MD, PhD, FMedSci, FRSB, FRCP, FRCPEd

I recently came across this article; essentially it claims that, in 1918, chiropractic proved itself to be the method of choice for treating the flu!

Unbelievable?

Here is a short quote from it:

Chiropractors got fantastic results from influenza patients while those under medical care died like flies all around. Statistics reflect a most amazing, almost miraculous state of affairs. The medical profession was practically helpless with the flu victims but chiropractors seemed able to do no wrong.”

“In Davenport, Iowa, 50 medical doctors treated 4,953 cases, with 274 deaths. In the same city, 150 chiropractors including students and faculty of the Palmer School of Chiropractic, treated 1,635 cases with only one death.”

“In the state of Iowa, medical doctors treated 93,590 patients, with 6,116 deaths – a loss of one patient out of every 15. In the same state, excluding Davenport, 4,735 patients were treated by chiropractors with a loss of only 6 cases – a loss of one patient out of every 789.

“National figures show that 1,142 chiropractors treated 46,394 patients for influenza during 1918, with a loss of 54 patients – one out of every 886.”

“Reports show that in New York City, during the influenza epidemic of 1918, out of every 10,000 cases medically treated, 950 died; and in every 10,000 pneumonia cases medically treated 6,400 died. These figures are exact, for in that city these are reportable diseases.”

“In the same epidemic, under drugless methods, only 25 patients died of influenza out of every 10,000 cases; and only 100 patients died of pneumonia out of every 10,000 cases…”

“In the same epidemic reports show that chiropractors in Oklahoma treated 3,490 cases of influenza with only 7 deaths. But the best part of this is, in Oklahoma there is a clear record showing that chiropractors were called in 233 cases where medical doctors had cared for the patients, and finally gave them up as lost. The chiropractors saved all these lost cases but 25.”

END OF QUOTE

So what does that sort of ‘evidence’ really show?

Does it prove that chiropractic is effective against influenza?

No!

Does it even suggest that chiropractic is effective against influenza?

No!

What then?

I think it shows that some chiropractors (like many homeopaths) are deluded to a point where they are unable to differentiate pseudoscience from science, anecdote from evidence, cause from effect, etc.

In the case you need more explanations, let me re-phrase this section from a previous post:

In the typical epidemiological case/control study, one large group of patients [A] is retrospectively compared to another group [B]. By large, I mean with a sample size of thousands of patients. In our case, group A has been treated by chiropractors, while group B received the treatments available at the time. It is true that several of such reports seemed to suggest that chiropractic works. But this does by no means prove anything; the result might have been due to a range of circumstances, for instance:

  • group A might have been less ill than group B,
  • group A might have been richer and therefore better nourished,
  • group A might have benefitted from better hygiene,
  • group A might have received better care, e. g. hydration,
  • group B might have received treatments that made the situation not better but worse.

Because these are RETROSPECTIVE studies, there is no way to account for these and many other factors that might have influenced the outcome. This means that epidemiological studies of this nature can generate interesting results which, in turn, need testing in properly controlled studies where these confounding factors are adequately controlled for. Without such tests, they are next to worthless.

16 Responses to Chiropractic = method of choice to treat influenza? (Or chiros too daft for words?)

  • The notion that chiropractic was the method of choice for treating flu in 1918 is ridiculous. We have already been told many times (as the post mentions and links) that it was homeopathy that was responsible for saving lives in the 1918 epidemic.

    • Well, given the state of medical science in 1918, perhaps doing nothing, sorry, treating the sick with chiropractic and homeopathy was better than ravening hordes of MDs. Look at what they did to Charles II.

      I am eagerly awaiting the results from the Christian Science practitioners.

  • Circle of Docs Edzard? They are self promoting practice management guru’s and BS merchants. We regularly tear them to shreds on chiropractic forums. Face palm. Circle of crooks.

    • where is the paper in a respected journal distancing chiros from this BS?

      • There is quite a few journal articles on this topic I would recommend reading articles by:
        Andre Bussiers
        Alice Kongsted
        Stanley Innes
        Bruce Walker
        Jordan Gleidt
        Charlotte Leboeuf-Yde
        Kenneth Young
        Pierre Cote
        Kim Humphries
        Donald Murphy
        Keith Charlton
        Dana Lawrence
        Gert Bronfort
        Stephen Perle
        You may find it interesting that at least two of the above individuals have had the vitalists and practice management guru’s come after them legally, tried to have them deregistered with vexatious claims and gone after their jobs.
        Oh and Sam Homola.

  • These types of fantastical reports of natural medicine somehow seem to hark back to 1918, 1818, etc.

    Some homeopathy writers do the same thing: this remedy cured this condition in 1891 etc.

    However, just because some/many explanations offered for natural medicine/alternative medicine /pseudo medicine, call it what you like, are not credible/not proven does not mean the phenomenon of the particular treatment is false/illusory.

    Homeopathy is an unexplained phenomenon: it is particularly noticeable when the condition/complaint has been present for years and treated for years by doctors/specialists and piles of reports attest to it. If the condition then improves following the commencement of homeopathic treatment, it raises questions as to how this can be. Placebo effect did not work with the magnificent doctors and specialists treatments but suddenly works with homeopathy.

    What is your view on this Edzard (please note, I have written sentence by sentence so as not to confuse my meaning, as seems to have happened with my last comment)?

    • “[Greg] Homeopathy is an unexplained phenomenon”

      Yes! Homeopathy remains inexplicable by homeopaths. Whereas the continued existence of homeopaths is a more-than-adequately-explained phenomenon[1]; as is the marketing strategy upon which homeopaths rely[2].

      1. http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Woo

      2. Cialdini, R. B. (1984). Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion

    • The difference between “thinking styles” is apparent in the comment @Greg. “Homeopathy is an unexplained phenomena”. Comprehensively-critical thinkers would NOT say that…excepting if they meant to say ‘inexplicable’ phenomena (in that it’s inexplicable ANYONE would give it any consideration and so misinterpret what-is-the case for what they wish-was-the case).
      There have been a trillion religious-believers on this planet over the eons…each of their “miracles and trans-configurations” are NOT ‘unexplained phenomena’…the ‘unexplained phenomena’ is WHY do humans fall prey to nonsense eon after eon (and THAT ain’t so unexplained…).
      Like homeopathy the answers lie within psychology NOT the supposed ‘phenomena’. Focusing on the ‘phenomena’ obviates any true knowledge or understanding and will always result in post hoc, ad hoc, regressive, pragmatic and interpretive fallacies being spread by the faithful. How is this not realized by those having found this wonderful and thought provoking blog?? That’s un-explainable…

    • @Greg:

      Homeopathy is an unexplained phenomenon.

      No, it isn’t.

      it is particularly noticeable when the condition/complaint has been present for years and treated for years by doctors/specialists and piles of reports attest to it. If the condition then improves following the commencement of homeopathic treatment, it raises questions as to how this can be. Placebo effect did not work with the magnificent doctors and specialists treatments but suddenly works with homeopathy.

      Has it occurred to you that there might be a certain degree of reporting bias going on here? For some reason you never seem to see anecdotal accounts in which people went to a homoeopath and then didn’t get better. If homoeopathy had the sort of dramatic and consistent effects that you imply, they would be easily detectable in RCTs.

      • “If homoeopathy had the sort of dramatic and consistent effects that you imply, they would be easily detectable in RCTs.”
        VERY TRUE!

        • Edzard: ‘If homoeopathy had the sort of dramatic and consistent effects that you imply..’

          If you could read what is actually written and leave out what you imagine it ‘implies’, it would be helpful. Otherwise the discussion diverts to the ‘inferences’ and ‘implications’ (real and imaginary).

          Good grief.

      • RCT’s are useless for homeopathy because they are not designed to demonstrate wishes 😉

  • Keep trying Edzard. How would you know if you have not seen the evidence?

    You do not consider the ‘case history’ route to investigating homeopathy because you are one track minded focused on RCT’s as the gold standard.

    Homeopaths believe that RCT’s are not the gold standard for investigating homeopathy due to individual variations in every patient.

    It is cross purposes here. You won’t be convinced of course, and busy homeopaths may not care less what you and your fellow skeptics think.

    • “… busy homeopaths may not care less what you and your fellow skeptics think.”
      so much is clear!
      well spotted
      [but not relevant to the question]

  • Keep trying Edzard. How would you know if you have not seen the evidence?

    As usual, when THE question can’t be answered by you lot, you sidetrack to something else.

    Please carrying on making me laugh!

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