A recent billboard advertisement, carried on the side of a bus in Bridgeport, Conn., is the latest in a series of attacks on chiropractic that use scare tactics and misinformation to undermine the growth of the profession, according to the World Chiropractic Alliance (WCA).

The paid advertisement, which asks "Have you been injured by a chiropractor?" directs readers to a website apparently run by an organization calling itself the "Chiropractic Stroke Victims Awareness Group." The phone number in the ad connects only to an answering machine. No information is available in the ad or at the website as to who founded, runs or finances the group. An article in the Connecticut Post reported that "A call to the phone number listed in the ad was transferred to voice mail. Other attempts to reach a spokesperson were unsuccessful."

Terry A. Rondberg, DC, president of the WCA, noted that he wasn't surprised by the aggressive attack. "In recent years, chiropractic has made tremendous inroads into the American health care system. The increased popularity of a wellness approach that doesn't rely on drugs and surgery is very threatening to some elements of our society. They have a huge financial interest in eliminating chiropractic."

In 1990, the American Medical Association was found guilty in federal court of conspiring with other medical organizations in a "lengthy, systematic, successful and unlawful boycott" designed to eliminate chiropractic as a competitor. Many health care officials say that, although barred from many of the illegal practices formerly used, the drug and medical industry still engage in anti-chiropractic campaigns. The general consensus is that many of the operations are being conducted using anonymous "front" organizations like the stroke victims group.

Contrary to the billboard's message, medical research has shown that chiropractic is extremely safe, particularly when compared to medical treatment. The incidence of stroke following chiropractic adjustments has been estimated at fewer than 1 to 3 incidents per million adjustments.

One study covered a period of 28 years, while another involved reviewing about 110 million chiropractic visits. The results of these studies show conclusively that the risk of stroke from a chiropractic adjustment is so small as to be statistically insignificant.

Even the 1 to 3 incidents per million adjustments figures may be an overestimate, since the studies merely count the number of people who suffer strokes hours, days or even weeks after being adjusted. "The fact that a temporal relationship exists between two events does not mean that one caused the other," stated Christopher Kent, DC, a chiropractic researcher who serves on the WCA Board of Directors.

In addition, many of the cases cited by medical researchers as being "chiropractic treatments" were actually spinal manipulations rendered by non-chiropractic practitioners. According to a research report in the Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics, "manipulations" administered by a Kung Fu practitioner, GPs, osteopaths, physiotherapists, a wife, a blind masseur, and an Indian barber had been incorrectly attributed to chiropractors.

Medical researchers have admitted that chiropractic care carries far less of a stroke risk than medical treatment. "Indeed, most interventions by allopathic physicians have a higher complication rate than chiropractic interventions," said Philip Lee, MD, a co-investigator of a research survey presented at the American Heart Association’s 19th International Joint Conference on Stroke and Cerebral Circulation.

The safety of chiropractic is made even more obvious when compared to the 100,000 deaths each year attributed to medical treatment and drug errors, according to a report in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

"Such misleading advertising should not be tolerated," Dr. Rondberg stated. "Fortunately, the American public is smart enough to connect the dots and realize that the big money interests financing this type of campaign have a vested interest in maintaining the medical monopoly. Scare tactics don't work when people have access to the truth about chiropractic safety."

A similar billboard, erected in New Haven, Conn. last year, was taken down within days after intense protests from the World Chiropractic Alliance and other chiropractic organizations and doctors around the country.

The WCA has pledged to fight the anti-chiropractic campaign. "We will provide accurate, documented information about the safety of chiropractic, including medical evidence," Dr. Rondberg commented. "We respect everyone's right to have and voice their opinion about chiropractic, but freedom of speech does not sanction libelous and false advertising. It's time our opponents were forced to tell the truth."

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