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Chiropractic Controversy in a Growing Childhood Market

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James Campbell, PhD, of the University of Toronto, tells WebMD there are risks with vaccinations, but argues, "These are risks that as a population we have to take, basically for the good of the whole rather than the good of the individual."

Campbell is concerned about the small number of chiropractors who are against vaccinations, called anti-vaccinationists. "There is a [tendency] among anti-vaccinationists to focus on the negative side [of vaccination] and forget all the positive sides," says Campbell. He also questions the sources some chiropractors use: "There are a number of publications that a lot of chiropractors have adopted to support their anti-vaccination attitudes that are full of erroneous information."

The history of why some chiropractors don't believe in vaccinations is a complicated one, filled with in-fighting that has left the profession divided to this day, according to Campbell, who wrote about the history in an article published in the journal Pediatrics.

Daniel D. Palmer, the original founder of chiropractic care in the late 1800s, believed that 95% of disease was the result of pinched nerves due to the spine being out of alignment. Properly aligning the backbone would result in a healthy body and a "cure" of disease, he believed.

Years later, around the same time the germ theory of disease was gaining acceptance, Palmer's son, BJ, was fostering the growth of the chiropractic profession. Like his father, BJ thought pinched spinal nerves, and not germs, caused infectious disease. Drugs and vaccines were viewed as poisons that interfered with the body's natural healing process. These beliefs earned chiropractors the hostility of the mainstream medical community.

The father and son's original theories would eventually divide the profession. Today -- despite medical progress and what some would say is plenty of evidence to the contrary -- there are still some adherents to Palmer's original theories; they are called the "straights." The more progressive "mixers" have attempted to integrate traditional medical and chiropractic approaches to health care.

Campbell says there is room for both traditional doctors and chiropractors. "Many [traditional] physicians are taking a more holistic approach to medicine in general, and this is one of the benefits of the chiropractic approach," says Campbell. "If sharing information and approaches to health care can be encouraged, this can be beneficial for both."

"I think all physicians and chiropractors alike should work to educate and inform parents so that they are able to make the best health care choices for their children," says Pistolese. "I think that when health care professionals come together to work in the best interest of the child, to me that is what is of paramount importance."

 

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