Chiropractic: General Responses to Criticism


Stephen Barrett, M.D.
April 22, 2011

Chiropractors seldom react constructively to criticism. When specific wrongdoings are exposed, they typically claim that the criticized practices are not representative:

  • “I never heard of this procedure.”
  • “This certainly is not mainstream practice.”
  • “Nobody I know does this.”
  • “It was not taught in my school.”
  • “This is not taught in chiropractic colleges.”
  • “Every barrel has a few rotten apples. So does every profession.”

Or that the critic is biased or ignorant:

  • “You, sir, are uninformed.”
  • “Get your facts straight.”
  • “Your information is unbalanced.”
  • “You are against all alternatives.”
  • “If you had done your homework. . .”
  • “You are a mouthpiece for the AMA.”

Or they attack the medical profession:

  • “What about unnecessary surgery?”
  • “What about overprescription of drugs?”
  • “Medical errors are a serious and common problem.”
  • “How come our malpractice rates are lower?”

Or they are just plain nasty.

As time permits, I will discuss each of these in detail.

An Interesting Debate

Debates with chiropractors can be very enlightening when their glib defense mechanisms are penetrated. The extent to which this is possible depends on the willingness of the host to keep the discussion focused. Without that, chiropractors will twist, dodge, and change the subject repeatedly.

In December 1981, David Susskind hosted a televised debate in which a neurosurgeon and myself faced two of the country’s most prominent chiropractors. Susskind was obviously skeptical of chiropractic and moderated the discussion very skillfully.

This page was revised on April 22, 2011.