 2011 where he became president of Life West Chiropractic College. He also currently serves on the Board of Directors of the US-based International Chiropractors Association (ICA) whose Best Practices document:

    • Supports 27 indications for chiropractic radiography (x-rays) including spinal subluxation, birth trauma (forceps), facial pain, skin diseases, organ dysfunction, eye and vision problems, and hearing disorders.
    • Recommends a basic care plan for simple uncomplicated axial pain (neck pain, back pain, etc) consisting of 25 visits over 8 weeks – with the presence of ‘complicating factors’ (including family/relationship stress, lower wage employment, and wearing high-heeled shoes) warranting a recommended additional 12-visit blocks of care.


    It’s worth remembering that the ICA’s Best Practices document has also been adopted by the UK’s largest chiropractic association, the (vitalistic) Alliance of UK Chiropractors:

    Finally, when his beliefs are challenged, ‘Dr’ Kelly is quick to go on the defensive:

    More here:

    No wonder chiropractic is rapidly becoming known as the ‘DD Palmer Cult’.

  • Many books on critical thinking skills highlight the essential core logical differences between deductive and inductive reasoning, but fail to mention abductive reasoning.

    “In abductive reasoning, unlike in deductive reasoning, the premises do not guarantee the conclusion. One can understand abductive reasoning as ‘inference to the best explanation’.”

    While being true, the above explanation of abductive reasoning totally misses the point that the claimant’s ‘best explanation’ is not based on the logic of Occam’s razor, it is based on a plethora of self-serving inferences masqueraded as deductive reasoning, rather than on openly and honestly admitting that the reasoning is based solely on conjecture derived from only untestable inductive premises.

    Alt-med and religion rely on exactly the same toolbox. When the concept being discussed is clearly pointed out to abysmally fail in its deductive reasoning, try this reliable tool: Never resort to an inductive argument (it demonstrates only your weakness); always resort to an abductive argument that sounds just science-y enough to convince the majority of your existing and potential clientele that you are the master of your subject and that the scientific method and its collected data are both wrong and inapplicable to the bullshit that you are promoting. Marketing Skills 101. All forms of alt-med education are nothing other than religious indoctrination — if not, their business models, based solely on beliefs, would collapse.

  • I love the title of that article. The author works at Murdock University with Bruce Walker who has many excellent chiropractic research articles to his name and is one of the founders of COCA.
    Nice summary of Brian Kelly! He was at the ASRF when they decided to focus their pitiful/pathetic research budget on subluxation! 6.8% of their yearly income on research. They spend 1200% more on administration. ASRF should stand for Australian Staff Remuneration Foundation! The blog by Rogue Chiropractor here says it all!
    25+ years ago nearly every patient got xrayed! You drew lines all over them and they were a practice building tool. Now there are strict guidelines and there must be a valid clinical reason.
    Some interesting recent articles on this topic:
    Diagnostic imaging practice guidelines for musculoskeletal complaints in adults–an evidence-based approach: introduction.
    Diagnostic imaging practice guidelines for musculoskeletal complaints in adults–an evidence-based approach. Part 1. Lower extremity disorders.
    Diagnostic imaging guideline for musculoskeletal complaints in adults-an evidence-based approach-part 2: upper extremity disorders.
    Diagnostic imaging practice guidelines for musculoskeletal complaints in adults-an evidence-based approach-part 3: spinal disorders.
    Also this on imaging in general:
    Overuse, Overdose, Overdiagnosis… Overreaction?
    Worsening trends in the management and treatment of back pain.

    It is not wishful thinking Edzard it is happening as we speak within chiropractic. Earlier this year we were sent a detailed questionaire on xray usage and awareness of the clinical guidelines on their useage from Murdock University. It will be interesting to see their results when they are published!

  • The increasing screams coming from the subbies reflects more and more criticism of them from within the profession. They feel threatened! Pity that doesn’t leed to an honest, hard look in the mirror! Instead they like to play the victim and look at it as a vast conspiracy! Oh well, we will just have to keep at it, all support appreciated!

  • Brian Kelly is an anti-vaccine supporter of Andrew Wakefield. He also held a showing of the anti-vaccine chiropractic vanity video, Doctored, at his ‘university’:

    Deed Harrison is another hard-core anti-vaccine chiropractor. He is relied upon in this post by another Australia-based chiropractor, with amusing results:

    Chiropractic thought leaders. You bet.

    • While there are certainly rational voices within Chiropractic, they are not clearly audible to the outside world. Even Murdoch students, where the head of school seems to be as rational as they come, fall prey to the magicians while still in their student years. WHile the university might not directly provide these courses and seminars, they do’n’t actively opposed them either. It’s time for the magicians to be de-registered, and the rationals to take over. Way beyond time, actually. SOme of the subbies might be complaining, but they’re not going away.

  • I am surprised by many of the responses to this article, and by Prof Ernst’s lack of joy at reading about fakedoctor Kelly.
    Everyone who reads this should be relieved that, finally, after 118 years (as of the blog), the, until now, mythical subluxation has not only been identified but there is now an “Atlas of Common Subluxations of the Human Spine and Pelvis.” (Admittedly, the last bit threw me because I had thought they only occurred in the spine.)

    Not only that but, “The serious results of subluxations of the spine can now been seen in color.”. Now come on, where is the delight of everyone? Aren’t you interested in actually seeing what DD Palmer described so long ago? Has Edzard obtained a copy of this wonderful reference work so that he and all of us can now be convinced of the reality of that dreaded curse of humankind, the SUBLUXATION? Yes, the condition which has wrought so much misery and illness on humanity can now be seen with the naked eye. Joy, oh joy!

    • @Frank Collins

      This one is a much better buy. It is 35 times cheaper at (used & new).
      Its use can have therapeutic value for the the whole family, expecially the children. It is based on the same type of research as the subluxtion atlas but much nicer illustrations. 😉

  • here is an interesting new article on a related subject:

  • D.D. Palmer and A.T. Still both learned and both practiced magnetic healing in the beginning. They lived next to each other and learned this from a magnetic healer nearby who was running an infirmary for magnetic healing already. Magnetic healing is essentially based on vitalism. A.T. Still became a member of free masonry 6 days after his father a methodist circuit rider had died.

    D.D. Palmer mentioned and agreed with A.T. Still to be a part of the drugless healing movement in those times.

    Free masonry was an essential
    political movement in the northern and southern region during the US civil war.

    So the ideas of free masonry (Anton Mesmer, A.T Still, D.D. Palmer had a membership) and of drugless healing (vitalism iatromechanic) were mixed up and still continue in US-based manual therapies. Religion has it’s own history in US which is different from Europe.

    To understand the social movements of Chiropractic and of European and Commonwealth Osteopathic Manual Practitioners and of very few oldfashioned osteopathic physicians D.O. in the USA (all the branches of manual osteopathic therapy) and their ‘philosophical’ background you have to understand the role of free masonry of drugless healing of vitalism and iatromechanic in the social movements of the 19th century.

    Such religious coffee grounds will always persist in huge societies as long as there is a desire for magic and for simple explanations… and you can always impress gullible half-wits with such a ripp-off. A big amount of healthcare professionals from all departments of modern medicine still think in this categories because the subjects ‘history of medicine’ and ‘philosophy’ in medicine’ are no subjects in modern medical education.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Subscribe via email

Enter your email address to receive notifications of new blog posts by email.

Recent Comments

Note that comments can be edited for up to five minutes after they are first submitted but you must tick the box: “Save my name, email, and website in this browser for the next time I comment.”

The most recent comments from all posts can be seen here.