The Chiro-Tel Telephone Health Library

Stephen Barrett, M.D.
July 29, 2018

Chiro-Tel was a marketing system that encouraged consumers to listed to recorded messages that encouraged the use of chiropractors. The system was developed and marketed by Lou Novack of Tustin, California. Chiropractors paid a monthly fee that enabled their patients and prospective patients to dial a toll-free number and hear tapes that asserted that chiropractic was effective against various health problems. For an additional fee, chiropractors could have callers be referred to them. Ads to chiropractors described Chiro-Tel as “the greatest referral tool that has ever been available to the patients of chiropractic [1]. A consumer brochure explained the system this way:

Chiro-Tel is a library of recorded tape messages about your doctor of chiropractic and how he deals with the illnesses which plague mankind. Your first thought after reading the above might be, “But I thought chiropractors dealt only with back problems.” Back problem is on the chiropractor’s specialty, but what most of us have overlooked is the back-spine is the life-line of the body. By this we mean that the bod, from the top of the head to the tip of the toe, is under the control of the nervous system, and all of these nerve, several quadrillion of them, pass from the brain down through the spine, and out through the openings between each vertebra to the entire body. The slightest misalignment of a spinal vertebra can alter this function even to a complete paralysis., which all of us have heard about. Thus, if you are a friend or sick of being sick, this pamphlet could well hold the answer even after all else has failed. It’s easy. Just call your local number and give the operator the number of the tape you wish to hear [2].

Some of the messages contained sensible advice, but most contained an some (imaginary) link between the problem and “misaligned” spinal bones. For example, Tape 111 (“Migraine Headaches”) warned that using drugs to treat migraine is dangerous because:

The effect of blocking nerve flow, which these pain killers sometimes accomplish and sometimes relieve but temporarily, makes the patient feel ‘dopey’ and very sluggish for days. Perhaps the most serious consideration in such an approach to the problem the danger of covering symptoms which may be warning signals of a more serious problem. There is always the possibility of kidney, liver or circulatory conditions which might be increasing in severity while you are treating the symptoms and ignoring the cause. Your chiropractor has found that a spinal examination usually reveals misaligned vertebra causing irritation of the upper neck nerves which lead to the head, in migraine conditions. Such irritation of the important cranial nerves can also produce the symptoms other than headache so often associated with migraine. A reflex action affects a bundle of nerve fibers which can affect the stomach, the heart, and other internal organs. This type of condition where nerves are irritated, is often seen by your chiropractor in his daily office practice. His expert examination will usually pinpoint the misalignment and then he will scientifically correct the cause of the irritation by a scientific adjustment of the misaligned vertebra in your spine. You can rest assured that chiropractic is the most logical and sane approach to migraine headaches because it corrects the cause instead of masking the symptoms [1].

Tape 110 (“Avoiding Heart Attacks”) said that exercise and diet were important, the most important thing needed was to “look for misaligned spinal vertebra and correct them.”

At least 20 of the messages were written by Kurt W. Donsbach, an unlicensed chiropractor who was involved in shady activities throughout most of his professional career [3,4].

  1. Chiro-Tel: A telephone health library on chiropractic. Professional brochure, Tape Information Centers, Tustin, CA, 1975.
  2. Chiro-Tel: Free telephone health library on chiropractic. Consumer brochure, Tape Information Centers, Tustin, CA, 1975.
  3. Donsbach KW. The chiropractic message-Chiro-Tel. The Digest of Chiropractic Economics, Nov/Dec 1976.
  4. Barrett S. The shady activities of Kurt Donsbach. Quackwatch, April 17, 2011.

This article was revised on July 29, 2018.