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Trisha Torrey

Do Doctors Hate Chiropractors?

By May 24, 2010

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An interesting question, don't you agree?

I ask it, because an article called "Why Doctors Hate Chiropractors" came across my monitor. Written by a chiropractor (meaning - we need to realize that it's at least partially self-serving) it explains that MDs (medical doctors) are skeptical of DCs (doctors of chiropractic medicine) because DCs don't write prescriptions.  According to the article, many MDs believe any form of treatment to relieve pain must involve drugs to be effective.  Further, some doctors will tell us that chiropractic treatment can be dangerous because it involves manipulation of the spine, and could potentially cause further problems, or even a stroke.

The author, however, points out several facts that are new to me, and quite interesting:

  • Medicare pays for some chiropractic treatments, which enhances its credibility.
  • Those doctors who are such naysayers (I do believe "hate" is a very strong word!) tend to be the ones who make their living doing surgeries and treating patients in hospitals.  If patients choose chiropractic treatments, then they don't need those surgeons.
  • There is now evidence, from several studies, that show that the potential dangers of chiropractic treatment is highly overestimated.  (Of course, I have to ask,  if danger is used as an excuse, then what do they have to say about mainstream treatment such as high-risk surgeries or even chemo?)

I'm not here to recommend one form of treatment or another.  I AM here to suggest to smart patients that we look at all the possibilities when it comes to pain relief!  We patients really don't care what a "professional" calls a treatment -- mainstream, allopathic, alternative, complementary.... What we care about is that it works.

I've never tried (or needed) this form of relief, so I can't comment personally.  I can tell you that three loved ones have seen chiropractors and all three are fans.

Are you a fan of chiropractic medicine?  Take this poll.... then comment if you'd like.

And learn more from Anne Asher, About.com's Guide to Back and Neck Pain.

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Learn more or join the conversation!


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Photo © Microsoft Image Gallery

May 24, 2010 at 12:42 pm
(1) Anne says:

Chiropractic is regarded as controversial by the medical establishment. There’s a lot more research on allopathic treatments than holistic for back pain, and this could be one reason. Also, who’s paying for the research? The holistic types in this world don’t have the funds to compete with big pharma, and a lot of times the idea of “research” doesn’t fit into their paradigm anyway. In other words, many are just not interested.

There are gaps in research based knowledge about allopathic treatments, too. Yet spine procedures are on the rise despite the lack of evidence and standards. Sad.

80% of back pain is of the type that resolves on its own. So pretty much anything you do for these folks is going to have an effect.

May 24, 2010 at 3:34 pm
(2) Robert says:

We are not “Doctors of Chiropractic Medicine.” The term medicine should not be used in relation to the chiropractic profession. We do not practice medicine in any way or form.

May 24, 2010 at 4:06 pm
(3) Bill says:

Doctors of Chiropractic do not “treat” and disease. There are two opposing philosophies that will determine how you approach health or disease.

The Western Medical paradigm (which sadly includes some chiropractors) is a Disease focused practice that seeks to promote Less Disease in a population.

While the more Natural or Holistic paradigm seeks to promote optimum function and natural health.

Disease is not an entity that attacks a helpless person as big Pharma will have you believe, it is a process that occurs when the normal “natural” healthy state of a living thing is compromised.

Think of the Light (health) spectrum: on one end you have complete darkness (death), and on the other is vibrant light (wellness). Darkness (Disease) is not an entity that can overtake a lighted room (healthy body); it is simply a room (body) that lacks full light (health) energy.

So, to the point of the blog… Medical doctors don’t hate chiropractors as a rule; I just don’t think they understand what we do, because it is outside of their conditioned thought process and realm of expertise.
I mean if the body was a house: And that house were on fire (disease) I would want a fireman or woman (MD) to come put out the fire. But then I would want to do some massive cleanup and keep the home in good working order to make sure I had a nice place to live.
Hope this helps.

May 24, 2010 at 5:34 pm
(4) Jenn Heisler says:

I’m iffy on chiropractic. I know it works for some, but for me it was ho hum. I enjoyed the hot packs and massage chair far more than the adjustment.

That said, I’ve also taken care of someone who had a torn carotid artery and a subsequent mild stroke after an overly aggressive neck adjustment. Even the DC literature recommends only gentle neck adjustments, but this doc did the more forceful type.

If it works for you, great, but just be aware there are risks.

May 24, 2010 at 5:47 pm
(5) Fred says:

Having been a Doctor of Chiropractic for over 40 years I think I am in a position to correct a few misconceptions.

“Medical Doctors hate chiropractors” – There may be a few that have strong emotions regarding chiropractic, there may be a few that feel chiropractors “take” “their” patients, however, the vast majority are just simply uninformed or misinformed about chiropractic. Many MD’s were trained during the time when the AMA was putting forth lies and half-truths about chiropractic to “eliminate the chiropractic profession” or were taught by doctors who were trained during this time from 1963 to about the mid 1980s. Most MD’s I know are either indifferent or tend to afraid of someone they don’t know anything about.

“We don’t treat diseases” – this is a game of semantics that is best left inside the profession as I don’t think the average person looking for a chiropractor for the first time is looking to just “improve the quality of the their life” or “remove subluxations”. Most people come for a named condition. Education and understanding come after the pain that brings a person to the office is handled. Only then are most people able to hear a conversation about how symptoms and disease are an accumulation of many insults that eventually reach a tipping point that they call a “disease”

“Chiropractic vs Medicine” – Chiropractic and medicine have roles to play in health as Bill mentioned above. Medicine is about preventing death, the death of the body, an organ, a joint, or about killing an invading organism. In the end stages of a series of breakdowns when it is “life or death” Medicine is at it’s best.
Chiropractic works to promote the health of the tissue, the body, by restoring more normal nerve function and addressing the underlying causes of the lack of function, ie. diet, exercise, emotional distress, etc.

Neither profession is right or wrong, they are the flip sides of the same hand. It is a question of “appropriateness” and sometimes it requires the skills of both a good MD and a good DC to help the patient get the best results.

May 24, 2010 at 6:21 pm
(6) Jesse says:

I just wrote an article on the differences between eastern and western medicine which is very relative to the MD v. DC argument.


May 24, 2010 at 8:14 pm
(7) Mike D says:

As a current chiropractic student about to enter clinic I am trained to:

1. Rule out “red flags” representing a serious or life-threatening illness
2. Identify the Primary pain generator, in most cases the patient is coming in with back pain, neck pain, or extremity pain. The main pain generators in the spine are usually disc, joint, muscle or nerve (radicular pain)
3. Identify any perpetuating factors for this patient’s condition: psychosocial factors, fear-avoidance beliefs, passive coping, etc.

Chiropractors should be expected to provide the most cost effective, non-surgical spine care for patients that are not candidates for more invasive treatments. In most cases conservative treatment should be attempted anywhere from 4-6 weeks before further steps are taken and in the case that referral is needed a competent chiropractor should be able to make the necessary decision/referral.

May 24, 2010 at 10:35 pm
(8) Andrew Gibey says:

It’s not an issue of hating chirorpactors, per se. I guess what scientists ‘hate’ are claims made without supporting evidence (or on the basis of reletvely poor evidence, such as case studies).

Quite simply, the effectiveness or efficacy of chirorpactic is not supported by much in the way of proper evidence. Indeed, in the UK, chirorpactors have been stopped from making claims that they can help with colic and, I believe, with asthma.

As far as I am aware, the only proper evidence to support chiropractic is that spinal maniupation slightly helps with lower back pain. Most of what chiropractors claim to do is also bioligically impluasible.

May 24, 2010 at 11:20 pm
(9) Dr. Joseph Lodespoto says:

As both a Chiropractor and a soon to be graduating MD … I must tell you that chiropractic has a LONG way to go before being embraced by the Medical profession.

One thing the Chiropractic profession should embrace on their end is NOT being anti-medicine as well. I’ve come across several chiropractors who tell their patients not to get their children vaccinated (i’m not saying this is right or wrong .. but its against standard allopathic care), not to undergo certain surgeries, not to take certain medications, etc.

This is why other adjunct professions flourish in todays market; Podiatrists never go above half way on the shin (because then they’re in Orthopedic Surgery Land), optometrists never do Lasix Surgery (because then they’re in Opthalmology Land) but help with the pre- and post-op procedures.

If Chiropractic doctors embraced more of what the Medical doctors did and worked more WITH them, not against … then they’d be working SIDE BY SIDE with MD’s in the hospitals … just like the Osteopathic profession did. Working WITH … not against!

But no …. most chiropractors will let 100 year old dogma get in the way of progress … and I for one will not wait for them.

Dr. Joseph Lodespoto, DC, MS, MS, MD (cand.)

May 25, 2010 at 8:58 am
(10) Gary Chiro says:

Anne I also think “hate” is strong word and was more for emotional effect. We are dealing with humans and everyone has a choice. I may not like this waiter, but that one I do. Even though they are both serving. So some people you get on with others you don’t.

I am a chiropractor and friends with both GP’s and surgeons. They value what I have to offer as there are times when they feel patients don’t need what they have to offer and should rather try a chiropractor first. I then like knowing I can phone them for advise on potential surgical cases or needing pharmaceutical drugs. As long as everyone runs on the thinking of “first do no harm” when providing healthcare you are doing the right thing.

So when I have patients come in calling surgeons butchers and GP’s pill pushers I don’t try agree with them cos that is not professional. All I can do is just listen to their train of thought and then provide the best care I can. There are times like @Mike D said, the chiropractor recognises this case needs to be referred for surgery or other treatment.

Healthcare practitioners get emotional about their profession and sometimes think they can cure it all. This applies to medical doctors and chiropractors. As long as the patient gets better and keep well is what matters.

May 25, 2010 at 9:52 am
(11) Betsy says:

As an informed consumer of health care, I embrace many practice forms. For a frozen shoulder, I went to my primary for an injection, my acupuncturist, and my massage therapist. Each knew I was going to the other. I managed the recovery process with a good outcome.

My husband’s and my chiropractor referred my husband to a shoulder surgeon when he felt he could not give the relief of pain hubby needed. Good call, because he had an 80% tear of the rotator cuff and large bone spurs, to boot. The surgeon shared that he also is treated by our chiropractor.

MD vs. chiropractic/alternative care is a turf war. There are good, effective docs and practioners in all disciplines. It’s up to us as consumers to educate ourselves about our bodies then manage our health by seeking the practioners who will partner with us. There must be room for choice.

May 25, 2010 at 10:02 am
(12) Father Daniel says:

I’m a bit odd, perhaps, in that I don’t believe in chiropractors in general, although there are a few good ones, but I do believe in spinal manipulation. My choice is to go to an osteopathic physician, a DO, who is a fully licensed physician, and, in my case, a board-certified specialist in internal medicine.

However, he also does spinal manipulation and I see him once a month to “get my back cracked.” It’s also a chance to touch base on my chronic health issues.

I’ve had this doctor for 15 years and am most satisfied with his care as well as his personality.

If I had an emergency regarding my back and he was unavailable, he would refer me to the one chiropractor in town, whom I would see on that basis.

May 25, 2010 at 12:15 pm
(13) Joel says:

As a Chiropractor I agree many MD’s do not like Chiropractic. I have a patient who is a nurse who had a problem Allopathic medicine did not help, she told her PCP she was going to see a Chiropractor and the Dr. said “just make sure he doesn’t adjust you”. A friend in my neighborhood when she learned that I was a Chiropractor said “Oh, my Dr. told me to never see one” now statistically that doesn’t mean much but the sentiment is still out there.
I do know there are some Chiropractors who give honest Chiropractors who want to get their patients better and not use them to make them rich not get them wellChiropractors have many theories of what they do all will agree that drugs and surgery should be a last resort. i do not know if this makes MD’s nervous but if more people saw Chiropractors and learned about prevention MD’s would have less patients.

May 25, 2010 at 7:04 pm
(14) Jason says:

I went to visit some of the doctors in my area to network with them regarding patient treatment of back pain…one of them actually has an office policy of not referring patients to chiropractors…needless to say I was shocked. I gladly refer patients to MDs anytime I feel they need it but I feel it’s wrong of them to give I’ll informed advice to patients…

May 26, 2010 at 12:42 am
(15) Bethane says:

Many good points made like Jesse’s, healthcare approaches may complement one another but not designed to mix and match as they will not work effectively together in the conventional western medical paradigm.

I am trained as an RN and have since become a certified herbalist where I now practice with my Husband, a DC. MDs barely recognized nursing as its own profession, let alone alternatives to “modern medicine”. Conservative approaches are a logical step toward addressing healthcare. Proactive treatments like diet and chiropractic are preventative measures whereas surgery, some diagnostic tests and pharmeceuticals are more invasive with affects that cannot be “undone”. My Chiropractic Husband as a state licenced Physician, also works with a staff of Neurosurgeons,Orthopaedic Surgeons and other Chiropractors and specialists who fortunately acknowledge the purpose for each.

Chiropractors have more radiological education than most medical doctors and posess nutritional knowledge MD’s admittedly lack. As healthcare providers, our main objective is to educate so that we, as patients, may make the best informed decisions together.

May 26, 2010 at 1:39 am
(16) Bob James, MD, JD says:

As a retired family physician I have always felt that this turf war was a waste of time. I have referred patients to chiropractors and they have referred patients to me. Just like physicians there are good and bad chiropractors. It does bother me when chiropractors adjust babies for colic or make claims that really seem impossible like one who claimed to adjust a congestive heart patient needing a transplant back to health. Also I’ve seen too many xrays read as normal by talented wns well trained radiologists only to have many “abnormalities” pointed out on the film by the chiropractor that they felt they could help with a series of adjustments. I know that chiropractic helps lots of patients but I personally feel that they would do much better in public/medical opinion if they would stick mainly to back and neck pain. Too many outlandish claims without scientific evidence to back them up will never help them be accepted by the medical establishment. P.S. The fact that Medicare reimburses doesn’t go very far in justifying chiropractic treatment or its effectiveness as mentioned in the original article.

May 26, 2010 at 4:14 pm
(17) Randal says:

To Jenn H. I don’t believe you. Show documentation on the stroke or artery damage done “by a Chiropractor.” The literature does NOT support any of you claims in this comment forum. Please post cites if you can, I am betting you cannot or have poor ones to cite.
Have a great day!

June 3, 2010 at 7:47 pm
(18) Phil says:

Chiropractic saved my life.
I am blessed to be where I am today, and know the world will become a better place with the tens of thousands of lives I will bring life to when I graduate.

June 12, 2010 at 7:09 pm
(19) Melissa Dalloul says:

Ok, I have to agree with Bob James, MD JD, there, and some of the other posts that mentioned that MD’s don’t necessarily ‘hate’ or ‘like’ chiropractors.

That the reason some MD’s don’t necessarily refer their patients is not as much that they’re ‘unqualified’ to handle back and neck pain, or that they ‘hate’ chiropractors, it’s that they 1) aren’t necessarily informed about what chiropractic does do – as in well documented research, specific treatment protocols, yada yada, and 2) that Chiropractors do create more problems for themselves by making claims, and then not stating clearly that some of these claims are in fact ‘experimental’ and not backed by research.

Listen, I work in a chiropractic office alongside my husband. We both attended chiropractic school. We both came away with understanding the significant benefits of chiropractic care by experience and the knowledge gained.

Also, we learned that good, solid research goes a long way in understanding the complexity of the presentation of ‘back pain’ and its inherent reasons/factors. There are so many different types of presentations and factors that if one tries to lump back pain into one type of treatment protocol then they seriously need help in their thinking processes.

The chiropractic student above provided an excellent, and concise description of what should be the process and protocol for caring for a patient presenting with back pain.

“As a current chiropractic student about to enter clinic I am trained to:

1. Rule out “red flags” representing a serious or life-threatening illness
2. Identify the Primary pain generator, in most cases the patient is coming in with back pain, neck pain, or extremity pain. The main pain generators in the spine are usually disc, joint, muscle or nerve (radicular pain)
3. Identify any perpetuating factors for this patient’s condition: psychosocial factors, fear-avoidance beliefs, passive coping, etc.

Chiropractors should be expected to provide the most cost effective, non-surgical spine care for patients that are not candidates for more invasive treatments. In most cases conservative treatment should be attempted anywhere from 4-6 weeks before further steps are taken and in the case that referral is needed a competent chiropractor should be able to make the necessary decision/referral.”

And, why is he explaining that this is what he’s learned? BECAUSE of the research and case studies that have been tirelessly worked out by not only doctors of chiropractic, but also by MD’s, DO’s, PhD’s. That this learning in Chiropractic school goes hand in hand with research and case studies. And, why are they – medical doctors, PhD’s and schools of medicine, not just chiropractors – spending oodles of time researching when they could possibly be studying something more ‘interesting’, like curing the common cold?

Well, in fact because chiropractic has been shown to be effective and warrant further study. Period.

But, it is very frustrating that there are chiropractors who make claims without stating that these claims are ‘experimental’ or not backed by research. They are reversing the big strides forward that these studies are assisting. MD’s and surgeons MUST do the same when a treatment or surgery is still in the ‘experimental’ stage. If chiropractors could even just start differentiating the ‘proven’ vs the ‘experimental’, our profession would be in a much better place.

And, as for MD’s, DO’s and orthopaedic surgeons, it would do them well – and, well, their patients actually – to read the research being presented about spinal manipulation, and then find a chiropractor they can trust who actually follows good, solid evidence-based protocol -and is clear on research-based treatment vs. experimental.

My husband had recently met with several MD’s over a 3-month period, and the questions he was asked by these MD’s made it clear that they are not reading the research, and that they are still skeptical because of the claims made by chiropractors who feel strongly they can cure most anything. Isn’t that what chiropractors get frustrated about with big Pharma?

June 12, 2010 at 7:22 pm
(20) Melissa Dalloul says:

just a side note, and speaking of research, here’s a link to the National Institute of Health’s website, and a cross-over study done on investigating the association with neck spinal manipulation and vertebrobasilar stroke. Interesting study, and one to be thoughtful about.


August 4, 2010 at 2:02 am
(21) Steven says:

Your poll is flawed. I have visited a chiropractor once, and I am considering a follow-up visit. I am still reading reports about chiropractice, cannot yet tell if my treatment is effective. I don’t fit any of your positions.

I am firmly undecided, and my guess is that I represent the majority of the population.

October 23, 2011 at 2:34 pm
(22) harrykoh says:

Chiroprators relax and move spine into it´s normal position. The treatment works fine but then a patient must go to a ligament specialist and massage ligaments against the bone structure to let the ligaments become flexible and strong. Without massaging the ligaments going to a Chiroprator for treatment will not support the spine structure of the body all the way to the foot and ankle and a patient will only repeat the treatment and waste time and money. You must bring back the ligaments flexibility and strenth. Ligaments are like dry squid they cling to the bone structure and become weak. The only way to support the bone structure is to massage the ligaments against the bone. Iwasted lots of money but learned a great lesson.

June 1, 2012 at 11:04 pm
(23) John says:

Osteopathic medicine is eventually going to rule out chiros. Why see a chiro when you can see a D.O.?

July 6, 2012 at 12:48 pm
(24) Jeff Johnson says:

I think doctors do not agree with it because they make money
of of the meds they prescribe you. Its all about money to them.
I had serious back problems and the doctor does not
believe i need an MRI or a Cat Scan. They just want to give
you mustle relaxers and Alieve and put you on drugs.
America makes millions of dollars through the drugs
they prescribe.

August 18, 2012 at 9:46 am
(25) Dr M says:

Osteopathic doctors are moving away from manipulation and primary care and more towards specialties. Fewer MDs go into primary care and DOs were filling up their spot. However, primary care is the least paying occupation and DOs are also moving towards specialty positions and NPs with PAs are filling in the gap. In order to do manipulations skillfully, you must have several hours and years commited to its practice and DOs fall short in their training when compared to chiropractic doctors (DC). When it comes to joint manipulations and high velocity low amplitude treatments, DCs are the best in the camp. That is not to say there are no skilled DOs or the all DCs are skilled, but I say this in reference to the professions. Again, the level of skill of the practitioner will depend on the level of their “practice” and training, I I must admit as will my osteopathic colleagues, Doctors of Chiropractic are by far the most advanced and better trained spinal manipulators and I will prefer to get treated by one anytime before I get my spine “tickled” by a fellow Osteopahic physician who has little training and little experience. I won’t even touch a patient as I don’t want to hurt people.

May 12, 2013 at 11:41 pm
(26) Jason says:

I just went to see my GP regarding a referal for Chiropractic treatment so i can claim some sort of rebate from Medicare and was absolutely shocked by the response i got from him, utter and complete sceptism about the Chiropractic profession. I explained to him that i have had pains and aches for many years and that the Chiropractor was the ONLY one who, from xray and detailed analysis of my spine EXPLAINED to me the symptoms i would be having due to my spine not being properly alligned and certain parts being out of their normal positions. I have FULL confidence that my treatment, which I am starting now will have a good impact on my wellbeing – will be reporting back after 3 months.

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