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Column: No, a chiropractor can’t cure COVID-19 (or diabetes, for that matter)

A chiropractors office
State officials say they have received dozens of complaints about chiropractors falsely claiming to be able to treat COVID-19.
(Deloris St. John)

To most people, the coronavirus is viewed as a threat. To some chiropractors, it’s a business opportunity.

A highly questionable business opportunity.

The California Board of Chiropractic Examiners, the state’s regulatory agency, told me that “approximately 40 complaints about COVID-19-related advertisements” have been received by officials since the pandemic began.

“No enforcement actions have been taken so far,” said Cheri Gyuro, a spokeswoman for the board.

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Andrew Williams, president of the California Chiropractic Assn., said the trade group is aware that some chiropractors are claiming to be able to cure the coronavirus or COVID-19.

“Making these types of claims is not appropriate,” he said.

The association warned members in March to watch their step. It said the Board of Chiropractic Examiners is “monitoring the public statements and advertising of its licensees.”

The trade group noted that current research “is absent showing a direct link between chiropractic adjustment/manipulation and immunity from, or cure for, COVID-19.”

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That’s a decidedly vague way of saying there’s no scientific evidence chiropractors have a direct medical role to play during the pandemic.

The chiropractic association advised members “to be very careful and thoughtful as to how you advertise your services during this time to prevent potential trouble” with state authorities.

I contacted half a dozen Los Angeles chiropractors as a potential patient seeking assistance in dealing with the coronavirus. Could they help?

Only one office, West Los Angeles Chiropractic, said without hesitation or equivocation that its chiropractors can do nothing for the coronavirus or COVID-19.

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The rest, which I won’t identify because they didn’t know I was a journalist, told me that, yes, help is available via a chiropractor’s supposed ability to boost the immune system through spinal adjustments.

“Your immune system is very important in protecting yourself from viruses,” one practitioner told me — a statement that isn’t wrong but, in the context of chiropractic care, isn’t quite right.

The Canada-based World Federation of Chiropractic, representing chiropractors in 89 countries, declared in March that “there is no credible scientific evidence that chiropractic spinal adjustment/manipulation confers or boosts immunity.”

“Chiropractors should refrain from any communication that suggests spinal adjustment/manipulation may protect patients from contracting COVID-19 or will enhance their recovery,” it said. “Doing otherwise is potentially dangerous to public health.”

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For years I’ve been questioning efforts by many chiropractors to expand their practices — and boost their profits — by focusing on treatments for chronic disorders such as diabetes, neuropathy and heart disease.

You’ve undoubtedly seen ads in this newspaper and elsewhere promising free dinners and information on how Type 2 diabetes can be “reversed.”

Such ads seldom if ever reveal that the seminar is being conducted by a chiropractor rather than, say, an endocrinologist, who would normally treat people with this serious condition.

An official at the Board of Chiropractic Examiners told me a few years ago that marketing such as this “reeks of snake oil.”

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Nevertheless, the state allows most such ads from chiropractors because, along with expertise in spinal adjustments, practitioners are expected to have a working knowledge of nutrition.

A good diet can play a crucial role in reducing, but not necessarily reversing, the effects of Type 2 diabetes, which is frequently associated with the global obesity epidemic.

Lancaster resident Gary Royce, 61, told me recently about seeing an infomercial about four months ago that promised a breakthrough in reversing his Type 2 diabetes.

The pitch was from a Tustin clinic called Next Advanced Medicine, which says on its website that it offers “revolutionary options” for people with Type 2 diabetes that can “restore health to your entire body.”

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“Thirteen thousand dollars later, I am feeling deceived and lied to as I am not seeing results that come close to those claims,” Royce said.

Next Advanced Medicine was founded by a chiropractor named Candice Hall.

According to the Board of Chiropractic Examiners, she was fined $500 in 2014 for false or misleading advertising. She was fined another $1,000 a year later for repeating the same offense.

No one at Next Advanced Medicine returned my calls for comment. But a woman who answered the phone at the clinic did acknowledge recent sales of supplements that she said could help with COVID-19.

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I’ve been deeply unpopular among chiropractors since a 2017 column that delved into the roots of chiropractic care.

The practice was founded in the 19th century by Daniel David Palmer, who performed the first chiropractic adjustment in 1895 and was an avid spiritualist.

Palmer claimed in a 1914 memoir that the basic principles of chiropractic treatment were passed along to him during a seance by a long-dead doctor.

Prior to this otherworldly experience, Palmer spent nine years as a practitioner of what was known as “magnetic healing.” This involved waving his hands over a patient’s “magnetic field” — a form of healthcare most contemporary scholars dismiss as quackery.

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Palmer described chiropractic treatment as a “religious system” that “imparts instruction relating both to this world and the one to come.”

So, yeah, I’m a little wary of this roughly $15 billion industry. As best as I can tell, no other branch of modern medicine was revealed to the living by a ghost.

Many people have benefited from chiropractors’ skills at addressing aches and pains. That’s not in dispute.

The issue here is whether chiropractors are qualified to treat medical problems that go well beyond the alignment of one’s spine.

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State law gives them a surprisingly large amount of latitude. But that doesn’t necessarily mean a chiropractor has the knowledge required to handle complex chronic disorders.

I want to stress what the World Federation of Chiropractic said: There is no scientific proof that fiddling with people’s spines can protect against the coronavirus or alleviate COVID-19.

Moreover, I strongly advise anyone with a chronic ailment such as Type 2 diabetes to take whatever chiropractors have to say with a grain of salt. They are not experts in endocrinology.

If you ever attend one of those free dinners, have a nice time, but ask lots of questions about how much the treatment — typically including proprietary supplements — will cost over the weeks or months of being administered.

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If they’re reluctant to tell you, as was the case when I attended one of these things, finish your dessert.

And go see a real doctor.


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