Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Disclaimer: The Parliamentary Library does not warrant or accept liability for the accuracy or usefulness of the transcripts. These are copied directly from the broadcaster's website.
Chiropractors defend practices -

View in ParlViewView other Segments

Chiropractors defend practices

Broadcast: 06/07/2009

Reporter: Steve Cannane

Every year hundreds of thousands of Australians go to chiropractors in search of better health, but
the therapy is a controversial area of medical practice.


TONY JONES, PRESENTER: Each year, hundreds of thousands of Australians go to chiropractors in
search of better health. But chiropractic therapy is a controversial area of medical practice.

Just how controversial is apparent in a defamation case currently underway in Britain. The British
Chiropractors Association is suing well known science journalist Dr Simon Singh after he criticised
chiropractors who claimed to be able to treat childhood conditions like colic.

The BCA says Dr Singh's allegations are factually wrong, defamatory and damaging to their
reputation, while supporters of Dr Singh have called for libel laws to keep out of science.

Here is a special report from Steve Cannane on the debate over chiropractic therapy in Australia.

STEVE CANNANE, REPORTER: Georgie is one of over 400,000 Australians who visit a chiropractor each

GEORGIE, PATIENT: I find going to a chiropractor is like maintenance, making sure everything's
working properly, making sure that I'm working at my best.

STEVE CANNANE: Georgie gets her back cracked every four to six weeks.

But this kind of procedure is relatively new. The founder of chiropractic treatment, Daniel David
Palmer, set up his first school in 1897. He believed that 95 per cent of all diseases were caused
by displaced vertebrae.

And the idea that the spine is the key to your health still holds currency with some modern day

Such as Jim Scivolitas (phonetic spelling), who appears here on YouTube, but didn't take up
Lateline's offer of an interview.

JIM SCIVOLITAS (YouTube): Our chiropractic research suggests and our clinical experience that we
may be able to help your child to breathe easier with their asthma, or improve their posture and
feet alignment, to help them to build stronger immune systems against colds and ear infections and
to help manage any other childhood ailments including colic, ADHD, bed wetting, birth trauma and
sporting injuries.

STEVE CANNANE: Bruce Walker, a chiropractor with over 30 years experience, says claims such as
those made by Jim Scivolitas need very close scrutiny.

BRUCE WALKER, MURDOCH UNI SCHOOL OF CHIROPRACTIC: Well, I think that's the sort of claim that any
chiropractor's registration board in this country would take issue with, and I think they'd hold an
inquiry into the conduct of that practitioner.

STEVE CANNANE: Bruce Walker thinks his colleagues should stick to working on musculoskeletal
disorders and avoid treating conditions like colic.

BRUCE WALKER: There's been two randomised control trials into whether chiropractic treatment is
useful for that. The first trial showed that there was a good effect by chiropractic treatment. The
second randomised control trial, however, showed there was no effect. And the difference between
the two trials was that the second randomised controlled trial had blinding of the parents. The
parents did not know what sort of treatment that the baby was going to get. They were handed to a
nurse who took the baby away. They either go chiropractic treatment or they got a placebo, which
was just holding the baby. And, in that trial, there was no effect.

STEVE CANNANE: But the Chiropractors' Association of Australia still claims chiropractors can
effectively treat colic.

studies, Australia and worldwide, to indicate that the irritable baby syndrome, or colic, as it'
commonly named, has been successfully treated by chiropractors.

STEVE CANNANE: And is that evidence from randomised control trials?

SIMON FLOREANI: Um, there is a significant building of data around that. I'm not aware of a
randomised control trial.

CHRIS MAHER, UNIVERSITY OF SYDNEY: Chiropractors treat a range of things beyond the musculoskeletal
system. So some of them treat things such as bed wetting, asthma, dysmenorrhoea, migraines,
diabetes. And the evidence seems to be that there really isn't much to suggest that chiropractic
care is useful for those health problems. But that's different from musculoskeletal problems.
Chiropractic care can be quite useful for musculoskeletal problems.

STEVE CANNANE: Yet Australian chiropractors continue to advertise that they can help deal with
ADHD, asthma and bed wetting. The exact extent of the manipulation of children's and babies' necks
in Australia is unknown. However, in the United States, the birthplace of chiropractic treatment,
the practice is widely promoted on YouTube.

JEFF ECHOLS (YouTube): Hi, I'm Dr Echols, and this is my friend Raleigh, and today we're going to
talk a little bit about kids in chiropractic care.

MALE VOICE (YouTube): You can still actually adjust the bones in his nose?

FEMALE: The bone right at the top here, you can get a grasp on kind of the - it's the bottom part
of the bone, but it's actually a bone that goes back into the skull and makes up the floor of the

JEFF ECHOLS (YouTube): And adjustments on children are very, very safe because they're very, very

STEVE CANNANE: In Australia there are even questions about how effective manipulation is for back
pain in adults.

CHRIS MAHER: What we found in that Lancer trial was when people were given spinal manipulation or
placebo, the rate of recovery from back pain was exactly the same. As you can see here, the
recovery curves are almost exactly the same, they're lying exactly on top of each other. So adding
spinal manipulation to basic care didn't seem to improve recovery rates at all.

STEVE CANNANE: And the people who were doing that research, were they surprised about that?

CHRIS MAHER: They were indeed. I mean, some of the people were practitioners of manipulation, so
this has changed the way that they practice.

STEVE CANNANE: In Chris Maher's trial, the spinal manipulation was conducted by physiotherapists.

The idea that anyone is getting their necks manipulated horrifies Professor Roy Beran.

ROY BERAN, NEUROLOGIST: I think everybody should keep their hands off the neck, personally.

STEVE CANNANE: Roy Beran is a neurologist. He published a paper in the Medical Journal of Australia
in 2000 highlighting the dangers of neck manipulation.

ROY BERAN: I have been involved in everything from death upwards. I've been involved in
medico-legal matter where a lawyer had his neck manipulated, had his stroke and died on the same
day. Very tragic case. The cases we wrote up in the journal, one was a very high flying real estate
agent, very productive, who will never work another day in his life following his stroke.

SIMON FLOREANI: We're very proud of our safety history and very proud of our - our level of
qualification and certification. There is possibly only one in 5.85 million chance of you suffering
that type of accident or incident from a chiropractor.

ROY BERAN: I think this is a totally inaccurate figure. Let me put it this way, when we published
our paper on this some years ago, it was initially knocked back because it was so common knowledge
and so frequent that the journal didn't want to publish it.

STEVE CANNANE: Bruce Walker wants more research into this area. He's helped design an Australian
study and is awaiting funding. And he's optimistic that his profession is moving into a more
evidenced-based phase.

BRUCE WALKER: We need to be very cautious about the claims that we make, and make sure that they're
not misleading and deceptive. At the three university courses at Murdoch University here in Perth,
RMIT in Melbourne and Macquarie University in Sydney, evidence-based practice is taught in those
three institutions. So, all the cohorts that are graduating now and have done in the last five
years are definitely up with evidence-based practice.

STEVE CANNANE: But it might take a little while longer before chiropractics two schools of thought
move into alignment. Steve Cannane, Lateline.