Subluxations officially manifesting in NSW chiropractic courses

Today, in The Australian newspaper, it was revealed that “Central Queensland University will next year offer [chiropractic] courses in Brisbane and Sydney alongside its Mackay courses”. The Chiropractors’ Association of Australia has been working hard since Macquarie University decided to dump its chiropractic course due, diplomatically, to its status of, shall we say, research unencumbrance.

It is interesting to note that CQU is undertaking its outreach into NSW with the financial backing of the CAA:

CAA said its offer of $250,000 to support learning and research had helped persuade CQU to extend its courses to Sydney and Brisbane. “The association is determined to drive a research-led culture in chiropractic and these decisions for Brisbane and Sydney are a vote of confidence in the future of the profession,” CEO Andrew McNamara said in a statement.

The “research” angle was also pumped hard by Phillip Ebrall, the head of the CQU chiropractic school:

“Our chiropractic science students can look forward to an evidence-based approach to the discipline, supported by growing research activity to ensure they will be future leaders of the profession,” said program head Phillip Ebrall.

Now, I’ve had it stated to me by chiros that the theory of subluxation is not, and has never been, taught in the major schools, such as Macquarie and RMIT. I often wonder, then, why it so prevalent amongst CAA chiropractors, and stated as a research prerogative by the Australian Spinal Research Foundation, an official “Associated Organisation” of the CAA. I just thought that it must happen once the claws of evidence based practice are retracted, when the young chiro goes out into free range practice, under the auspices of long-term CAA members.

Well, I guess we won’t need to wonder in the future. This is Phillip Ebrall, head of the CQU course, again. From 2009:

Inspired by a visit to Disneyland this paper explores the challenges associated with the need to teach something that may not exist…perhaps the entire profession of chiropractic is a ‘bizarre fiction’ with no substantive grounding. If so, what is the basis for anyone being a chiropractic academic? In writing this paper the content preceding the point was shared with an academic colleague of the writer. The colleague is a learned man with qualifications in chiropractic and philosophy and suggested the writer should stop wasting time and simply accept that the subluxation exists…as long as we lack a technological means to generate quantitative evidence of the subluxation and its effects on human function, there is little option other than to rely on an intelligent use of language within a true context of philosophy to encapsulate the discipline’s beliefs…it matters not whether the subluxation is a tangible clinical entity with physical dimensions or a mental creation; what does matter is that the statements used to describe it are in themselves true.Ebrall, P., Chiropr J Aust 2009, 39: 165-70. 

And, in 2012:

To this writer the construct of the subluxation, being central to the practice of educated chiropractors, is somewhere around where black and white television was in the 1960s. This means we must look ahead and prepare ourselves to move into colour and then upgrade to a flat panel. In other words, we are in the Century of the subluxation and this confers upon us all the imperative to learn more about this thing so we can live it better. –  Ebrall, P. Chiropr J Aust 2012, 42: 121

The CAA has quite the war chest at hand for the promotion of chiropractic, as seen above. As noted in The Australian:

More developments are likely after CAA approved a $2 million fighting fund to improve the chiropractic’s research profile.

In fact, I’ve seen mention of a large accruement of funds before, but it wasn’t used for research. Maybe they’re serious this time. From the CAA 2012 President’s report; here are some of the expenses: the employment of a political lobbyist, and the employment of a public relations firm.

CAA PR company and political lobbyists employed 2012 President's ReportEvidence? No way, chirostars. It’s all about protecting the public image from questions regarding evidence. It’s not about providing evidence. It’s about holding back-slapping conferences of mutual admiration, selling each others’ wares, and promoting each others’ beliefs. It’s about attacking and denigrating people who ask for evidence. It’s about not being crystal clear about your anti-vaccinationism, and your belief in the invisible. It’s about avoiding public scrutiny, so you can privately affect the health choices of others, without having pesky regulations and codes of ethics intrude upon your love-circle. Then it’s about demanding respect in the public sphere, whilst threatening legal action against those who would ask legitimate questions. Then you claim it’s about the research


Thanks again to @Blue_Wode for links. See also articles 1-4 here.

About reasonable hank

I'm reasonable, mostly.
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8 Responses to Subluxations officially manifesting in NSW chiropractic courses

  1. wzrd1 says:

    Who’d have thought that Chiropractic practice is so like religious practice?
    No need for evidence based facts, only faith and loads of empty words to distract the listener from realizing that there is no evidence based facts present for either.

  2. I thought I recognised the name Phillip Ebrall. Here he is telling me, among other things, that human anatomy has evolved since the 19th century.

  3. I hold out a hope that the course supplied by CQU will not teach subluxation based chiropractic. I was taught was subluxation was, as a historical footnote of what chiropractic used to stand for, and that there is a chunk of professionals still practicing it today.

    Also, any degree where Gonstead Chiropractic Technique is taught teaches subluxation to a degree, because subluxation is the cornerstone to Gonstead chiropractic philosophy.

  4. bluewode says:

    Superb post, Hank. It looks like Prof. Ebrall is so immersed in all chiroquackery over on the dark side that he may not be able to find his way back. For example, here he is in an ABC Today report in December 2011:

    “Professor Phillip Ebrall, who is running the [Queensland Uni chiropractic] course, says the university’s critics are basing their argument on ignorance: “Subluxation theory will be taught because it is an emerging theory that is developing an amazing amount of evidence at new levels in support of some of its underlying principles but I am also the first person to say that we still do not understand that fully enough…We don’t deal with conditions. We deal about optimising health and wellness…I think it is absolutely fantastic that people know what the university is doing – that the university is open and honest and is presenting what it’s doing with integrity.”


    Is he for real? Where’s this “amazing amount of evidence” of which he speaks, and if he does have it, let’s see it so we can assess its quality. As for his “We don’t deal with conditions. We deal about optimising health and wellness”, that doesn’t seem to be too far removed from the vitalistic drivel upon which true chiropractic was founded back in the 19th century. Indeed, in 2011, reformist Australian chiropractor, John Reggars, highlighted some more of Prof. Ebrall’s dubious declarations:

    “The third reference to chiropractic and crossroads was in 2009 when Ebrall [3] saw the situation quite differently. He saw the crossroads as really a fork in the road, and suggested that our profession drove over the crossroads sometime ago and that they are now, “but a diminishing dot in our collective rear-view mirror” and that chiropractic is, “a dynamic and decidedly unique paradigm of enhanced health and well-being centered on the identification and adjustment of spinal subluxations.” While it may well be that one group of Australian chiropractors travelled down a fork in the road on their quest to validate the theoretical construct of the VSC, that road has inevitably taken them back to the crossroads and the stark choice of science or ideology.”


    IMO, if the chiropractic profession as a whole postpones its watershed moment for too long, then it’s in danger of seeing itself become obsolete with a generation or two. If that does happen, then it’ll only have itself to blame.

    • Blue Wode wrote: “IMO, if the chiropractic profession as a whole postpones its watershed moment for too long, then it’s in danger of seeing itself become obsolete with a generation or two. If that does happen, then it’ll only have itself to blame.”

      Absolutely agree with this. Why is it that we have to be dragged kicking and screaming towards science and legitimacy? Is the prospect of heading into university driven research into legitimate uses for manual therapy or spinal manipulative therapy so unappealing? I guess we really need to ask who would give up their lucrative practices seeing 100-250 patients per week ( go to page 3 by Lawrence Tam) for a university salary that would inevitably be a whole lot less and possibly more rigorous in clinical demands?

      Let’s just face it – research is just too hard. Can’t we just go adjusting people because we know it works? Not without the evidence.

  5. DS says:

    “an emerging theory” (sorry for the ramble)

    Note Ebralls use of this term. Recently the profession has had a heads up from a ‘futurist’ think tank who basically said engage in research or die by 2025. Of course science and research means trying to defeat ones own hypothesis NOT bolster an idea you might simply fancy etc but due to the depths of religious fervor within our ranks most Chiropractors are simply not aware of what research entails. Because ‘Vitalism’ was orignially considered to be a mysterious force (and you sound flaky and unprofessional when you say shit like that to AHPRA and other regulatory bodies) it’s now been modernised and is now called an ’emergent property’. ie we don’t believe in that silly old idea anymore, we believe in a new silly idea. So thankfully we don’t have to ditch the subluxation because we’ve proved again to ourselves that we still perform magic. We just call it emergent. Enter Simon Senzon. Simon is from the USA and advocates that Chiropractic Philosophy (this is the real baby, the principle on the altar, subluxation is the mechanism whereby the principle, the life force (now emergent property) is interrupted, thereby stopping true ’emergence’ or what used to be called the innate). Confused? The wonderful thing about Simon is that he sounds like Deepak Chopra ie nothing he says actually makes any sense. It’s what philosopher Dan Dennett calls ‘deepities’ or phrases which at first appear compelling or interesting but on second glance are rubbish. I corresponded for a while with Simon via email and he’s a nice guy he just never answered a direct question and was an expert at evasion and the use of deepity. What is his pinnacle of Chiropractic Philosophy? Wait for it – Integral Methodological Pluralism. Yes that’s correct. Read it again. Three big words that look like they might actually mean something and there you have it. It’s no different from all the other undefined, undefinable, unmeasurable, unknowabke, stuff out in imagination land. The whole reason humans invented methodological approaches to finding things out is because of our extraordinary ability to fool ourselves and intellectually masturbate. Now I’m on the verge of ridicule here and it’s a fine line because I love my profession and most of my colleagues are completely genuine, some are brilliant educators and diagnosticians as well. Also by virtue of focussing on the spine we are pretty good at managing it. That’s the sad thing. There are good researchers in our ranks like Dr Heidi Haavik whose work is brilliant but who also believes Simons gibberish and that is pervasive. Chiropractic effectively runs like a religion. When you enter a church what you are NOT there for is discussion. The ‘information’ such as it is flows just one way so you either swallow or leave OR option 3 stay and shut up or 4 stay and keep demanding to see evidence and process. I’ve considered or partaken in all 4 and now its a clear choice. Number 4 is the only honest option. The profession has a unique history and a global approach to spine care and other associated disorders. There’s mounting evidence of our effect of chronic pain, sensory integration, balance etc. There’s alot there but most of that research is actually medical and physio AND we’re avoiding tissue diagnosis as an expertise (chiros are still told that that is ‘medical’ but unfortunately not diagnosing is unethical in health care and provides cultural authority (which we so desire). So in a nutshell it’s good people in a system which historically values faith (pretending to know things you don’t know) over actual evidence. Our approach to science is like the Church. Sure it’s good but it can’t explain those perplexing problems so we’ll do that for you because as you know we have this immutable principle which we all know is true, don’t we. In our profession this attitude clearly and uncomfortably bumps up against a science methodology which demands that if you make a claim you’d better bloody well bring evidence to the table.

    A few months back a lovely Jehovas Witness man came to my door. I mean that, he was lovely, soft spoken and generous as well as having never considered that most of the people he met during his days, including the children who passed him in the street were going to be tortured for eternity and importantly he was happy with that. When I said that he was offended. I explained that I didn’t think HE actually wanted that but that his god did AND because he loved god he was logically pleased, overjoyed even that he found comfort in a being who was ok with torturing children. The point is his church had never invited him to discuss anything let alone actually understand. It only demanded faith. It placed more value in blind obedience over evidence and that is dangerous.

    Imagine where surgery would be now if we’d allowed it to be ‘philosophically’ driven instead of evidence driven. How is it ethical that we don’t do this? How are we immune?

    I’m sure no irony was intended when Dr Heidi Haavik chose to title her new book The Reality Check but that is exactly what it’s message is. Dr Brian Kelly (President of ‘philosophically’ influential Life University in Marietta Georgia (the city where creationism is taught as a viable alternative theory to evolution) and P McMaster, president of NZCC both endorsed her work although I doubt that they actually understand what it’s message is so I will spell it out for them. Dr Haaviks work sits together with over 2 centuries of neuroscience and clinical neuroscience research gathered by thousands across multiple fields, some of whom were awarded Nobels for their brilliance and creativity. Over that time they killed vitalism as a tenable hypothesis and in the process brought humanity neurology, neurosurgery, pharmocology, psychology, neuropsychology, psychiatry, cognititive science, chronic pain science and informed the physically based professions such as ours, physiotherapy human movement, etc. Integral Methodological Pluralism means allowing any and all methods, ideas and fancies into a viable framework for discerning reality. That means that my personal subjective experience is just as viable as the theory of evolution through natural selection or 1910 surgical techniques as viable as 2014. If you don’t see the problem right there you are a perfect Chiropractor.

    The phrase ‘kicking and screaming’ comes to mind when I think about our future but I would place a bet that many within the profession would prefer the honor of ritual suicide over challenging their own cherished beliefs such is the hubris.

  6. Former CQU Student says:

    CQU would take any and all handouts it can get.. students to them are cash cows.. they will take anyone.. its all just $$ to them..wouldnt matter what they taught, if some company handed out registration to their students they will run with it.. even if those students coming out are substandard they don’t care

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