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It’s Everywhere…

The picture on the right was taken yesterday at the Highlander games in Waukesha, Wisconsin. I was pretty much stopped in my tracks and was compelled to take a look. As you can see, this “complimentary nerve system analysis” claims to treat many various aliments.

The tent was run by Dr. Jay and Dr. Heather Davidson, practitioners at a local chiropractic center. I took it upon myself to discover what they were all about. I spoke to Dr. Heather D.C. who gave me the rundown:

Our philosophy is that through spinal manipulation, alleviating pressure on certain nerves along the spine will result in the correction of all the different symptoms seen on the banner. What would happen if your nerves were damaged? (according to their chart showing the linkage between specific spinal nerves and the large intestine, for example) The parts of your body associated with that nerve wouldn’t work as well. What we do is manipulate the spine to relieve the nerves and allow your body to heal itself.

The last phrase stood out to me because it was a subtle disclaimer that would allow the practitioner to distance themselves from ineffective treatments. I can definitely see this conversation happening: “Your body hasn’t healed itself yet? You need more treatment before it starts to work”. I.E. more money is required.

They used a device that looked strikingly similar to a price gun with rollers attached, and sat people down to evaluate them. They had each participant bend their head down and used the price gun roller along the back of their neck, which gave a fancy looking readout on the nearby laptop screen. This readout showed various point along the spine, with varying degrees of colors indicating the inflammation of the nerves. I should add that the unconscious contorting of the neck would probably have changed their analysis completely, based on how the device was supposed to work.

I inspected the device and asked specifically how it worked. They replied:

I don’t know how it works, but what it does is use sensors to measure the heat from the nerves and determine inflammation.

Any person should be immediately wary of a doctor who doesn’t know how their medical test device works, only what supposedly it does. This kind of ineptitude on the doctor’s part is indicative of unsubstantiated claims.

The Facts

A brief background on these chiropractic services: a recent study from December 2009 evaluated the claims of chiropractic subluxation. A subluxation, as defined by the Association of Chiropractic Colleges is: “A subluxation is a complex of functional and/or structural and/or pathological articular changes that compromise neural integrity and may influence organ system function and general health.” A flashy chart was also on hand, describing in detail where each nerve in the spine was determined to cause health problems (e.g. a nerve in vertebrae C6 was linked to the eyes). This is basically the central tenet of the “complimentary nerve analysis”. Anyway, the study used 9 categories developed by Sir Austin Bradford Hill, which established epidemiological causation criteria and can be seen below:

Using these criteria, the study found these results in regards to the efficacy of subluxation:

No Science, No Problem?

In summary, no studies, no animal models, not one thing supported any of the criteria concerning subluxation. As a side note, chiropractic services do have evidence to show that they can help certain musculoskeletal issues concerning back and neck pain. However, these treatments are all preformed by physical therapists, without the unfounded claims that chiropractics make.

This booth is just another example of the kind of pseudo-science that can creep into legitimate medicine if one isn’t careful. All of the evidence points to the fact that the main modality of “complimentary nerve analysis” and “vetebral subluxation” does not work. As a skeptic, you really have to do your homework when trying to determine if it actually is science-based medicine. I’m positive many more centers like this one are out there. As skeptics and citizens who do not want to waste our money and do not want to be cheated out of good medicine, we must be wary and ask questions.