As parts of Australia are going back into lock-down because of the increasingly high COVID-19 infection rates, the Chiropractic Board of Australia (CBA) has issued a statement on chiropractors’ claims regarding immunity:

The Board is particularly concerned that during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic there are claims in advertising that suggest spinal adjustments and/or manipulation can boost or improve general immunity or the immune system.

There is insufficient acceptable evidence to support such claims in advertising. Acceptable evidence mostly encompasses empirical data from formal research or systematic studies, in the form of peer-reviewed publications. Information about what constitutes acceptable evidence for advertising can be found in the Advertising resources section of the Ahpra website.

Advertising that there is a relationship between manual therapy (e.g. spinal adjustments and/or manipulation) and achieving general wellness or boosting or improving immunity contravenes the National Law and the Guidelines for advertising regulated health services.

Although many claims do not directly reference spinal adjustments and/or manipulation preventing or protecting from COVID-19, there is currently greater awareness of immunity issues and the public is seeking information on ways to prevent or protect themselves from the disease. Consequently, there is a greater risk that claims about spinal adjustments and/or manipulation boosting or improving general immunity may be interpreted to be claims about boosting or improving immunity to COVID-19.

Making claims in advertising that spinal adjustments and/or manipulation can boost or improve general immunity or the immune system is likely to result in regulatory action being taken by the Board.



Come on, pull the other one!

Bogus claims have been made by chiropractors since ages.

Bogus claims are what chiropractors thrive on.

Without them, they would go bust.

Every now and then some regulator makes some noises reminding chiropractors that bogus claims are bogus. But have they EVER taken any action?

Have they ever even INTENDED to take action?

I doubt it.

In fact, statements of this nature seem to be the chiropractic way of sanctioning false claims. The somewhat paradoxical way this works is as follows: chiropractors make bogus claims all the time; we all got so much used to them that hardly anyone bats an eyelash. But every now and then the bogus nature of the claims become noticeable to the wider public – like now with COVID-19 – and some people or organisations take offence. This is clearly not good for the chiro-business or image. Therefore, the professional chiro organisations step in by issuing a statement – like the one above – condemning the claims and threatening action. All the chiros know, of course, what this is about and change absolutely nothing. The desired effect is guaranteed: chiros can carry on as before, but the image is saved and the business can continue.

I very much doubt that, in the coming weeks, the CBA will do much about the many Australian chiropractors who will continue to mislead the public about COVID-19 or any other issues.

Nice window dressing perhaps, but no substance at all.

If you disagree with my view, please send me the details of any decisive regulatory action which the CBA took regarding immunity claims, and I will delete this post.

15 Responses to Chiropractic claims about improving or boosting immunity: ‘regulatory action’ on the way?

  • “Without them, they would go bust.”

    I doubt that very much – as is said in other sentences:
    “The professional chiro organisations step in by issuing a statement – like the one above – condemning the claims and threatening action. All the chiros know, of course, what this is about and change absolutely nothing. The desired effect is guaranteed: chiros can carry on as before, but the image is saved and the business can continue.”

    Given the public propensity to pay for energy therapies, astrological readings, crystal therapies, acupuncture, prayer, I very much doubt any SCAM will go bust.

    The most those of us who genuinely care about the vulnerable and gullible can hope for is improved public ability to think critically and apply reason in a science-based manner. A very slow process, but that is the best we can do – and to which end this blog should be warmly applauded. Meanwhile, chiropractors and other camists will make hay.

    • “Those of us who genuinely care about the vulnerable…”. Of course the quacks amongst us will likely (and vociferously) deny that their motive is abusing the gullible, in fact they interpret their “patient’s” continuing support and utilization as proof-positive they are not thieves. As with many profound issues in human life it can often be encapsulated in a simple question, in the case of quackery: is it ethical, and/or in the public’s best-interest to allow “sick or injured” persons to pursue “contextual-effects” (placebo, care-giver, coincidence etc) i.e. effects which do nothing of substance to any definable-underlying malady, but only placate, addict and confuse….typically ascribing natural attrition with their intervention? IMO Chiroquackery is faux doctors marketing with unsubstantiated claims, hyperbole and misinterpretation of natural events….entrepreneurial theatrics masquerading as a healthcare “science” in order to perpetuate their incomes and maintain the elaborate ruse the numerous Chiroquackery colleges and CCE have created over these past 125 years. The only real difference between them and Scientology is Scientology calls itself a religion and DOES NOT take insurance.

  • They never define a “boost” or say how the increase is measured. More lymphocytes in a blood sample after ‘treatment’ than were there before? What size is the boost?

    Not to worry, I will learn Reiki and send immunity to everyone in Australia at 2:30 on Thursday.

  • Edzard and the regulars here.
    AHPRA is the government organization that regulates all health professions here in Australia.
    It advocates for PATIENTS and NOT professions.
    The various boards within AHPRA answer directly to AHPRA NOT professional associations.
    The rules that apply to chiropractors also apply to all the professions across AHPRA.
    If you want to find out AHPRA’s disciplinary actions you will need to read their annual report here:
    For court and tribunal decisions:
    AHPRA CBA discipline time for complaints submitted against chiropractors making BS claims about boosting immunity is 3 DAYS.
    The average time for complaints to be processes by all AHPRA boards is usually 12-18 months unless it’s a serious legal issue then they act faster.
    If you look at the 2018/19 AHPRA annual report you will see that more complaints are made by chiropractors against chiropractor than any other profession. I have submitted three over the years.
    Now look at the percentage of complaints that get investigated by each professional board?
    You will have to wait for the 2019/20 AHPRA annual report.
    In the meantime if you want to search legal databases I would start here:
    Austlii is challenging to navigate unless you know how to use it. I have used it to track down individual chiropractors. Have fun.

    Do your homework and get your facts right before commenting.
    Here is the summary of the Chiropractic section of the 2018/19 annual report:

    “Regulating the profession

    85 notifications lodged with AHPRA1
    Australia-wide, including Health Professional Councils Authority (HPCA) in NSW and Office of the Health Ombudsman (OHO) in Queensland data, 134 registered chiropractors – or 2.4% – had notifications made about them
    95 notifications closed
    21.1% had conditions imposed on registration or an undertaking accepted
    13.7% received a caution or reprimand
    2.1% registration suspended or cancelled
    8.4% referred to another body or retained by a health complaints entity (HCE)
    54.4% no further action taken
    Immediate action taken 4 times
    7 mandatory notifications received
    4 about professional standards
    41 chiropractors monitored for health, performance and/or conduct during the year
    41 cases were being monitored at 30 June
    11 on grounds of conduct
    5 for health reasons
    9 for performance
    6 prohibited practitioner/student
    10 for suitability/eligibility for registration
    27 criminal offence complaints were made and 24 closed
    12 new matters related to title protection
    14 to advertising breaches
    1 to other offence
    Matters decided by a tribunal: 2
    Matters decided by a panel: 0
    Decisions appealed: 2”

    So do you now think the AHPRA CBA has a record of not taking decisive action?
    Does the AHPRA CBA investigate a very high percentage of complaints compared to other boards? YES.
    The CBA sent an email to all chiropractors in Australia on the issue of claims about boosting immunity and that they take such claims very serious and will act within 3 days. Now looking at their past record of disciplinary action.

    “Have they ever even INTENDED to take action?

    I doubt it.”- Edzard Ernst do your homework before blogging.

    • @Critical_Chiro

      Thanks for posting this information. Can you provide examples from the information you linked of when the CBA took concrete action against chiropractors for misleading advertising claims? I can see that such complaints do get raised (14 received in 2018/19) and that there have been concrete actions for other types of complaints (e.g. lack of insurance, no CPD). I’m struggling to find examples of concrete actions against chiropractors for misleading advertising. Could you point me at some examples please? Many thanks

      • Good question.
        AHPRA has a 3 step process for handling complaints. If there is a serious criminal incident then they act fast like for sexual misconduct.
        The steps are discussed here:
        When it comes to misleading advertising the practitioner is contacted and cautioned. If they persist then a formal letter is sent and if they still persist then disciplinary action is taken. I do not know of any chiro’s who have escalated the complaint to the third/final step.
        At the beginning of the pandemic AHPRA and the CBA sent out an email in regards to claims about “boosting the immune system” and that they would take action in three days if a complaint is made. Seems the vitalists are finally getting the message though we will have to check the 2019/20 annual report to find out.

        • @I_wouldn’t_know_a_critical_argument_if_it_bit_me_in_the_ass_Chiro: You don’t seem to understand that you are a vitalist by default i.e. a “doctor“ of a quackery profession perpetuating a ruse on the public. You don’t get to suggest there are actually TWO professions and you’re in the “good” one. It’s embarrassing that 1. you don’t get that 2. You continuously make the vapid and inane suggestion to learned-skeptics that YOU and you alone are making the noble struggle against the evil in Chiroquackery….and you are somehow totally unaffiliated and distanced from that faction. Are you familiar with Dumb and dumber? Go get an MD or PhD then your argument may sound rational.

          • @MK
            “@I_wouldn’t_know_a_critical_argument_if_it_bit_me_in_the_ass_Chiro: You don’t seem to understand that you are a vitalist by default”.
            Your personal attacks are getting predictable.

            Comments made by you in the past would indicate that you are a physiotherapist.
            Do you think people reading your comments would see them as professional or unprofessional?

        • @Critical_Chiro

          Thanks for your reply. Edzard’s post was specifically about advertising claims and the failure of chiropractic regulators to take action to tackle misleading claims. You criticised his post and said “Do your homework and get your facts right before commenting.” When I asked you to provide examples of when the CBA took concrete action against chiropractors for misleading advertising claims you were unable to provide one. I’m therefore struggling to understand what basis you have for criticising Edzard’s post. You have been unable to provide any example of when the regulator has taken action against advertising claims and therefore it is perfectly reasonable for Edzard to highlight their lack of action on this area.

          • @uncritical_quiro: “Chiropractic has made tremendous inroads into the opioid epidemic”. “Spinal misalignment also known as subluxation, has a dramatic impact on the function of the nervous system and thus the immune function of the body”. “Chiropractic and homeopathy…an ideal match for ideal health”. “Decompression therapy is a 21st century, technologically advanced Chiropractic procedure to help heal injured discs. Why suffer or get dangerous drugs, shots or surgery, call today”. “We use Activator methods adjusting to gently and specifically realign spinal vertebra…no cracking or twisting”. Ah just a brief sampling of ads over the last few weeks I’ve seen from your truly professional brethren.
            But them “vitalists” only constitute a tiny fragment of Chiroquacks….if by tiny you mean 98.99%, then yes.

          • @compandalt
            The CBA do publish disciplinary actions that end up being sent to a tribunal.
            Here is a recent high profile case involving Hance Limboro where he was deregistered:
            As for claims in regards to boosting immunity during the current pandemic we will have to wait for the 2019/20 annual report. The 2018/19 report was published in November 2019.

  • @compandalt: excellent follow up…I would imagine the likelihood of concrete-examples of real discipline is similar to finding concrete examples of Chiroquackery ever actually working.

  • @Critical_Chiro

    Thanks. It’s good to see that there is at least one example of the CBA taking action (although I’m not sure why you didn’t post this in answer to my first query). As you say we will need to wait for the next report to see what action they have taken against chiropractors for claims about boosting immunity. I remain hopeful, but certainly not optimistic, that they will take concrete action against chiropractors for these sorts of dangerous claims.

    • Compandalt, I think that you are waiting for the slow wheels of bureaucracy to come into affect, rather than a problem with APRHA or the CBA.

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