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Is Chiropractic Pseudoscience, No and Why Not?

March 6, 2023
Last Updated: October 26th, 2023 at 05:45 pm
Read Time: 10 Minutes

Countless people swear by chiropractic care to help relieve pain and improve various conditions. Athletes, pregnant women, children, people who experience back and neck pain from everyday life, and those with chronic health problems turn to their chiropractors to minimize discomfort and heal more quickly.

Still, some are skeptical that the treatment works or is backed by medical research. As chiropractic care has become more prevalent in recent years and was not always a widely available option, people are asking is chiropractic pseudoscience.

It's natural to want assurance before undergoing any treatment. These things are essential to ensure you have a competent primary care physician, an experienced surgeon, or a sports trainer that does their best to prevent injuries. The same goes for seeking chiropractic care. You want to ensure it's a reputable treatment service that will provide results. Most importantly, you want to make sure it's safe and science-backed.

At ChiroCare of Florida, we're here to answer the question of

"is chiropractic pseudoscience?" We'll review what exactly pseudoscience is, some of its key characteristics and examples, and where the myths originate.

Additionally, we'll provide you with medical research on chiropractic treatment methods to answer any questions you may have.

We pride ourselves on providing the highest quality of care in the field and want all of our patients to feel comfortable. By providing alternative, holistic, and non-invasive pain relief options such as chiropractic adjustments and more from our Doctors of Chiropractic, our offices have helped South Florida residents improve their quality of life for years.

Let's get into it.

What Is Pseudoscience?

To answer the question of is chiropractic pseudoscience, it's essential to know what the term means and its origins. According to the Oxford Dictionary, pseudoscience is "a collection of beliefs or practices mistakenly regarded as being based on scientific method."

It means that people claim something is advertised as science and researched-backed, without any actual studies or results to prove its truth. Sometimes, this comes from inconclusive trials, biased studies, incorrect data, or trials performed incorrectly. It can be a single claim, statement, or part of a more complex system or general belief.

Unintentional Designated Pseudoscience

Pseudoscience isn't always intentionally misleading. People may have misinformation or misinterpret data to draw a conclusion regarding a topic. Often, people assume that large bodies of data yield correct conclusions and that algorithms are always right. However, this isn't the case. These results hinge on the quality of the data they're analyzing and, sometimes, an inaccurate analysis. For these reasons, many researchers advocate for more accountability and careful examination of studies that meet these criteria.

Pseudoscience from Ancient Times

Other times, pseudoscience beliefs come from ancient practices carried into modern times. Medical, psychological, and worldly constructs had no research or scientific backing during these periods. People went by trial and error, gut feelings, and subjective observations.

Since some of these beliefs and practices were advocated for so long, today, people believe they have some merit. These beliefs can cover a wide range of topics, including medicine. Though most of these medical practices (like bloodletting, the use of leeches, and potions) are now known to be pseudoscience, others have endured.

Examples and Characteristics of Pseudoscience

There are many examples of pseudoscience that people follow today. Scientists have been unable to prove their legitimacy, no research backs the beliefs, and many are inaccurate, irrelevant, or completely wrong. Still, people may invest their time in these practices and systems despite the facts that prove otherwise.

Examples of Pseudoscience

There are many examples of pseudoscience that you're likely familiar with. The chances are that even if you don't believe in them, you probably know people who do. Many of these derive from the category of "ancient practice."

Common examples of pseudoscience include:

  • Astronomy. This belief states that the movement and position of stars and planets affect happenings on Earth. Things like "mercury in retrograde" or "Saturn in the ninth house" are prime examples. Astronomy is one of the most widely accepted examples of pseudoscience. The first documentation of astronomical observation dates back to Mesopotamian times, around 1000 BC. However, no one has proven this phenomenon to be true.
  • Astrology. Like astronomy, this belief is based on the movement of stars and planets and the month, date, and time a person is born. It states that these instances pre-determine a person's characteristics and personality, strengths, and weaknesses. Its origins are also in Mesopotamia and ancient Indian and Greek culture. It gained popularity in Europe during the Middle Ages.
  • The Bermuda Triangle. Many people are familiar with this example of pseudoscience. The Bermuda Triangle theory states that there's an oceanic region between Bermuda, Puerto Rico, and Florida where ship disappearances, paranormal, and encounters with extraterrestrial beings are prevalent. Though many claim to have experienced these activities, science has yet to be able to confirm the happenings.
  • The Hollow Earth and Flat Earth Theories. Some people believe that the Earth is entirely hollow below its core levels and is a host for subterranean life. Researchers and geologists have never been able to prove this and have provided counter-research that proves the exact opposite, yet the belief persists in modern times. You've also likely heard of the flat Earth theory, where people deny that the Earth is a round sphere and instead a flat patch in the universe that one could eventually reach the end of.
  • Feng Shui. The ancient Chinese believed that placing furniture and decorations within and outside the home in a certain way can spur prosperity and ward off "bad energy." However, the belief is based on mysticism, astrology, and other unproven elements.
  • The Reading of Hand Lines, Future Telling, and Psychics. There's a belief that some aspects of a person's life can be read and determined by examining the lines in their hands. Additionally, psychics claim to see the future, communicate with the dead, and provide insight into crimes and happenings based on feelings alone.
  • Colon Cleansing. Often advertised as a way to cleanse the body of toxins, either by consuming beverages or visiting clinics that perform procedures with water, many believe that a so-called colon cleansing can yield a health improvement. However, medical professionals and researchers have never gathered data to prove its truth.

These are a few of the most common examples of pseudoscience, though there are countless more. Keep reading below to learn about the main characteristics of all pseudoscience so that you can determine whether or not something is reliable.

Characteristics of Pseudoscience

There are specific elements that all examples of pseudoscience have in common. This makes it easy to determine whether a process or belief system is reliable and accurate. From theories surrounding the Earth and stars to home decor and proclaimed medical practices to obscure happenings, each example of pseudoscience shares specific characteristics.

Characteristics of pseudoscience include:

  • Lack of use of the scientific method. The scientific method consists of a rigorous process. It encompasses systematic observation, data measurement, and experimentation. Researchers use formulation, testing, and modification to confirm or eliminate a hypothesis. The Oxford Dictionary defines a hypothesis as "a supposition or proposed explanation made on the basis of limited evidence as a starting point for further investigation." If this point of investigation cannot be confirmed using the scientific method, it can be considered pseudoscience.
  • Lack of logical explanation. This is most closely related to examples such as astrology, Feng Shui, and more. It means that even if people believe it, there's no logical backing. To many, the belief doesn't make sense.
  • False-ability. If science cannot prove a belief or action wrong, it's considered un-falsifiable. It may be too vague, or unable to measure. There may be no research that can be done to prove its truth.
  • Anecdotal experience. An anecdotal experience is a story or happening that no one else can prove false or valid. A person may claim to have met aliens, but only that one person states it. Science cannot confirm whether or not their story is true. Other anecdotes include hearsay, stories or exciting tales, and unreliable accounts of situations.
  • The use of selective evidence. Selective evidence occurs when individuals take portions of research that support their beliefs while ignoring or glazing over points that contradict the belief.
  • Resisting Change. People who believe in examples of pseudoscience will disregard evidence that proves them wrong. Usually, as people learn more about a subject, they can adjust their beliefs as science emerges. For example, people no longer believe that smoking during pregnancy is healthy–as science has proven so. Today, we're aware that smoking during pregnancy has many adverse effects, and doctors have changed their stance on the issue. Instead, claims that resist change even after research and studies that prove them false don't waiver on their belief.

These are a few characteristics of pseudoscience, though there are many more. A deep dive into the subject will yield endless results and ways to determine whether a belief or practice is backed by science. While many swear by the medical myths of pseudoscience, many professionals believe these are placebo effects. A placebo effect is one where patients or individuals see an improvement in their life based on the belief in the practice rather than a quantifiable result.

Where Do the Pseudoscience Myths Come From?

Most pseudoscience myths come from ages and times before proper scientific studies and methods existed. These beliefs come from what we call the "pre-scientific era." Others come from bits of ideology that contradict science based on religion, groups, or organizations. An example of this type of pseudoscience is the idea of creationism versus natural evolution.

Other times, examples of pseudoscience are purely accidental, yet people still believe them. Science conducted years or even centuries ago may have come to one conclusion. As technology and time progressed, more concrete methods of the scientific method came to prove prior beliefs to be incorrect. An example of this is the belief that applying leeches to the body of the ill could draw out the sickness and bring a person back to health. Other holistic medicines, such as herbs and plants as medical treatment, have since been proven false or inconclusive, yet people continue to swear by these methods.

Most pseudoscience beliefs originated in events or happenings that were once considered accurate and widely accepted. Naturally, some hold onto these prior practices and theories as they may sound good and reliable despite a lack of scientific confirmation.

What Does the Research Say about Chiropractic Care and Why It's Not Pseudoscience

Now that we've covered essential topics, including the definition and basis of pseudoscience, common examples and characteristics of these beliefs, and the origins of many myths, it's time to answer the question of "is chiropractic pseudoscience?" You can rest assured before beginning treatment that the answer is no. Let's take a closer look at what the research says.

Research Surrounding Chiropractic Care

Chiropractic care is one of the most studied topics regarding medical care and pseudoscience. The Journal of American Medicine states, "Chiropractic Manipulative Therapy in conjunction with standard medical care offers a significant advantage for decreasing pain and improving physical functioning compared to standard care, for men and women between 18 and 35 years of age with acute low back pain."

Additionally, studies state that "Chiropractic users had 64% lower odds of receiving an opioid prescription than non-users." For those looking to steer clear of addictive drugs, this poses chiropractic care as an excellent option.

Concerning back and neck pain, one of the most common reasons patients seek care, one study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine showed that "After 12 weeks, about 57 percent of those who met with DCs and 48 percent who exercised reported at least a 75 percent reduction in pain, compared to 33 percent of the people in the medication group. After one year, approximately 53 percent of the drug-free groups continued to report at least a 75 percent reduction in pain, compared to just 38 percent pain reduction among those who took medication."

These are a few examples of recent research that support the positive outcomes of chiropractic care for pain reduction, a decreased need for medication, and lasting positive effects. Since these studies are confirmed by reputable medical and research bodies, as well as patient reports and long-term follow-ups, they're reliable and trustworthy. All of this answers the question of "is chiropractic pseudoscience?" You can rest assured that it's not! It's safe, generally effective, and provides the relief you need.

About the Author:
Dr. Steven Schwartz
Raised in Coral Springs, Florida, Dr. Steven Schwartz is a major advocate for the South Florida community. CEO of ChiroCare of Florida, Dr. Schwartz has grown the group from one facility to 11. Whether he’s treating patients or volunteering for community service, Dr. Schwartz’s long-term goal is to ensure that each and every patient can experience the ChiroCare of Florida difference.
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