Saturday, May 27, 2006

Not Just the Towers of Terror

It seems the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) is not just the location of an apparently phone tower induced plague of brain tumours, and the Australian Centre for Radiofrequency Bioeffects Research, but it also hosts a Department of Chiropractic, Osteopathy and Complementary Medicine. EoR is beginning to wonder if any real science is undertaken there. Perhaps it should be better termed the Royal Melbourne Institute of Urban Myths and Magic?

EoR is always fascinated by veterinarians who have turned to the dark side (also the unproven, unsupported, illogical and nonphysical side) of medicine. After all, he never knows when he might need a lost tail nailed back on.

As an example, R J Kilmartin B.V.Sc Post Grad Dip Animal Chiropractic discusses seven cases of Canine Acral Lick Granuloma. EoR would presume that someone with a BVSc after their name had at least some understanding of the scientific method, and what constitutes proof. Sadly, the much longer Post Grad Dip Animal Chiropractic seems to have a negating effect.

Of the seven cases briefly described, three were treated with drugs and no chiropractic intervention, one with drugs and no chiropractic treatment (a chiropractic examination was conducted but no vertebral subluxation found - surely a good chiropracter would have found something wrong since all animals and humans have subtle spinal and postural deviations), one was treated by chiropractic methods ("There was an audible release when the adjustment was made.") and the condition resolved (it had previously resolved and recurred while on drug treatments), one was treated unsuccessfully with both drugs and chiropracty though when chiropracty alone was continued the condition resolved after three months, and one received chiropractic treatment "and the lesion resolved" (it is not clear whether only one treatment was undertaken or many, how long the lesion took to resolve, or whether the physical restraint previously utilised was also continued with).

So it appears that, of seven cases, only two resolved while on chiropractic treatment (the third case resolved while on chiropractic treatment, but had previously on a number of such treatments failed to resolve).

Of course, such resolution of a condition that can recur and resolve repeatedly throughout a dog's life does not necessarily indicate any causal link between chiropractic manipulation and resolution. Indeed, Dr Kilmartin states "This study is not a scientific trial". Yet, towards the end of the page this transforms to "ALG's have been successfully treated with chiropractic". All mention of drugs has been dropped by this stage. In the Conclusion, this becomes "Chiropractic has been shown to be an effective non-invasive treatment in this condition". Of course, this is a miss-statement of what occured, since no causal mechanism has been found by which spinal manipulation can resolve a skin condition, nor has it been shown that such manipulation even affected the cause of the disease.

Sadly, Dr Kilmartin is not alone in his belief that "therapies" which subvert and defy the whole basis of the science they studied are real. This vet, for example, utilises such remedies as homeopathy, flower essences, bicycle tubes and string, cabbage (but not cabbage moths), shiatsu, craniosacral and cupping.

And EoR won't even mention this vet since it's by a hoofbeats contributor and contains such wisdom as "Every day horses injure part of their spine." With claims like that, it's not surprising that these people are succeeding in creating their own new market share of needlessly worried owners.

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