A Chiropractic Client’s Response to the CBC, Timothy Caulfield, Ryan Armstrong

Apr 14, 2020 | All Posts | 14 comments

“To you journalists looking for your Woodward-and-Bernstein-esque defining moment, take note: THIS IS NOT YOUR WATERGATE. Look elsewhere, try again, and do better next time – much better. Rather than bombarding the country with endless fear-mongering and alarmist garbage journalism that thrives on dirty laundry…”

On March 30, 2020, I woke up, as I always do, listening to CBC Radio 1. It had long ago become my “trusted news source”. However, on this particular morning, I had a visceral response to what I heard. A few soundbites from a couple individuals the CBC was putting forward as authorities on the matter were ridiculing claims from Ontario chiropractors that chiropractic care could improve immune system function and therefore help people ward off illness, such as COVID-19.

Chiropractors told to remove posts claiming their methods boost immune system and prevent COVID-19

A common-sense piece of information – that misalignment equals stress, equals weakened immune response, equals heightened vulnerability to the COVID-19 pandemic – had been conflated into an outlandish accusation that chiropractors were claiming that chiropractic treatment would make one immune to the novel coronavirus and prevent COVID-19. Quite a stretch. But is it really so far-fetched that a healthy spine can improve one’s ability to fight off the coronavirus should one contract it? Or that an individual might suffer milder symptoms should they develop COVID-19? I think not.

I emailed my own chiropractor, asking if he had heard the report. His response bemoaned the fact that the CBC has a tendency to attack chiropractors, naturopaths, and the like. He provided me with a video that describes how misalignment in the spine can have a negative impact on various bodily processes:

https://therealitycheck.com/animations/the-brain-body-and-spine/

I decided to email the video to the CBC. In my email, I mentioned my own experience with spinal injuries and the benefits I have derived from chiropractic. I also pointed out the well-known negative health effects of associated stress and the benefits of reducing stress to improve overall health. I beseeched the CBC not to dismiss the benefits offered by para-medical practitioners and to present the information in a more balanced fashion. While the response I received acknowledged the validity of the points I had made “about pain, misalignment and over [sic] good health,” I was told, as in the news report, that “chiropractic care will not make a person immune to the virus. Period…There is nothing nuanced about a pandemic.”

In my rebuttal, I voiced my doubt that any chiropractor had explicitly stated that a chiropractic adjustment would make people immune to the novel coronavirus. In fact, in reviewing the online news report, I noted the screenshot from Erin Mills Optimum Health – Chiropractic and Wellness Centre, which described, much as I did, how stress can depress the immune system’s response: “Neural dysfunction stresses a body out, which may lead to a weakened immune system and lowered response to a foreign body, such as the cold or any other virus.” Further, “Spinal adjustments have been shown to boost immune function.” Nowhere in that screenshot nor in the report does the CBC show or claim that any chiropractor said, “Come for an adjustment and you won’t get COVID-19.” It is also interesting that while the individual from the CBC didn’t dispute the comments I made in my email regarding the benefits of reduced stress, the same information posted by Erin Mills Optimum Health was held up as proof of false claims. I am puzzled as to why the chiropractic profession should be under attack for stating what is common knowledge. This is not a matter of nuance. It’s a matter of fair and unbiased reporting.

I also noted in my rebuttal that even yoga can improve overall health by reducing stress. And what do yoga and chiropractic have in common? They are all about alignment. They also both promote better breathing habits. Anyone who has taken a yoga class will know that breathing technique is very much incorporated into yoga practice. As for chiropractic, anyone with a bound-up spine and adjoining muscles will know that constricted muscles around the ribcage – which attach to the spine – will inhibit the ability to take a full breath. When one muscle or joint doesn’t move properly, other muscles will compensate, and before you know it, your whole body is in knots, which causes all kinds of stress, which can depress the immune system. More on that later.

The news report makes much of “one Ontario man” who had submitted at least 34 complaints against various chiropractic clinics, citing “misinformation” regarding the health benefits of chiropractic. Ryan Armstrong, with his PhD in biomedical engineering, heads up an organization called “Bad Science Watch,” which according to its website is “an independent non-profit consumer protection watchdog and science advocacy organization dedicated to improving the lives of Canadians by countering bad science.” Armstrong’s conclusions about the efficacy of chiropractic in boosting immune system function are based on a lack of science, or more accurately, on his inability to find any. “There’s very immediate harm from this type of misinformation,” he says. Indeed, making assumptions and publicly dismissing claims of health benefits based on a lack of information, rather than on evidence that the claims are false, is truly harmful and bad science.

I remember my GP telling me that the immune system is the most complicated system in the body and the one we know the least about. Given all the variables, not the least of which are the mysteries of the immune system, it would be exceedingly difficult to either prove or disprove in a measurable scientific study that a chiropractic adjustment has a direct causal effect on improved immune system function. But while the CBC is only too happy to dismiss claims that chiropractic care could be of benefit in improving immune system function, it is willing to support sweeping statements that it does not.

The second authority interviewed was Tim Caulfield, Canada Research Chair in Health Law and Policy and a professor at the University of Alberta. This is what Professor Caulfield had to say about research conducted by an “alleged author” finding that chiropractic could boost immune system function by 200%:

Caulfield said spinal manipulation won’t boost immune function.

“There’s really no evidence to support that at all,” he said. “I’ve looked to find any kind of clinical support for that claim, and I can’t. I can’t find it.”

Note two things: firstly, Caulfield apparently made the unequivocal statement that “spinal manipulation won’t boost immune function.” I say “apparently” because that part isn’t in quotes and at least based on the 50-second video included in the news reports, he did not, in fact, say that. What he said is that he couldn’t find the study that found the 200% increase in immune function. Maybe he did say it and maybe he didn’t. Secondly, similar to Armstrong, and contrary to the initial statement, Caulfield said that he couldn’t find any evidence to support that 200% increase, in particular, and not that he couldn’t find any evidence of an increase in function at all. Not to mention that his search for this study consisted of a “quick Google search,” which apparently was fruitless, and which the CBC is implying as evidence that the study doesn’t exist. That’s just misleading representation of his words and shoddy reporting. Even if that is exactly what he meant by referring to an “alleged author,” implying that the study is fabricated by the chiropractic community to support their claims, again, it was sloppy journalism on the part of the CBC to blindly accept that and promote that interpretation. There were three journalists on this story – did none of them have the time to bother looking for the study themselves?

By the way, Tim Caulfield and Ryan Armstrong, to your claims that “there is no science behind it,” my own “quick Google search” yielded this “partial list” of 114 citations regarding the effects of spinal adjustment on immune system function, including the one Tim couldn’t find by “alleged author” Dr. Ronald Pero, PhD, chief of cancer prevention research at New York’s Preventive Medicine Institute and professor of medicine at New York University. Fill your boots.

https://healthsourcelombard.com/does-chiropractic-strengthen-immunity/

Conversely, Caulfield did not say that he did find evidence debunking an increase, 200% or otherwise. No surprise there. He is, however, quoted as characterizing chiropractic care as a means to ward off the coronavirus as a “waste of money” and dismisses that concept as “magical thinking.” Most of all, I am amused and disgusted by his comment about the erosion of our critical thinking. Indeed, it is a pity that our biases should erode our critical thinking skills.

So I got curious – who exactly is this Caulfield character? I came across his resume on the University of Alberta’s website: https://cloudfront.ualberta.ca/-/media/law/faculty-research/hli/people/timothy-caulfield/timothy-caulfield-cv-2019.pdf. He is not a chiropractor, not a medical nor para-medical practitioner of any description, not even a lab technician. He’s a lawyer with a BSc in biology, although it looks like he was a practicing lawyer for only one year and has spent the bulk of his career in academia. More’s the pity, since as far as making defensible arguments goes, he really is “out of practice”. Think about that – as above, he’s making definitive statements about chiropractic and its inability to improve immune system function, without any evidence one way or the other. Is that really how a lawyer would present a case in court? Is that what Professor Caulfield teaches his law students as the correct method of building a case? Are we to expect entire cohorts of new lawyers making unsubstantiated claims to publicly discredit entire professions? Was this “quick Google search” the extent of his research into the matter? Not only has he written multiple books (I certainly hope he researched those better) he’s a professor at a university – I would expect that he would make use of the university’s library facilities to do a more thorough search. Or is he so biased that he was sure he’d find nothing and didn’t bother putting more effort into looking for the information? It would be alarming if that’s what a professor of law working at a reputable university had done, particularly in his capacity as Research Chair. As it happens, he would have lost badly in court, since there’s a treasure trove of information on the subject.

While some might be intimidated by his extensive list of accolades and research projects, I am left with the view that his conclusions above show a shocking lack of common sense, or even a basic understanding of how the body works holistically. Sometimes researchers get so caught up in minutiae that they can’t see the forest for the trees. Not to mention that one’s biases can prevent one from admitting that they can, in fact, see the forest. The love affair we have with scientific studies clouds people’s ability to simply use their heads.

To the CBC journalists (Andrea Bellemare, Jason Ho, and Katie Nicholson) and to Ryan Armstrong and Tim Caulfield, I say that if you’re unable to find any information on the effects of chiropractic on the immune system, first of all, you’re clearly not looking hard enough, since I found 114 references in about 10 minutes. Secondly, you need to think laterally. Chiropractic is not, as Armstrong thought, limited to only musculoskeletal issues. However, one does not need to understand the highly technical effects on the immune system that are detailed in those 114 references. This is not that complicated. Think about it – when people are stressed for ANY reason – emotionally, physically, or mentally – it is very common for people to feel run down and consequently become ill. Clearly, reducing the stress – whether through rest, exercise, meditation, chiropractic care, or whatever other means one finds effective in lowering stress – will benefit overall health and improve immune system response to any foreign body – virus, bacteria, or splinter. Why? Because all your resources are going towards whatever is causing you the stress, commonly known as “fight or flight.” The stress response hormone cortisol can alter or shut down functions that you don’t immediately need, including your immune system.

As for my own credentials and knowledge with respect to the benefits of chiropractic in stress relief, as I noted, I have had multiple spinal injuries, as well as multiple degenerative spinal conditions, which used to result in shooting pains down my legs. Thanks to the services of my own excellent chiropractor, I no longer have those symptoms. Did that relieve any stress for me? Of course it did – physically and emotionally.

There is no shortage of information on the effects of stress on the body and the diseases it causes; yoga is recommended as one potential means to reduce stress. Among the benefits of yoga are increased flexibility, improved posture, breathing benefits, and reduced stress. It does not take a leap of faith to appreciate that chiropractic can also increase flexibility and improve posture, nor that it can yield breathing benefits. Therefore, the logical conclusion is that if yoga can decrease stress, which improves immune system function, then chiropractic care, which has similar benefits to yoga, also leads to improved immune system function.

In addition to the physical and emotional stress related to injury, years of emotional trauma can cause long-standing tension in the body, and yes, I can attest to that, too. For example, studies on patients with post-traumatic stress disorder have found that increases in anxiety and stress result in increased muscle tension. The nervous system will kick into survival mode during a traumatic event and it may have difficulty returning to its normal, relaxed state. A long-term stay in stress mode can cause a constant release of cortisol, which suppresses the immune system. The conclusion is that a combination of mental health treatment and physical therapy would be the obvious direction for helping these patients heal. Whether the physical therapy one chooses is chiropractic, massage, acupuncture, or physiotherapy is an entirely individual decision. For my conditions, I find that chiropractic is by far the most effective.

So can chiropractic care help to ward off COVID-19, just like any other virus? Of course it can. I believe retractions by the CBC, Ryan Armstrong, and Tim Caulfield are in order.

How ironic that the CBC should choose to end the news report with Ryan Armstrong’s statement that this “misinformation” about chiropractic “undermines our democracy.” I fail to see the democracy in the act of making sweeping one-sided statements based on a lack of information and understanding, particularly when, by his own admission, he has never been to see a chiropractor himself. I, for one, suggest that anyone who insists on discrediting an entire health care profession and dismissing the benefits it claims to offer needs to try it first before passing judgment. Far from doing the Canadian public a service through his work, he is dissuading us from availing ourselves of a valuable tool for improving and maintaining good health. This is particularly disadvantageous at this unprecedented time in history with worldwide quarantines, resulting in widespread job loss, leading to high levels of stress across the planet.

As for the quality of the CBC’s reporting, I am disappointed in my “trusted news source”. Whom did you listen to but two skeptics on a witch hunt with no information to back their views. The only effort that was made to tell the other side of the story was to seek rebuttals from Erin Mills Optimum Health and from the College of Chiropractors of Ontario. It is not surprising that after being lambasted in the media for years by others in the CBC such as Bethany Lindsay, the chiropractic community chose to cut their losses and take down any “potential [sic] inappropriate claims for the benefits of chiropractic.” Consequently, you are left in the embarrassing position of being caught disseminating false information, not to mention doing serious damage to the reputations of all chiropractors across the country.

To you journalists looking for your Woodward-and-Bernstein-esque defining moment, take note: THIS IS NOT YOUR WATERGATE. Look elsewhere, try again, and do better next time – much better. Rather than bombarding the country with endless fear-mongering and alarmist garbage journalism that thrives on dirty laundry, thereby stressing people out, which – guess what – will depress their immune systems and make them more vulnerable to the coronavirus, the CBC should kindly present balanced reporting that offers a multiplicity of ways in which Canadians can fortify themselves against the pandemic or any other illness. That includes a visit to your friendly neighbourhood chiropractor. Thanks, Doc, I’m feeling much better now.

Anita B., Concerned Citizen and Grateful Recipient of Chiropractic Care

Footnote: The author was contacted by Tim Caulfield within 24 hours of the limited release of the extended version of this article, and welcomes the on-going discussion. Only through open discussion can the truth be revealed.

Categories

Practitioner Directory

Want to add your own listing? Become a member today and get a free listing!

14 Comments

  1. Richard Calland

    For similar reasons pointed out here, I stopped tuning to CBC-anything because of incomplete and obviously biased reporting on the vaccine issue; the truth (as far as we know it) about risk/benefit/efficacy…an enormously important topic…a complex and controversial topic with enormous vested interest in maintaining public ignorance over the very significant, peer reviewed evidence of serious to catastrophic, long term disabilities resulting in humans and animals from many vaccines. My experience of bias and arrogant dismissive reporting by CBC on medical alternatives to drug medicine, has been the same as this author.

    Reply
    • Sarah

      Thank you for writing this for many reasons, but mostly to educate the public of “journalists” who are doing the harm, and of Chiropractors who do provide amazing services for absolutely essential health care. I urge everyone to share this article!

      Reply
    • Dr. Dale Detzler

      I am the second of two first generation Chiropractors in my family. After being browbeaten by my professions regulatory body here in British Columbia, and similarly my sister by her regulatory body in Ontario, your article was very inspirational. Thank you for taking the time to express so very well that which we are not.

      Reply
  2. Marilee Roome

    Excellent article. Sadly i have stopped listening to the CBC. It used to be my lifeline. I now find much of their journalism, especially in regards to health issues, to be atrocious, extremely biased and lacking in integrity.. They appear to have a certain agenda against any natural health modalities. Shame on them.

    Reply
  3. Michelle

    Thank you for writing this most eloquent article.
    I am a second gen chiropractor and I know as does all my family first hand the benefits of regular, specific chiropractic care done with love, compassion and empathy.

    Reply
  4. Stewart

    THank you for writing something I have felt and know to be true. If you really listen to the CBC and hear the tone of the interviewers it is obvious that an agenda or bias is present. I have yelled at my radio on many occasion and even called in to voice my frustration -what’s the point. I don’t listen anymore. I hope this article will find it’s way to many eyes.

    Reply
  5. Tony

    Listening to CBC radio these days is like watching the airplanes fly into the twin towers again and again and again. I’ve no started listening to Jewel of the Nile 98.5 because it’s minimal news and maximum oldies.

    Reply
    • Anita B.

      Thank you, Ryan, for submitting your rebuttal. I am very pleased that my article has stimulated some attention from “the other side,” as it were. I am just putting the finishing touches on my response, which will be posted shortly.

      Reply
    • Anita B.

      My sincere thanks to everyone for their (almost) unanimous support for my first article on the CBC’s March 30, 2020 news report regarding the link between chiropractic and immunity. I’d like to keep the momentum going, so here is an update and more food for thought.

      As I noted in the footnote to my first article, Tim Caulfield contacted me within 24 hours of receiving it. He asked me for a copy of the Pero study, which he had dismissed in the news story. While I suspect he thought I’d never find it, I am hot on the trail, having obtained the name of both the individual who funded the study (now a sought-after speaker on chiropractic and a chancellor at an American university) as well as a chiropractor/lawyer who was involved in the study, also very prominent in the American chiropractic community. I expect to receive information about the study in the very near future. I have to say, though, that it was not my responsibility to track it down for Caulfield, nor for Armstrong, nor for the three CBC journalists on the story, particularly after they had already slammed it in the national news. This is not my day job.

      I am pleased to see that Ryan Armstrong has written an extensive rebuttal to my article. That helps us get this out in the open. I had already drafted this article in response to a paper Tim Caulfield had sent me, which as it happens, is the same one Armstrong identified at the end of his rebuttal. How fortuitous. I have here added a response to Armstrong’s other comments.

      Regarding Armstrong’s observation that my article appeared on the HANS website, that is irrelevant. I am neither an employee, nor even a member of HANS. In fact, I was only made aware of HANS as a result of having written the article. Whether it appeared on the HANS website or the CTV website or CNN website is immaterial. That is a red herring and would not have changed the content of my article.

      The first fatal flaw in Armstrong’s argument is that I have not been misled by anyone. The views in my article were not fed to me by any chiropractor, nor did anyone put me up to it. My views are entirely my own. I can read, I can understand, and I can think critically. I form my own opinions, regardless of who is providing the information. I most certainly am not a victim. I do believe that he has good intentions, but speaking as a client, his work on this is doing me a grave disservice. Ryan, I beg you to please talk to the clients, listen to the clients, and validate the clients’ experiences. If your idea of standing up for my rights is to continue to discredit the health practitioners I have most benefited from, please stop. Instead, stand up for my right to choose. I would be most appreciative of your support on that.

      Armstrong states, “There is quite a bit of clinical evidence to inform us that just because something may appear to be misaligned or abnormal, does not mean that there is any real impact to a patient’s well-being.” This is another fatal flaw in his argument – I am not depending on any research in making my statements. I am reporting on my own personal experience as someone with multiple spinal issues. Yes, most certainly, if my spine is misaligned and is causing me great discomfort, particularly for extended periods of time, that does have an impact on my well-being, physically and emotionally. I find it bizarre that he should be discounting my own personal experience. Again, a red herring.

      As for how I address that negative impact on my well-being, it is entirely up to me to decide what sort of treatment I undergo to address any condition that is causing me stress, whether physical or emotional. As well, the level of stress one experiences is commensurate with the seriousness of the spinal issue. A correction of misalignment will clearly have varying effects, depending on the degree of misalignment and how much discomfort, and therefore stress, it was causing.

      I am genuinely embarrassed for Armstrong regarding this statement: “The notion that yoga and chiropractic are both about “alignment” is nonsense. Again, contemporary chiropractors do not play make believe with their patients’ spines, pretending that what they are doing is correcting some non-existent misalignment.” Since Armstrong has admitted that he has never been to see a chiropractor, perhaps he has never had an issue with vertebrae being out of alignment – isn’t he lucky. The fact that he dismisses chiropractic as a “spine rub” also demonstrates an embarrassing lack of knowledge about the practice. I recall going to a previous chiropractor who took an X-ray of my neck, which I could barely turn. His comment was, “You sure have a funny-looking neck, Anita.” I was shocked to see on the X-ray that my cervical vertebrae were badly misaligned, looking rather like a Jenga puzzle. I saw it with my own eyes and felt it in my own neck. Please don’t tell me that my misalignment was non-existent or that it wasn’t diminishing my well-being. I am grateful to that chiropractor for significantly improving my mobility. As to the connection between yoga and alignment, I say to him, please conceptualize it as balance of the entire body, with optimal posture. Maybe that will help you to understand.

      Regarding his criticism of my comment on the benefit of chiropractic in providing breathing benefits (“research into chiropractic treatment of asthmatic patients has failed to elucidate any objective benefits for lung function…”) nowhere did I say anything about asthma. I was explicitly referring to the release of muscle tension around the ribcage, which attaches to the spine, and again, the comment was based on personal experience. This is yet another red herring. Maybe we should be invited to a seafood feast.

      What is frustrating to me is that chiropractic (and yoga) are being ripped apart by people who so clearly know nothing about them. I am also frustrated by the insistence on depending on scientific evidence, rather than trusting one’s own experience of what causes stress, what relieves stress, and how one responds under stress. I would ask Ryan Armstrong whether he knows when he is stressed or whether he needs to have a saliva sample analyzed for cortisol to confirm whether he is stressed. Does he then also need to have a blood test to confirm whether he is feeling unwell as a result of stress or does he just know that he is feeling run down or burned out. This absolutely is a matter of common sense.

      Regarding Dr. Pero’s study, Armstrong says, “this so-called study is nothing more than a fabrication.” He goes on to say, “Even if we were to assume that the referenced article existed at one point in time…” meaning that he has never seen it, but assumes – sight unseen – that it is garbage. As I noted above, this study involved at least two individuals prominent in the American chiropractic community, in addition to Dr. Pero, chief of cancer prevention research at New York’s Preventive Medicine Institute and professor of medicine at New York University, not Elmer Fudd and Bugs Bunny.

      Let us consider a plausible scenario that may help to explain how a 200% increase in the functioning of the immune system could be possible. With respect to the effects of stress on the immune system, here’s a study that reviewed 300 empirical articles concerning the effect of psychological stress on the immune system. Even the first paragraph in the abstract is very informative:

      Psychological Stress and the Human Immune System: A Meta-Analytic Study of 30 Years of Inquiry

      Dr. Pero’s study was conducted on cancer patients. These were individuals who had the knowledge that they had a grave disease, that they could possibly die from it, and some may indeed have been terminally ill. They may have been in pain and may have been suffering for years, physically and emotionally. In addition to having the disease, they would have been subjected to the horrors of chemotherapy and radiation treatment, in the state they were in during the 1980’s. They may have had child-care issues, such as having to look after their children themselves while they were recovering from treatment, or having to have complete strangers look after their children if they were unable to find licenced child care. They possibly were unable to work and consequently had financial issues, which would also have had implications for child care, as well as basic living expenses, mortgage, rent, etc. You better believe these people were stressed.

      As I noted in my previous article, psychological studies have found that patients with PTSD were suffering not just psychologically, but also physically, due to the muscle tension associated with “fight or flight,” i.e., elevated cortisol and the activity of the sympathetic nervous system. The suggested treatment was a combination of psychological and physical methods, which would allow the nervous system to return to its parasympathetic state, thereby reducing cortisol and its effect on the immune system, as well as on the muscles. In the case of these patients, it would not be surprising that being treated with the human touch – as opposed to being stabbed with needles, pumped full of toxic chemicals, or laying on a cold, hard machine being battered by radiation, both of which would have made them feel deathly ill, on top of the cancer – would have been a welcome change and a stress relief in itself. As well, chiropractic could have helped to alleviate the muscle tension associated with the stress and possible consequent misalignment, or at least increased muscle mobility around the joints, such as the hips and shoulders, even if there was no actual misalignment.

      Now here’s the most important point: whether the improvement in immune system function was 200% or 2%, if there was an improvement that would help these people heal faster or that would enhance their palliative care to make their last days more comfortable, there is no reason not to do it, especially if no harm can be proven. Furthermore, it is not up to Ryan Armstrong, nor Tim Caulfield, nor the CBC to decide for me whether I am going to accept chiropractic treatment. It is not being forced on anyone, so just butt out, would you, please?

      With respect to my “limited and naive understanding” of what is science, I have completed three post-secondary programs with reputable institutions, from the technical level to the graduate level. I was always taught that following the scientific method could not prove anything. It could only yield results that would either support or reject a null hypothesis. Either the question asked was supported by the data obtained through the researcher’s study or it wasn’t. Even if it is supported (or rejected), there’s no end to the possible explanations for a given outcome, such as bias, poor design, insufficient sample size, or confounding variables, hence the need for retesting using different methods, different assumptions, not to mention different researchers. My graduate work was with respect to the development of trust between conflicted parties. Regarding Armstrong’s proposed research design, because there are clearly polarized views on the subject, I suggest teaming up with researchers of the opposite view, collaboratively coming up with various study designs that all can agree to, and jointly conducting a series of studies. Then we can talk.

      Finally, regarding his comment about “chiropractors who got their education by applying to a school through a magazine ad,” to obtain a DC or Doctor of Chiropractic designation, here is the academic and practical study required in the Doctor of Chiropractic Program at Canadian Memorial Chiropractic College and here are the admission requirements, in particular a university undergraduate degree. The minimum grade point average required is pretty standard and comparable with other Canadian universities. Please be assured, Ryan, that Joe Schmoe with zero education nor two brain cells to rub together would not be admitted to the program.

      While it is not my intention, nor my responsibility, to conduct a literature review for Armstrong nor for anyone else, I identify here a few additional studies from peer-reviewed journals for consideration, since the science is clearly important to him:

      This study discusses yoga from a biomechanics and physical performance perspective:
      Yoga Empowers Seniors Study (YESS): Design and Asana Series
      Armstrong notes that he is not familiar with any clinically demonstrated effects of yoga on stress reduction.
      Here’s one:
      Effects of Yoga on Stress Management in Healthy Adults: A Systematic Review

      The conclusion was that, while the study revealed positive effects of yoga on stress reduction in healthy adult populations, further studies should be conducted. Here’s an opportunity for further research. Or better yet, Ryan, in the interest of having first-hand knowledge of the effects of yoga, how about just taking a few yoga classes and seeing how you feel.

      Here’s another:
      The effect of yoga in stress reduction for dental students performing their first periodontal surgery: A randomized controlled study

      The conclusion on this one: “This study concludes that Yogic breathing has a significant effect on the reduction of state trait anxiety level of dental students.”

      Here’s another one connecting psychological stress to increased susceptibility to illness:
      Psychological Stress and Susceptibility to the Common Cold

      With respect to Armstrong’s charge that I have left out information about the findings of chiropractic research that determines that “there is no scientific evidence that supports claims of a meaningful boost in immune function from chiropractic adjustments,” as I noted above, I had already prepared the response below to such findings. I am not trying to hide anything. In fact, I am very glad that he brought that up. Armstrong says, “I am confident to assert that spinal manipulation does not offer a real benefit to one’s immune system just as I am confident in asserting that there is no teapot between Earth and Mars that is orbiting the sun.” Let’s take a look at one of these reports that claim no scientific evidence, put forward by an international regulatory body – the very one noted by Armstrong at the end of his rebuttal. Thank you again for handing this to me on a silver platter.

      Tim Caulfield had given me a link for this “rapid review” by the World Federation of Chiropractic (WFC) which he was holding up as evidence that there is no link between chiropractic and immunity:

      The Effect of Spinal Adjustment / Manipulation on Immunity and the Immune System: A Rapid Review of Relevant Literature.

      According to its website, the WFC consists of “90 national associations of chiropractors in 89 nations. The WFC represents them and the chiropractic profession in the international community. Its goals…include:

      ● Acting with national and international organizations to provide information and other assistance in the fields of chiropractic and world health;

      ● Promoting uniform high standards of chiropractic education, research and practice;

      ● Developing an informed public opinion among all peoples with respect to chiropractic; and

      ● Advancing the chiropractic profession and protecting the character and status of the profession.”

      Note the last three bullets in particular, with the emphasis on high standards, informed public opinion, and protecting the character and status of chiropractic. This, folks, is where the plot thickens. First of all, in my estimation, the above report is stunningly biased. Secondly, I shake my head again at Caulfield’s comment in the CBC news report about the erosion of our critical thinking, and both his and Armstrong’s reference to this report as evidence that there is no evidence. This speaks to my comment about our biases clouding our thinking and preventing us from truly thinking critically.

      The following is based on the rebuttal I sent to Caulfield and I await his response. (I sent it to him on April 15th, so I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt that he’s been too busy to give me a fulsome response just yet. Perhaps this article and any additional encouragement from you, dear readers, will stimulate a quicker response.) In the interest of promoting open and unbiased discussion, I would be interested in hearing all (informed) perspectives, so please feel free to voice any dissenting views.

      My initial reaction to the WFC’s review was surprise that only seven studies were reviewed, since the website I identified in my first article listed 114 of them, and even that number was noted as being only a partial list of available research. Granted, those studies are not the easiest to get a hold of, since many were pre-internet era and there are a number of broken links. Still, every effort should be made to locate them, rather than ignoring them or dismissing them sight unseen. If they can not be located, the validity, not to mention the results, are simply unknown and more research should be undertaken. A lack of research does not in itself suggest that chiropractic is ineffective in stimulating or improving the function of the immune system.

      I found it bizarre that regardless of the sort of research undertaken, no matter what was said or done, the WFC seemed determined to shoot everything down regardless, with no hint of positivity or excitement about encouraging results. That is baffling to me. Unless harm or malice can be proven, if people agree to participate in a study or to undergo a given treatment, it isn’t anyone’s business but the patient’s to decide whether or not to partake.

      Providing balanced and objective information is fine and then let the patient decide. If they feel they are deriving some benefit, even if only placebo, then what’s the problem? That’s particularly true in a hospital setting where the patients don’t even have to pay for it. The mind is a powerful thing – if one truly believes that they are benefiting, chances are that they will. On the other hand, speaking from experience, the benefit I have received from chiropractic is not only in my head. I know when I am or am not in pain.

      I suggest that researchers should put more emphasis on self-reporting and on outcomes, rather than focusing on the cellular level, given the difficulty of measuring the activity of the immune system when we know so little about it, and particularly about showing causal connections. And as you’ll read in the WFC’s review, it is even more difficult to convince an ornery regulatory system that changes in the immune system can be attributed to chiropractic. How exactly is a chiropractor and/or researcher to design a study that will satisfy them? With the goal posts constantly moving, it’s impossible to know where to kick.

      I reviewed the WFC’s response to each study and read whatever information I could access on each study to form my own opinions. These were my conclusions:

      1. Pero R, Flesia J, (1986) University of Lund, Sweden

      This is the study Caulfield was referring to in the CBC news report and that Armstrong was also making light of in his rebuttal. Note that Dr. Pero’s collaborator Dr. Joseph Flesia was referred to as “a basic science researcher and chiropractor.” I have no idea what a “basic” science researcher might be, but that sounds to me like an attempt to dismiss his credentials, since Dr. Pero’s are impressive. With respect to the study, since the WFC had no documentation to review, I found it most irresponsible of them to state that the “study does not constitute credible, scientific evidence that spinal adjustment / manipulation enhances or confers immunity nor should it be used as a basis to provide care.” Similar to Caulfield and Armstrong, they had nothing to base that conclusion on, except their opinion that the results seem implausible. Therefore, their conclusion is invalid. By their own admission, “no scientific assessment of its claims can be made.” There’s a lack of information one way or the other. The appropriate conclusion should be that the validity of this study is an open question.

      2. Enhanced phagocytic cell respiratory burst induced by spinal manipulation: potential role of substance P.
      The WFC’s response is that the “clinical meaning” is unknown, since this study is at the cellular level. Isn’t evidence at the cellular level what is being sought in these studies to prove the effectiveness of chiropractic? If the WFC wants clinical evidence, then that would be a logical next step in this study, rather than dismissing it as not being credible. At the same time, having to take blood samples in a clinical environment while a chiropractor is trying to perform an adjustment seems unreasonable. I’d certainly feel that it was taking away from my session and with negligible benefit to me.

      In the abstract, I read (forgive the mumbo-jumbo and apologies if you go cross-eyed): “The CL [chemiluminescence] responses of both PMN [polymorphonuclear neutrophils] and monocytes from subjects who received spinal manipulation were significantly higher after than before treatment, and significantly higher than the response in sham or soft-tissue treated subjects.”

      As well, “Plasma levels of SP [Substance P] before and after treatment in sham treated subjects did not differ significantly; however, elevated plasma SP was observed in subjects after spinal manipulation.” Basically what they’re saying is that there was more immune system activity after a chiropractic adjustment than there was after other types of treatment, which suggests that chiropractic adjustments have the effect of stimulating the immune system.

      Clearly there is potential here for positive results in a clinical environment, so why not encourage that? Again, “not known” does not equal “not credible.”

      What is the value the WFC sees in assuming that it would be ineffective in a clinical environment? Why are they assuming that? And what exactly is the “clinical meaning” they would like to see?

      3. Enhancement of in vitro interleukin-2 production in normal subjects following a single spinal manipulative treatment.

      Again, the WFC is blowing off this study as having unknown clinical meaning, so same criticism as above.

      4. Interleukin 2-regulated in vitro antibody production following a single spinal manipulative treatment in normal subjects.
      Yet again, same criticism as above. Where the researchers state that the results are unclear, fair enough, there’s room for more investigation.

      5. The Effects of Specific Upper Cervical Adjustments on the CD4 Counts of HIV Positive Patients Jeffrey L. Selano, Brett C. Highto

      The authors themselves acknowledged that the sample size was small, therefore the results are preliminary and more study is warranted. The WFC’s response that the results were “highly questionable” seems unnecessary to me and strikes me as biased. They could have just said that they’d like to see the study repeated with a larger study group.

      6. One hundred thousand cases of influenza with a death rate of one-fortieth of that officially reported under conventional medical treatment. 1919 | The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association [It’s hard to know exactly what the WFC was looking at, since they didn’t provide a link. However, you’ll find a pdf to the 1919 paper at this website.]

      This is another instance of where there isn’t enough information to properly assess, but the WFC is assuming the worst. The link provided in the response goes to this page: The 2012-2013 Influenza Epidemic and the Role of Osteopathic Manipulative Medicine | The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association. Regarding the comment, “Their lack of methodological structure or data analysis is likely to have resulted in incomplete information and a high likelihood of bias,” I’m not clear on how incomplete information necessarily leads to a “high likelihood” of bias. We just don’t know. Regarding the comment, “These various reports do not provide the necessary evidence to justify the use of spinal adjustment / manipulation for infectious diseases,” again I say it’s really none of their business if a patient should choose to undergo chiropractic treatment if no harm can be proven.

      7. The Effects Induced by Spinal Manipulative Therapy on the Immune and Endocrine Systems
      The WFC states, “This study supports that there is no current basis for which to provide spinal adjustment / manipulation for the purpose of conferring or enhancing immunity.” Absolute garbage. No, it doesn’t. The quote says that the results are “mixed and conflicting,” “mixed” suggesting that there was evidence in support as well as against; therefore the results are unclear and more investigation is warranted. It is inaccurate to say that there is “no” current basis.

      The rapid review conclusion that “available studies have…a lack of symptomatic subjects” isn’t even true. There were cancer patients, flu patients, and AIDS patients. What kind of symptoms are they wanting to see? Regarding “no credible, scientific evidence,” what do they call “credible”? What is it exactly that they’re looking for?

      This entire report is shockingly biased and suggests a strong negative agenda. It would be laughable if it weren’t disturbing that these people are actively trying to discredit a mode of health care from which I derive great benefit. Looking again at the WFC’s goals, I fail to see how their rapid review promotes high standards of education, informed public opinion, or protects the character and status of the profession. In fact, it looks to me like the WFC is trying to destroy the profession from within. To what end? Where is this coming from and who are they really trying to protect? Unfortunately, this bizarre activity is fodder for the skeptics like Tim Caulfield and Ryan Armstrong, who apparently aren’t critiquing the critiques, but are accepting them without question.

      In an attempt to get around the moving goal posts for “credible” and “clinically meaningful” evidence of chiropractic vis a vis immunity, I submit that it may be more productive to look at outcomes, such as before-and-after medical imaging, with whatever controls might be necessary to satisfy the WFC. In fact, I would be more than happy to offer myself up as a research subject. I underwent a CT scan shortly before I started treatment with my current chiropractor, which showed severe degeneration, including stenosis or narrowing of the spaces within the spine, which can cause pressure on the nerves and spinal cord. Within less than nine months, I had relief of my symptoms. No matter how I bend or twist or angle my hips, I can not reproduce the pain I was experiencing before I started seeing my chiropractor. I haven’t been taking anti-inflammatories, and have made no dietary or exercise changes, therefore, I see no other explanation for that other than the chiropractic care. I would be very interested to know whether any physical changes would be significant enough to show up on another CT scan. What I was told was that my chiropractor’s technique can actually stimulate reabsorption of abnormal growth in the vertebrae, thereby reversing the stenosis. That would be a function of the immune system.

      Certainly as far as my personal experience goes, I no longer feel like my vertebrae are closing in on my spinal cord and I am pain-free, for which I am eternally grateful. No invasive or surgical procedures have been required. The WFC, as well as Caulfield and Armstrong, can keep their noses out of my business and I don’t care what they believe or don’t believe.

      At the risk of sounding like a conspiracy theorist, it is hard not to conclude that there is a bizarre and surreal plot to silence and discredit the chiropractic profession, with pressure coming from both external skeptics and the news media, as well as from within. Far from attacking chiropractors and any connection between chiropractic and immunity, the real news story here should have been the impending self-destruction of chiropractic, starting with the upper echelons of the chiropractic regulatory system, and the skepticism that feeds on it. So you see, folks, we are at the ground level of attempting to understand what is behind this attack. If this is not resolved – and soon – the potential outcome could be that our freedom to decide what sort of medical practitioners we seek help from will be taken away. In fact, it is being eroded as we speak. While Ryan Armstrong suggested that “false” claims about chiropractic boosting immune system function undermine our democracy, this is the true threat to our democracy. So, dear readers, I invite you to speak up now, challenge the skeptics, and let the regulators and news media know that you are onto them. We have just begun!

      Anita B., Concerned Citizen and Grateful Recipient of Chiropractic Care

      Reply
      • Brad Gage

        Dear Anita,
        THANK YOU for taking the time to write with very well thought out, articulate, and factual statements. I only wish our governing bodies and detractors would look at the “facts” (aka the best available evidence) and weigh it out as objectively as you have. Unfortunately, these groups appear to be “evidence-biased”, not “evidence-based”… looking at and interpreting the scientific evidence in a way that furthers their own agenda(s).
        I commend you taking a stand for what is right.
        Signed,
        A grateful chiropractor serving his community for almost 20 years.

        Reply
  6. Steven Lay

    I couldn’t agree more. The only thing I might add is that not only is their reporting biased and ill-informed when covering health related subjects, but nearly everything else as well. I could barely bring myself to vote in the most recent Canadian Federal election with almost every party falling over themselves to offer national pharmacare or should I say poison care. Not only are alternative type therapies not covered here in BC, but the thought of paying for everyone else’s cure through tax dollars while paying for my own prevention with what I get to keep had me considering drastic measures. I wish I couldn’t remember how poorly Conservative governments have performed in past decades because Justin Trudeau is making Andrew Scheer or Rona Ambrose look like pretty good options as Crime Minister. I certainly hope we never have another majority government again.

    Reply
  7. Oli Cosgrove

    I, too, am a fervent supporter of Chiropractors since one saved me from a number of health problems for which allopaths had no answer.

    For six years I suffered back pain so horrible I had to quit work. One allopath gave me exercises that increased the pain, and another suggested the cause was emotional problems. Yes, emotional problems were the cause of the pain, not the result of it!

    One morning I awoke with the word “chiropractor” in mind. I didn’t know what chiropractors did, but knew it had something to do with bones. I found the nearest one in the telephone directory, phoned, and when the phone was answered, I burst into tears. “Tell me where you are and we’ll come get you,” the receptionist said. Can you imagine an allopath’s office doing that? I said they needn’t pick me up; I’d go to them if they’d give me an appointment. They said they’d see me whenever it was convenient for me to arrive.

    Six months after my first appointment, I had no back pain. However, I went for monthly treatments to remain well.

    My next problem wasn’t back pain but hypoglycemia: temper tantrums, depression, fatigue. Again, allopaths didn’t have a clue, but my chiropractor spotted it; only problem was that the law didn’t permit him to refer me for testing. Luckily, a friend of his was an allopath and he referred me. I was on the point of tipping over into diabetes. Do you see how biased our health system is?

    Allopaths knew nothing about hypoglycemia, and if I hadn’t had a chiropractor watching over me, I could have landed in an institution which is where many undiagnosed hypoglycemics went. My chiropractor then put me on a diet that I follow to this day, and I’m no longer hypoglycemic. But my problems weren’t over.

    Once again, fatigue and depression appeared. I didn’t bother with allopaths; I simply described my symptoms to my chiropractor. He identified allergies, once again gave me a diet, and once again good health returned. He did more; he taught me to observe my body, how to recognize anomalies, and how to respond to them. I’ve been doing that for more than 50 years now, and at age 87, am very fit and take no medications. My healthy diet is my medicine, thanks to my chiropractor.

    How different my life would have been, had I not had chiropractic care!

    I’m also a fervent supporter of the CBC, but I, too, am deeply disappointed in it, and furious with it, for its ignorant, biased, and frankly, dangerous attitude toward any health modality that isn’t allopathic. This attitude can do serious harm to CBC listeners who don’t know any better. As a retired journalist, I am also disgusted at the poor standards of journalism CBC allows its health reporters to practice.

    Reply
  8. Mick

    Very, very simple answer about this. Published by THE GLOBAL CHIROPRACTTIC RESEARCH COMMUNITY and signed by over 140 chiropractors globally.

    The article is entitled:
    “A united statement of the global chiropractic research community against the pseudoscientific claim that chiropractic care boosts immunity”

    https://chiromt.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12998-020-00312-x

    There is no such thing as ‘boosting the immune system’. Full stop.

    Reply

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Despite How Some Chiropractors Deceive Patients, "Adjustments" Do Not Benefit The Immune System | Post-Truth Health - […] information and provide informed consent. With that in mind, this post is a rebuttal to a chiropractic patient’s perspective…
  2. URL - ... [Trackback] [...] Read More here: hans.org/a-chiropractic-clients-response-to-the-cbc-timothy-caulfield-ryan-armstrong/ [...]

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.