Media reports of a recent article in the New England Journal of Medicine (1), that chiropractic care did not benefit asthma patients, is inconsistent with the larger body of other studies, case reports, and more than 100 years of clinical experience.
This study had many significant flaws. The most serious was the use of active chiropractic procedures in the “simulated treatment” procedure. In actuality, the only difference between the active and “simulated” groups was the presence of a “pop” sound. Since some adjusting procedures result in a “popping” sound and some do not, the distinction is artificial. However, it is impossible from this study to determine if a vertebral subluxation was present in the subjects, or whether any such subluxation was reduced. No objective measures of subluxation correction were employed by the authors of the study.
Finally, the media reports failed to report that both groups receiving “hands on” care by chiropractors had decreased symptoms, decreased medication use, and improved quality of life. What the study really demonstrated was that a variety of manual techniques may have a beneficial effect on asthma sufferers.
The most pathetic aspect of this so-called “study” is that it involved two chiropractic colleges, CMCC and LACC. Both, according to reports from students, are well known for faculty who disparage the fundamental tenets of chiropractic, particularly vertebral subluxation. This may be why no specific criteria for vertebral subluxation was considered. Apparently the liberation of decibels was equated with “adjustment.”
Although chiropractic is not the treatment of disease, medically defined disease processes frequently improve or resolve when vertebral subluxations are corrected.
Let’s look at the results of two studies where the presence and correction of vertebral subluxation were used as criteria. The media has been strangely silent about them.
A study of 81 asthmatic children reported an improvement in 90.1% after being under chiropractic care for 60 days. The children ranged from 1 to 17 years of age. The number of asthma “attacks” decreased by an average of 44.9%, and 30.9% decreased their use of medication. The authors concluded that “Chiropractic care, for correction of vertebral subluxation, is a safe, non-pharmaceutical health care approach which may also be associated with significant decreases in asthma related impairment as well as a decreased incidence of asthmatic `attacks.'” (2)
In another study involving 55 patients, improved pulmonary function was reported in patients receiving spinal adjustments. The study noted significant functional and clinical effects following chiropractic care for the correction of upper cervical vertebral subluxation. (3)
But no study can take into account the unique needs of an individual. Only a careful examination by a skilled doctor of chiropractic, using objective criteria, can determine if chiropractic care is appropriate.
1. Balon J, Aker PD, Crowther ER, et al: “A comparison of active and simulated chiropractic manipulation as adjunctive treatment for childhood asthma.” New England Journal of Medicine 1998;339(15):1013.
2. Graham RL, Pistolese RA: “An impairment rating analysis of asthmatic children under chiropractic care.” Journal of Vertebral Subluxation Research, 1997;1(4):41.
3. Kessinger R: “Changes in pulmonary function associated with upper cervical specific chiropractic care.” Journal of Vertebral Subluxation Research, 1997;1(3):43.