Episode 010 — Do You Believe in Chiropractic?

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Title: Do You Believe in Chiropractic?

Episode Number: 010

Host: Dr. Thomas Lamar

Show Date: 04/09/2010

Run Time: 15:40

Description: “Do you believe in Chiropractic?  I don’t…and I’m a chiropractor.”  You’ll want to tune into this episode as Dr. Lamar “shoots straight” and tells you why.  Plus, he’ll tell you a little known story from Medical History’s past that will shock you.

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Spinal Column Radio, episode number ten.

Coming up next on Spinal Column Radio — Do you believe in Chiropractic?


[intro theme music]

And welcome back to another exciting and information packed episode of Spinal Column Radio.  My name is Dr. Thomas Lamar, chiropractor and Dad of 6.   And this is the podcast that gets you to think.  To think about your health in a whole new way.  We’re the podcast for your backbone… the podcast with backbone.  Who knew that spinal education could be this much fun?

We’d like to invite you to visit our podcast website at spinalcolumnradio.com where you can learn more about us, check out our world-renown “What’s a Podcast?” page, and can access the show notes for this episode.  Also, we encourage you to leave comments and ask questions through our website, or, if you prefer, you can email me using DrLamar AT spinalcolumnradio DOT com.


[transitional sound effect]

Do You Believe in Chiropractic?

I don’t.

Shocking isn’t it?

No, I do not believe in Chiropractic…. I know in it.

I know that chiropractic works.  It works on animals…. it works on infants… and it works on those with mature cerebral cortexes whether they choose to believe in it or not.

I also know that we have a pile of research to back us up.

Why is it then, that our current culture feels compelled to utilize the word “believe” when talking about Chiropractic.  After all, no one ever says that they believe in Dentistry… or that they believe in Medicine.

Chiropractic is not a belief system that you have to subscribe to or take stock in for it to work, nor is it akin to the rank and file of the Tooth Fairy, Easter Bunny, or Leprechaun.

No, Chiropractic works fine whether I’m wearing my Ruby Red Slippers or not.

So, I don’t believe in chiropractic, I know in it!

Think I’m blowing this out of proportion?  I think not.  Oh, I realize that many people who say they “believe’ in chiropractic, don’t really even stop to evaluate why they use the word… except that they know that there is a faction that emphatically does not “believe.”  So, by stating that they “believe” they are, in essence, separating themselves from those who do not.

But, why is it that there are some that dig their heels in on this one… claiming not to believe…. or the great cop out is stating that “I believe it works for you.” ….Please.

Well, I “believe” that for those who emphatically “do not believe” — and this would exclude those who are “not believing” because they been shoveled a load of lies that they haven’t bothered to research out themselves — but for those who do not “believe,” on some core level the idea of chiropractic is offensive and ultimately serves as a threat to their livelihood.

I want to shift gears here a little and share with you a story… a story that unfortunately does not get a lot of air play — but it should… because it carries with it a lesson that you will not forget.

It’s about childbed fever.

Chances are you are probably not familiar with this disease of childbed fever… because, largely, it does not exist anymore thanks to a young Hungarian Obstetrician named Ignaz Semmelweis.

Childbed fever was a very deadly disease that took many women’s lives during child birthing in the mid 1800’s.  At the Austrian hospital that Dr. Semmelweis worked at, one out of every eight child bearing women died of this affliction.

I can’t imagine going to work, knowing that one out of every eight patients that saw that day — on average — would die.  How terribly sad.

And it certainly bothered Dr. Semmelweis.  He actually oversaw the two obstetric clinics of this hospital I’m talking about.  For our story today, we’ll call them Clinic #1 and Clinic #2.  The clinics, for all intents and purposes were the same, and they admitted patients on opposite days.  Most likely one was an “even day” clinic and the other was an “odd” day clinic.  And what was particularly bothersome to Dr. Semmelweis was that, for some reason, Clinic #1 had a childbed fever death rate that was more than 4 times higher than Clinic #2!  That’s huge!  Needless to say, this statistic could not be kept secret and the public became well aware of it… Aware that they should not go to Clinic #1!  Women would literally beg to be admitted to Clinic #2.  This was such a fear and a problem, that some women — once they figured out that they were headed for Clinic #1 — opted to have their babies in the streets instead.  And then they would show up to the hospital, baby in arms, stating that they just didn’t make it in time.  This allowed them to get admitted and to bypass the dreaded Clinic #1.  This actually happened quite a bit.  So much so, that they tagged them as “street births.”

What puzzled and troubled Dr. Semmelweis even further — causing him to lose sleep — was that incidence of childbed fever in these street births was relatively rare and was much less than those in his hospital.

Well, being a man of science, Dr. Semmelweis was determined to figure out the reason behind the disparaging difference in the death rate of childbed fever between his two clinics.  Why was Clinic #1 losing so many more women?

He scrutinized and compared every nuance of the two clinics… and for the most part found them to be completely identical… except for one obvious difference:  Clinic #1 was made up of medical students and Clinic #2 was made up of midwife students…. an interesting observation, but on the surface, didn’t give him his answer.

It wasn’t until his good doctor friend, Jakob Kolletschka, died of a disease very similar to childbed fever that the light bulb went on for Semmelweis.  You see, for a man to die of childbed fever was odd… but it was the timing of his death that allowed him to start to connect the dots.  Semmelweis’ friend died shortly after being accidentally pricked by a scalpel during an autopsy that he was assisting a medical student with… an autopsy on a woman that had died of childbed fever.

It was then that Semmelweis deduced that the women in his clinics — though he couldn’t exactly explain why — were dying because of the cadavers.  Somehow his students were transferring “cadaverous particles,” as he called them, to the patients that were alive and well.

What I haven’t told you yet was what a typical day was like for a medical student at his hospital.  Medical students would come in on their shift and would perform autopsies on the women that had died of childbed fever the day before.  Once these procedures were complete, they would go right into the next room over and perform examinations on the laboring women and birth their babies.

Oh did I mention that there was not a wash basin, or sink, between the two rooms?  That’s right, they were not washing their hands.  And while this may seem absolutely unconscionable in this day and age, the idea that things like bacteria could pose a death threat to one’s immune system if given the right environment was not even on their radar screen.  Louis Pasteur had yet to come out with his Germ Theory of Disease.

So they didn’t wash their hands.  Sanitation in this area was not seen as important at all — but in fact, quite the opposite was.  As a doctor back in those days, the more blood,  body fluid, and goo that you could accumulate on your smock, the better — especially when it would dry and would stiffen the fabric.  It was seen as a sign of seniority and experience.  It meant that you were good at what you did.  Sort of like a butcher or a painter these days with the material they work with all over them.   The last thing a doctor would want in those days would be to be seen in pristine white.  That would like be saying, “Hey, I’m new!  Mind if I cut on you?”

Oh, by the way, midwifes were not permitted — and it was not part of their training — to perform autopsies.  In other words, they were not touching corpses.  But, they still were not washing their hands.

Although, someone I talked with, made an interesting observation that while the midwives were not touching corpses directly, they could have been touching them indirectly.  After all, in the 1800’s, I think it’s fair to say that 99.99 percent of the medical students were men and that 100 percent of the midwives were women.  And well, men and women sometimes like to touch each other… perhaps a little “office romance” was occurring.

So, to get back… Semmelweis was determined to break the chain of cadaverous particles being transferred to the living patients.  So, in a burst of inspiration, he started having all of his students wash their hands after performing autopsies and in-between patient examinations.  Seems logical doesn’t it?  He chose a “bleach-like” solution for the hand washings (which of course we know as a good choice for killing this streptococcal bacteria) primarily because it did a good job of neutralizing the putrid smell that was emanating from his student’s hands from the autopsies.

The results of his change in procedure were absolutely remarkable.  Prior to the hand washing, one out of every eight women giving birth in his clinic was dying of childbed fever.  After the hand washing started, the death rate plummeted immediately to less than one in a hundred!

Clearly, he had stumbled upon something that would revolutionize medicine… that would revolutionize health care.  His findings were taken to the medical community at large… but instead of his conclusions being met with applause and accolades and talks of awards….. he was met with criticism and insults.  The medical community virtually declared war on this young doctor.

“Who are you?” and  “How long have you been in practice?”  “Cadaverous particles!  Pish, everyone knows that childbed fever is caused from xyz.”

These attacks would continue, and try as he might, he would eventually be driven insane.  And then was institutionalized against his will.  Unfortunately, he would later die while in asylum after suffering from, ironically, septicemia following a severe beating injury from the institution’s guards.  Never to know that his views would eventually triumph… would eventually make it to the ranks of common sense… and that childbed fever, for all intents and purposes, would virtually disappear, only to be found in the history books.

So why is it that the doctors of that day did not want to listen to Semmelweis?  Why would the medical establishment dismiss something so obvious?   Was it because they did not believe in hand washing?  Or was it because the idea, or the insinuation, behind the hand washing was offensive.  And that by accepting Semmelweis’ theory, they would, in essence, be admitting that by their own hand they were not only delivering babies, but death to the mothers.

As it turns out, shortly after Semmelweis’ death, Louis Pasteur would come up with his Germ Theory of Disease.  And today, hospitals around the globe have placards all around — reminding health care workers to wash their hands because it saves lives.  Talk about a 180.

So, I don’t believe in chiropractic.  I know in it.  And maybe one day it will rise to the ranks of common sense.

You know in my research for this podcast… and by the way I have written an article on this very topic which you can find at SpinalColumnBlog.com.  I’ll put a link in the Show Notes.  … But in my research for this podcast, I came across something called the “Semmelweis Reflex.”  And what this is… is the reflex-like rejection of new knowledge because it contradicts entrenched norms, beliefs or paradigms.

Is chiropractic suffering from the Semmelweis Reflex?  I’d say that in some circles it is.  I see it changing however.  But it will take time.  Maybe a 100 years.

I want to wrap up with a quote that sums up my point perfectly. — Oh and by the way, I want to give a “shout out” to my patient Dave who enjoys sweating out to Spinal Column Radio as he “rows his way to health!” Hello Dave… Hello twice!… Because I know that you like to listen to each episode two times.  So “Hello Hello” and keep listening. ….Anyway, I want to wrap up this episode with a quote that sums up my point perfectly.  It’s from renown physician, psychiatrist, and parapsychologist Jule Eisenbud.  And he once said:

“Let something appeal to us and we will make sense out of it.  Let something offend us, disturb us, threaten us and we’ll see that it doesn’t make sense.”


[outro theme music]

Well, I believe that we are out of time. I’m going to go wash my hands.  Hey thanks so much for joining us… I hope that today’s episode will spark some interesting thoughts and conversation around this topic.  Let me know what you’re thinking by leaving a comment in the Show Notes for this episode.

Spinal Column Radio would like to remind you that true health comes from the inside out — not outside in.  As such, the content of this podcast, along with the show notes and related links, is not intended to cure, diagnose, treat, or prevent any disease.  But, instead, is meant to inform and inspire you in asking better questions regarding your health.  Since the circumstances surrounding your particular situation are unique, you are encouraged to consult with a Doctor of Chiropractic — or other health care practitioner of your choosing.

Next time on Spinal Column Radio, chiropractor Rennie Statler will be joining us to tell us how he, along with a group of other D.C.’s, hopped on a plane and rolled up their sleeves to lend a healing hand in Haiti. That’s in three weeks on the last Friday of the month.  So, until then, for my son Logan, tweaking the knobs on the sound board, this is Dr. Thomas Lamar, your podcast chiropractor.


Spinal Column Radio is a production of Spinal Column Communications in conjunction with AnchorChiropractic.net.  Copyright 2010.

Download a PDF version of these Show Notes

6 Comments so far
Leave a comment

Interesting point. I’ve met people saying they “don’t believe in chiropractic” just for a reason of some vested interest that involves drug profits.

Comment by nyc chiropractor

Thanks for your comment nyc chiropractor. You are right. It is too bad that money seems to always be a the core of everything. Keep listening!

Comment by drlamar

Just before listening to this episode, I was reading Super Freakonomics by Steven D Levitt & Stephen J Dubner. They discussed Semmelweis and how he discovered the culprit by keeping stats. The authors also used other examples of how self interest both monetary and/or political can destroy true science. Another good podcast, Dr Tom. I look forward to all of them.

Comment by Dan Martin

Sounds like a “Semmelweis Reflex!” … Thanks Dan for the encouragement and Logan and I appreciate your listenership.

Comment by drlamar

Can you provide more information on this? take care

Comment by jacksonville chiropractor

Hello Jacksonville Chiropractor –

Thanks for listening. As for more information… I’d encourage you to check out my written article on the this subject at http://spinalcolumnblog.com/2010/03/19/do-you-believe-in-chiropractic/. You might also want to check out the references of this article as well. Hope that helps.

Comment by drlamar

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