The Spanish Ministries of Health and Sciences have announced their ‘Health Protection Plan against Pseudotherapies’. Very wisely, they have included chiropractic under this umbrella. To a large degree, this is the result of Spanish sceptics pointing out that alternative therapies are a danger to public health, helped perhaps a tiny bit also by the publication of two of my books (see here and here) in Spanish. Unsurprisingly, such delelopments alarm Spanish chiropractors who fear for their livelihoods. A quickly-written statement of the AEQ (Spanish Chiropractic Association) is aimed at averting the blow. It makes the following 11 points (my comments are below):
1. The World Health Organization (WHO) defines chiropractic as a healthcare profession. It is independent of any other health profession and it is neither a therapy nor a pseudotherapy.
2. Chiropractic is statutorily recognised as a healthcare profession in many European countries including Portugal, France, Italy, Switzerland, Belgium, Denmark, Sweden, Norway and the United Kingdom10, as well as in the USA, Canada and Australia, to name a few.
3. Chiropractic members of the AEQ undergo university-level training of at least 5 years full-time (300 ECTS points). Chiropractic training is offered within prestigious institutions such as the Medical Colleges of the University of Zurich and the University of Southern Denmark.
4. Chiropractors are spinal health care experts. Chiropractors practice evidence-based, patient-centred conservative interventions, which include spinal manipulation, exercise prescription, patient education and lifestyle advice.
5. The use of these interventions for the treatment of spine-related disorders is consistent with guidelines and is supported by high quality scientific evidence, including multiple systematic reviews undertaken by the prestigious Cochrane collaboration15, 16, 17.
6. The Global Burden of Disease study shows that spinal disorders are the leading cause of years lived with disability worldwide, exceeding depression, breast cancer and diabetes.
7. Interventions used by chiropractors are recommended in the 2018 Low Back Pain series of articles published in The Lancet and clinical practice guidelines from Denmark, Canada, the European Spine Journal, American College of Physicians and the Global Spine Care Initiative.
8. The AEQ supports and promotes scientific research, providing funding and resources for the development of high quality research in collaboration with institutions of high repute, such as Fundación Jiménez Díaz and the University of Alcalá de Henares.
9. The AEQ strenuously promotes among its members the practice of evidence-based, patient-centred care, consistent with a biopsychosocial model of health.
10. The AEQ demands the highest standards of practice and professional ethics, by implementing among its members the Quality Standard UNE-EN 16224 “Healthcare provision by chiropractors”, issued by the European Committee of Normalisation and ratified by AENOR.
11. The AEQ urges the Spanish Government to regulate chiropractic as a healthcare profession. Without such legislation, citizens of Spain cannot be assured that they are protected from unqualified practitioners and will continue to face legal uncertainties and barriers to access an essential, high-quality, evidence-based healthcare service.
END OF QUOTE
I think that some comments might be in order (they follow the numbering of the AEQ):
- The WHO is the last organisation I would consult for information on alternative medicine; during recent years, they have published mainly nonsense on this subject. How about asking the inventor of chiropractic? D.D. Palmer defined it as “a science of healing without drugs.” Chiropractors nowadays prefer to be defined as a profession which has the advantage that one cannot easily pin them down for doing mainly spinal manipulation; if one does, they indignantly respond “but we also use many other interventions, like life-style advice, for instance, and nobody can claim this to be nonsense” (see also point 4 below).
- Perfect use of a classical fallacy: appeal to authority.
- Appeal to authority, plus ignorance of the fact that teaching nonsense even at the highest level must result in nonsense.
- This is an ingenious mix of misleading arguments and lies: most chiros pride themselves of treating also non-spinal conditions. Very few interventions used by chiros are evidence-based. Exercise prescription, patient education and lifestyle advice are hardy typical for chiros and can all be obtained more authoratively from other healthcare professionals.
- Plenty of porkies here too. For instance, the AEQ cite three Cochrane reviews. The first concluded that high-quality evidence suggests that there is no clinically relevant difference between SMT and other interventions for reducing pain and improving function in patients with chronic low-back pain. The second stated that combined chiropractic interventions slightly improved pain and disability in the short term and pain in the medium term for acute/subacute LBP. However, there is currently no evidence that supports or refutes that these interventions provide a clinically meaningful difference for pain or disability in people with LBP when compared to other interventions. And the third concluded that, although support can be found for use of thoracic manipulation versus control for neck pain, function and QoL, results for cervical manipulation and mobilisation versus control are few and diverse. Publication bias cannot be ruled out. Research designed to protect against various biases is needed. Findings suggest that manipulation and mobilisation present similar results for every outcome at immediate/short/intermediate-term follow-up. Multiple cervical manipulation sessions may provide better pain relief and functional improvement than certain medications at immediate/intermediate/long-term follow-up. Since the risk of rare but serious adverse events for manipulation exists, further high-quality research focusing on mobilisation and comparing mobilisation or manipulation versus other treatment options is needed to guide clinicians in their optimal treatment choices. Hardly the positive endorsement implied by the AEQ!
- Yes, but that is not an argument for chiropractic; in fact, it’s another fallacy.
- Did they forget the many guidelines, institutions and articles that do NOT recommend chiropractic?
- I believe the cigarette industry also sponsors research; should we therefore all start smoking?
- I truly doubt that the AEQ strenuously promotes among its members the practice of evidence-based healthcare; if they did, they would have to discourage spinal manipulation!
- The ‘highest standards of practice and professional ethics’ are clearly not compatible with chiropractors’ use of spinal manipulation. In our recent book, we explained in full detail why this is so.
- An essential, high-quality, evidence-based healthcare service? Chiropractic is certainly not essential, rarely high-quality, and clearly not evidence-based.
Nice try AEQ.
But not good enough, I am afraid.