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Chiropractic IS “Alternative Medicine” (An alternative to medicine)

Home/Editorial/Chiropractic IS “Alternative Medicine” (An alternative to medicine)

Chiropractors had always been considered a “fringe” provider (or worse) by conventional medicine.

David M. Eisenberg’s article, Unconventional Medicine in the United States: Prevalence, Costs, and Patterns of Use, published in the January 28, 1993 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine generated a rapid shift in that opinion. This article was a rude awakening, and a genuine “eye–opener” for organized medicine, since it described an amazing shift in public opinion.

During this same period, while Managed Care DRASTICALLY reduced medical incomes, Dr. Eisenberg revealed that “in 1990 Americans made an estimated 425 million visits to providers of unconventional therapy. That number far exceeds the number of visits to all U.S. primary care physicians (only 388 million)”. And Chiropractic Care was one of the most–utilized of these “unconventional” treatments.

He went on to state that “expenditures associated with use of unconventional therapy in 1990 amounted to approximately $13.7 billion, three quarters of which ($10.3 billion) was paid out of pocket. This figure is comparable to the $12.8 billion spent out of pocket annually for all hospitalizations in the United States!

A quick review of this article reveals that:

  • Unconventional therapy is clearly NOT on the “fringe”, and based on these numbers, it is actually the dominant form of “health care” in America!
  • and, Americans were paying prohibitive out–of–pocket costs when they make that choice.   That’s called voting with your pocketbook folks, and this was a fact that conventional medicine could no longer ignore.

Dr. Eisenberg penned a follow–up piece, published in the Nov. 11, 1998 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, titled Trends in Alternative Medicine Use in the United States, from 1990 to 1997.   This article revealed that there had been a 47.3% increase in total visits to alternative medicine practitioners during that period (guesstimated to be 629 million visits in 1997) and that the estimated $12.2 billion in costs now exceeded the 1997 out-of-pocket expenditures for all US hospitalizations!

Medicine’s response has been to go on the offensive.

Hiding behind the pose of protecting the public interest, medicine’s reaction has been to publicly demand that unconventional therapies demonstrate their efficacy through research. Doesn’t that sound reasonable?

Yet, in 1994, when the AHCPR reviewed the complete body research supporting spinal manipulation, they found that spinal adjusting was very well-supported and also determined that many standard medical treatments for low back pain were either not effective, or were actually counter-productive! Medicine’s response? Organized medicine was so outraged by the AHCPR findings that they pressured Congress to shut that department down! Mean while, less than 15 percent of medical treatments have ever been tested with the same gold-standard of randomized research trials!

In an editorial in the British Medical Journal titled Where is the Wisdom? The Poverty of Medical Evidence, BMJ editor Dr. Smith recounts a lecture he attended with renowned health policy consultant Dr. David Eddy. Eddy, with significant research, found that only about 15% of medical interventions are supported by solid scientific evidence, and that only 1% of the articles in medical journals are scientifically acurate. Why is that? Because most of those articles have referenced other articles which made unsupported claims!

The Conditions That Respond Well to Chiropractic Page details trials demonstrating the effectiveness of chiropractic for a wide variety of disorders. The Low Back Pain Guidelines Section provides access to scientific reviews which have taken place in other countries which make similar conclusions to the AHCPR review.

The Cost-Effectiveness Page details how increased access to chiropractic services are helping to lower annual total health care expenditures. Finally, The Safety of Chiropractic Page details how allopathic medicine promulgated the illusion that chiropractic care is dangerous, and then goes on to detail the astounding safety and efficacy of chiropractic care.

When the National Institute of Health (NIH) created the original “Office of Alternative Medicine” in 1994, the yearly budget was $1 million. The 2000 budget was over $70 million. Considering that the complete NIH budget was $17 Billion, one could ask why the dominant form of care (based on Eisenberg’s figures) in this country was funded with a tiny fraction of 1% of that research budget? (That’s less than a rounding-error!)

The purpose of this editorial is not to encourage anger about the inbalance and unfairness of medical research funding. My aim is to inform our readers, and bring them “up–to–speed” on what’s being written and considered in the scientific literature. There have been hundreds of articles written about the growth of CAM, but many of them are derivative and repetitious articles that add nothing new to our knowledge and understanding.

The Alt–Med Articles Section is devoted to sharing those articles, both pro and con, which contain unique and interesting perspectives on the increased use of and/or research about alternative forms of care.

You may also find value reviewing of our Chiropractic Research Section, where new projects and recently published research can be found which supports chiropractic care. I hope you find these sections of value, and that you draw them to the attention of your peers.

About the Author:

I was introduced to Chiro.Org in early 1996, where my friend Joe Garolis helped me learn HTML, the "mark-up language" for websites. We have been fortunate that journals like JMPT have given us permission to reproduce some early important articles in Full-Text format. Maintaining the Org website has been, and remains, my favorite hobby.


  1. Until this post, I have never checked the alt-med section of this site. Good work. Thanks for pointing it out!

  2. Thank you for the informative post. It is apparent the stats stack up in our favor!

  3. Chiropractic san francisco July 16, 2010 at 2:52 am

    Chiropractic is a wellness and holistic care. No doubt about it.!

  4. Seattle Chiropractor November 10, 2010 at 7:37 pm

    Chiropractic medicine is an excellent alternative for those who want to avoid surgery and drugs. Just ask the tens of millions of patients who turn to chiropractic every year to alleviate pain or seek wellness care.

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