This is a true gem which I found on Medline. The article was published 91 years ago by Holburt Jacob Waring (1866 – 1953) in the BMJ. I hope you enjoy it.

This article does not need a comment, I think. Its author was one of the most prominent surgeons of his time. Apparently he was known and feared for his outspokenness. I think I understand why.

7 Responses to An early critique of Osteopathy and Chiropractic

  • That article was published when the BMJ still had standards

  • Still was not of course a ‘Dr’ in any regularly accepted sense of the word, and simply appropriated the title, having failed to secure it by orthodox qualification (as his father had done).

    I was previously unaware that osteopaths used the term ‘subluxation’. Do they still do so?

    We in dear old UK should not underestimate the quite incredible extent of ‘force of personality’, sheer drive and determination which Americans are capable of.
    Evangelistic preachers garner vast crowds, their TV shows play to millions, pharmaceutical companies advertise directly to patients, many doctors have become multi-millionaires, alternative medicines are virtually the norm and proper critical thinking, whilst applied by many, has to compete with commercial pressures. And 91 years after this report the UK’s only professor studying these issues specifically has yet to receive the support of his University for being awarded a prestigious prize for bringing these issues to our attention.

    Press on!

  • Don’t give up hope, just think how long it took for blood-letting to be abandoned, and nobody advocates that now. At least, not that I’ve heard!

    P.S. Many congrats on your well-deserved award.

    • @Joyce Beck

      Blood letting is certainly still practiced in many parts of the world. If I am not mistaken it is rather popular in muslim, middle east cultures. It is called “Hijama” in arabic. It is (mostly?) performed using cupping like in the old days. “Wet cupping” is the common term for this foolery, which can even be procured in British “establishments”.

      I am afraid there are laws of nature that state: “Quackery is immortal”.
      If someone ever invented a new woo (that isn’t directly criminal or lethal), there will always be someone who picks it up to satisfy his/her need for feeling important, superior, helpful, powerful, mysterious… or whatever mental need or combination thereof that drives the woo-worshiper – in addition to financial gain of course.
      I have tried to think of a woo that does not have at least some detectable evidence (online) of current practice. The one that I had most trouble finding practitioners of was phrenology. It only took a few minutes.

  • One of the most prominent courses of instruction in the curriculum is what is called “salesmanship.” In this course personality, personal magnetism, and psychology, various forms og advertising, selling the patinent, and selling the services of the practitioner, are given; much more time and prominence being given to these subjects than to study of diseased conditions.

    I have often wondered what caused chiropractic to grow to such popularity, especially in the US. Now I know.
    They apparently put emphasis on “Practice building” salesmanship from the beginning.

  • What a great piece! He must have been furious back then seeing these professions expand! A hundred years later and it’s even worse, at least in less developed countries (I’m in Greece and they’re both huge it seems). What usually happens is:

    1. some *quack* starts in the US
    2. it becomes huge
    3. complaints start
    3. lawsuits, trials etc happen
    4. *quack* loses, begins to retreat
    5. *quack* moves to Europe, flourishes

    This might take up to 10 years, and by then it’s either hard to go far back and see what happened in the first place (not really though, but for some people it might be, esp. older populations living in the country etc) or it seems so new that “what’s the harm in giving a shot?”. Plus usually it’s cheaper than conventional medicine. I’ve recently had a dialogue with a guy selling a herbal pill that “cures cancer” (price $100) where his argument was “what’s $100 when people pay up to $2-3K for chemotherapy?”. The only way for these things to stop would be for unhappy or harmed patients to go to court, which never happens in bureaucratically chaotic countries with financial issues. Sigh. I’m a Pilates instructor, basically a trainer that does exercise, nothing more and nothing less, and so many of my clients go to osteos and chiros and then come to me to try to fix something that hurts, is crooked etc that I have no idea if it’s in their mind or it got worse by manipulation or it’s just a made up diagnosis. I teach basic movement and then I have to skip half of it because they told them not to.

    End of rant.

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