It is widely known that an alarming number of people die annually from inappropriate and overutilized medical and surgical care, yet the average citizen may not be completely aware of just how seriously inept our health care is. In my opinion, it is outright fraudulent, based on deliberate exclusion of superior methods. In fact, deaths from medical misuse rank as the third largest killer of American people, behind heart disease and cancer. The care that chiropractic can provide in many of these cases is far superior and does not present any serious complications. Consider the following documented facts:
- A major U.S. government study, using 100 leading experts, carefully evaluating thousands of pages of the finest scientific research literature in the world, published government guidelines recommending spinal manipulation for low back pain . Since chiropractors perform 94 percent of all spinal manipulations in America, according to the RAND2 study, this represents proof of chiropractic's credibility in its field. The same study found that many of the medical treatments advocated for low back pain by medicine were either worthless or dangerous, then went on to chastise surgeons for performing too much disc surgery.
- A U.K. study conducted over 10 years, using scientifically accepted randomized controlled trials, found chiropractic provided superior results over any other methods by as much as a two-to-one advantage for low back pain.3
- The University of Saskatchewan Medical Clinic and Research Center, using chiropractic spinal adjustments on 171 medically unresponsive patients who had suffered for two years with low back pain, got 87-percent positive results within three weeks. A re-evaluation showed many of the patients remained pain-free for the first time in two years.4
- Italy conducted a clinical study involving 17,142 patients in 11 hospitals, and found that after two years, spinal adjustments reduced hospitalization by 87.6 percent and work loss by 75.5 percent.5
- A Canadian study found "an overwhelming body of evidence indicating that chiropractic management of low-back pain is more cost-effective than medical management...and could save Ottawa millions of dollars a year."6
- One of the largest health maintenance organizations in the U.S. sent 100 patients to a chiropractor, of which 80 percent had failed to heal through medicine. The chiropractor obtained success with 86 percent of them within three weeks. Within this group, 12 cases were diagnosed as needing disc surgery by a team of MDs, but all 12 were corrected with adjustments and without surgery.7
- A professor from Northwestern University Medical School in Chicago compared the clinical results between two hospital orthopedic wards, showing that one hospital using chiropractic care was sending patients home seven to nine days sooner than the one without chiropractic care.8
- A Gallup poll conducted by the Western Medical Journal on chiropractic patients showed that 90 percent of those polled insisted that chiropractic adjustments helped them with their ailments.
In light of these facts, how can any informed or intelligent people isolate chiropractic from 98 percent of the hospitals in America? Why is chiropractic still isolated from many insurance plans? Why must we spend any money lobbying to get politicians to support the inclusion of chiropractic in health care plans if it is so clearly superior and in the public's best interest? Why must we need to sue insurance companies and the U.S. government to get them to do things that simple common sense and a better educated society would enthusiastically demand and embrace? I see a twofold answer to all these questions.
First, the public is incredibly ignorant of chiropractic's benefits. We aren't getting this vital information out to the public. Second, the people need a champion to take this truth to the media and press. If our national chiropractic organizations can assertively promote media education with the same zeal they exert toward litigation and legislation, we can eliminate this public ignorance.
Of the eight vital facts listed, we'd be hard-pressed to find one layperson out of 100 who would know one of them. This must change, and only our national leadership has the ability to educate the public. On the issue of media education, our national leadership has grossly failed us.
Our PR firms advocate advertising, but how can we compete against billions of dollars per month in pharmaceutical advertising? We simply can't compete with dollars, but we can compete by presenting our information to the media. Our national organizations should use their influence to urge the state chiropractic associations to select their most trusted and respected members and make them "official chiropractic spokespersons." These representatives should have only one purpose - to establish and maintain media and press contacts with the newspapers and radio and television broadcasters in their states, to use their titles (official chiropractic spokespersons) to influence them, and to appear as a guest on every talk show available.
Don't assign this responsibility to any active state officers bogged down with administrative duties. This must be a position with only one job and one goal. Our information is so incredible that it has to be delivered with exceptional skill and solid documentation to be accepted by the listening audience. This is the kind of news that talk shows love to have on their programs because it helps their ratings. Provocative is not necessarily controversial. We simply have a wealth of solid facts to support our case.
The American Chiropractic Association (ACA) has aggressively pushed litigation and legislation, while not giving an appropriate commitment to media education. Unfortunately, without good public education, the litigation and legislation become increasingly difficult and expensive, if not cost prohibitive. An organization, like a stool, needs at least three legs to stand up. These are the legislative, legal and educational "legs."
The ACA Executive Board, at its Florida board meeting, unanimously voted to support and promote my book, Medicine, Monopolies and Malice (MMM). Also, the ACA signed a contract with me in May 2001 stating: "ACA will use its best efforts to promote the sale and use of the publication." Though I have sent the ACA many pages of publicity material to use in its journals, I have been waiting to see anything coming from it. If the ACA had created a bestseller of MMM, I would have donated 80 percent of any profits from my book to any 501c3 tax-exempt chiropractic organization of the ACA's choice. This is smart business, because 20 percent of a lot is better than 100 percent of nothing. The ICA has congratulated me and the ACA has wished me success, but so far, hasn't participated. If the ACA had motivated the state associations to support the book, I believe it would create a bestseller, and the vital public education it would create would be priceless. Our profession would have major positive media exposure and potentially receive millions of dollars.
History is a great teacher. It gives us the ability to look into the future with greater wisdom. This is why MMM provides a very candid and honest account of our history. Back in the early 1970's it was not a popular idea to sue the AMA. Fortunately, we had two unsung heroes in DCs Joe Mazzarelli, then the ICA president, and Jerry McAndrews, then the ICA executive director, who had the wisdom and courage of their convictions to put chiropractic above themselves and their organizations. They managed to get the ICA to endorse the Wilk, et al., lawsuit while the ACA incredibly took a position against it! Joe and Jerry took a lot of flack from their ICA colleagues, who strongly condemned and ridiculed them for supporting the lawsuit. They cynically referred to the suit as the "Joe and Jerry Show."
What our leadership needs today is a "Joe and Jerry" mentality. Ironically, and hypocritically, the same vocal opponents of that time became the most vocal ones to remind everyone that their organization was the first to support the lawsuit.
In the 1970s, the boycott was orchestrated by a few morally corrupt individuals within the AMA who wrote within their "secret" internal memos: "...work behind the scenes and never let your hand show" to orchestrate anti-chiropractic propaganda with the intent to "contain and ultimately eliminate chiropractic" and "dry up its schools," so chiropractic would "wither on the vine and die an undramatic death." This was scary talk, and many of our leaders were willing to cower and look the other way, but it was time for litigation. Most of the attacks against chiropractic, and a "vertical boycott," appeared to come from numerous sources, but were orchestrated "behind the scenes" by the AMA.
I bring up the past because if we turn our backs on history, we will be doomed to make the same mistakes again. We need the courage to take a long, hard look at history and benefit from our past mistakes, which I see being made again, but in another extreme. The stigma and residual effect of the 1970s remain. We now have what is called a "horizontal boycott," originating from a multitude of sources such as ignorant or misguided people, insurance companies, government agencies, and devious medical practitioners. The public needs to be educated on what epitomizes appropriate, objective and honest health care, and it would be incredibly naive to expect public education on appropriate health care to come from the drug interests.
Now is the time for public education through the media and press to educate an ignorant and misguided society. While the top leaders of the AMA were neutered by the lawsuit, you can't change them any more than you can remove the stripes from a zebra and call it a horse. Their tactics will simply be more subtle.
History has shown that we hire experts to work for us who often do not serve us well while we treat them like "sacred cows." A past fatal mistake has been, "We pay them so we need to listen to them." Wrong! We need to challenge them and make them argue and prove their case.
Our past public relations firms haven't had the best track record, either, of encouraging their clients to embrace the most effective and credible approach with media spokespersons. Of course, this means we wouldn't need their services as much if we were more self-sufficient. Instead, they push for advertising, and if they get "finders' fees," they make out all right. A classic example of an economic disaster with PR is the millions of dollars we spent on placing chiropractic inserts into Readers Digest. It proved to be a major disappointment to chiropractic insiders, but they prefer to keep it silent.
It's high time our sacred cows produce milk, or are shipped off to the stockyard and replaced. We must become the champions for truth and honesty in health care. This is why I have formed the nonpartisan Alliance of State Chiropractic Spokespersons, devoted to promoting official media spokespersons for state associations. Select the best of the best in your state and send them to Chicago, where I will share my more than 25 years of experience in the trenches, and help them approach the media and present our case. I will hold as many of these meetings as are necessary to reach our goal. MMM was written to educate patients, and as a training manual for future chiropractic spokespersons. It provides the comprehensive history and research material needed to become a successful spokesperson. It could be a chiropractic white paper.
Whether we want to face the facts or not, we are currently on a sinking ship, but we can repair the hull, and not only survive, but ultimately win the race. This messenger is telling you how you can save this profession - so attack the problem, not the messenger.
The time to act is now. We hold the destiny of chiropractic in our hands by what we do now. Insist that our national organizations begin acting responsibly toward media education. If they do, the ACA and ICA might even find themselves representing more than 12 percent of the profession. It is time to speak out. The stakes are too high to remain silent any longer.
- Agency for Health Care Policy and Research, Public Health Service, U.S. Dept. HHS, December 1994.
- The RAND Corp. is considered by many as the largest U.S. think-tank outside of a university.
- Meade TW, Dyer S, et al. Randomized comparison of chiropractic and hospital outpatient management for low-back pain from extended follow-up. British Medical Journal 1995;311:349-351.
- David Cassidy,DC, WH Kirkaldy-Willis,MD, University of Saskatchewan, 1985.
- Chiropractic therapeutic effectiveness-social importance, incidence on absence from work and hospitalization. Unpublished study (Milan, Italy), 1988.
- The Effectiveness and Cost-Effectiveness of Chiropractic Management of Low-Back Pain. Ottawa, Canada, University of Ottawa, 1993, p.13.
- Herbert Davis,MD. AVMED HMO study, Miami, Florida, 1962, www.chiroweb.com/archives/11/12/03.html.
- Per Freitag,MD,PhD, testimony in Wilk v. AMA, 20 May, 1987, from a transcript of proceedings before U.S. District Judge Susan Getzendanner, comparing JFK Hospital in Chicago with Lutheran General Hospital, Park Ridge, IL, pp. 798-885.
Click here for previous articles by Chester Wilk, DC.