Sunday, October 17, 2010

I can't explain it, but it worked for me!

To begin let me assure you that I am not picking on Jeffrey Needham anymore than, say, doctors are picking on a section of skin when they are attempting to remove a patch of skin cancer.  There is little in chiropractic that has been proven to offer benefit but, given that there is some areas where it MAY be helpful, I do not think that chiropractic is worthless.  Much of what Jeffrey Needham "pushes" is bullshit.  Chiropractic does not cure colds, asthma, bed wedding, ear infections, etc.  Without reservation I would discourage a child from ever seeing a chiropractor unless under the specific direction and care of an orthopedist (which will seldom, if ever, happen).

A number of people have sent me emails or, in person, asked me questions about Chiropractic and many of the defenders of it say "I can't explain it, but it worked for me!"  That is almost a standard line used by any "supporter" of alternative medicine.  Most importantly, the question is "by work, what did it do?".

Many diseases are self-limiting - they follow a natural course and, ultimately, go away.  The common cold, headaches and ear infections are examples of diseases that typically run their course on their own.  It is often said that when you have a cold if you take some cold medicine, it goes away in 7 days whereas if you do not, it goes away in a week.

Muscle soreness, joint pain, back pain, etc., often follow cycles - periods where it isn't as bad compared to periods where it seems worse.  Some people with chronic pain report periods of little (or no) irritation and periods of increased pain - with no apparent contributing causes (or changes in activities).

Before suggesting that chiropractic "worked", we must be sure that the explanation doesn't lie elsewhere.  For chiropractic, it is often the case that the pain would have naturally diminished (or gone away) and, in some cases, would have done so sooner without chiropractic.

This fallacy that people fall victim to is the correlation not causation fallacy.  Simply because some "thing" occurs after another "thing" does not mean that the first thing "caused" the second thing.  (I've mentioned in an earlier blog that blaming autism on vaccination is like blaming vaccination for the child turning 1.)  The fallacy is often called "post hoc, ergo propter hoc" (translates to "after this, therefore because of this").

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