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How to Respond When the Media Criticizes Chiropractic: Do's and Don'ts

Posted by PHS Chiropractic on Tuesday, September 30, 2014

By now, most of you are aware of the article recently published by Forbes magazine in which the author, Steven Salzberg, argues that nearly $500 million per year is "wasted on chiropractors." Dynamic Chiropractic offers a thoughtful and helpful guide to advise how chiropractors can respond—not defend or attack—when media chooses to criticize the profession.

Our goal here is to discuss what you should and should not say in responding to articles like this.

What you believe about chiropractic is moot; what we need here, to fight this battle, is evidence. In the responses we read before writing this article, we noted lots of ad hominem attacks (Latin: attack the man). Feels good, but does not address the substance of the article. However, we were heartened because in many of the responses, the writers have provided links to scientific articles.

But a caution here. Linking to just a single trial, for example, may not be the best way to go. It might be better to find a systematic review or meta-analysis to offer, simply because one trial is often not sufficient to make the case. In the circumstances here, the author's argument is about cost; many responders wrote back about effectiveness, which is related, but not the same thing.

Some of the best responses came from the indefatigable J. C. Smith, a chiropractor and writer [search on the DC website for his recent articles, one of which (a two-part series) is a finalist in the ASBPE journalism awards], who supported his comments with extensive reference to scientific literature as well as news reports.

Dr. Smith argued that in comparison to other interventions for back pain, chiropractic is safer, more effective and less expensive – and he offered the citations to support those comments. This is precisely how we should be responding. Our national organizations, both the ACA and the ICA, did the same.

What You Should Not Say or Do

  • Do not defend the profession. It does not need a defense, as it does inestimable good.
  • Do not attack medicine. Medicine is not the problem, and at this point in our history, with our involvement in VA and DoD centers, and with more and more chiropractors in hospital and integrative settings, medicine is not our enemy. Yes, there are and will always be medical doctors who loathe chiropractors and chiropractic. So what?
  • Do not let your emotions get the better of you. Revenge seems sweet, but it is hardly the best way to resolve a problem or respond to an attack.
  • Do not speak in generalities. The author has made specific charges. Respond to those.
  • Don't feel that an attack on our profession is an attack on you. Every profession has its critics. I doubt we get all "het up" [angry and excited] when the law profession and lawyers are criticized. It goes with being a part of the fabric of American society. We are full-fledged members with wide acceptance. This was not always the case.
  • Don't cite research you have not read or may not understand. Don't cite research just to cite research. We have both stronger and weaker research in our profession (as every profession does), and it does us no good to cite the weaker studies.
  • Don't go off topic. In writing something for publication, be brief, concise and to the point. No one wants to read a treatise.
  • Don't use poor references. You need to know your own professional literature. Information is so easy to find today. Learn how to find it, assess it and use it. PubMed, a main public portal to health information, provides user's guides that can teach you to locate good information.

What You Should Say or Do

A well-cultivated response relies upon good habits of thought using intellectual standards. Here are some tips to help develop critical thinking habits to effectively evaluate a claim and construct a substantive response.

  • Do make sure you're completely calm before getting out your pen (or keyboard)!
  • Do make sure you have a thoughtful understanding of the article's content, including the main and secondary claims, supporting evidence and rationale. In other words, what is the main point the author is trying to make – and why is he making it? List the claims, supporting evidence and rationale in columns so you can identify gaps. Then list the arguments that make the foundation of your counterclaim. This should form the basis of your response.
  • Do analyze the methods used to generate the evidence that supports each claim. Ask yourself, is the author's claim supported by data? Do you have data to support your counterclaim?
  • Do consider the quality and quantity of the supporting evidence. Is the data used as supporting evidence compelling? Does it actually support the arguments being made? Has the author neglected to include relevant data because it does not support his argument? What data do you have to support your counterclaim? How strong is that data? In general, data published in the peer-reviewed scientific literature is more compelling than personal opinion (even when that opinion is published in a book that has not undergone the peer review process).
  • Do examine the validity of the assumptions and evidence on which the claims are based. What assumptions did the author make? Are those assumptions valid? What assumptions are you making in your counterclaim? Are they valid?
  • Do assess your response as critically as you have assessed the original article. Walk through the do's and don'ts with your own work.

These tips will allow you to think more critically about the content of an article, and likewise assist you in formulating a response.

Keep in mind that critical thinking, logic and reason form the foundation of evidence-based practice. Therefore, appropriately applying the principles of critical thinking to evaluate an article and construct a counterargument is necessary for a well-reasoned debate within the scientific community.

Sadly, this approach is unlikely to make you feel as good (in the present moment) as it would to pen a scathing reply that is no more substantiated than the article which enraged you in the first place. However, in the long run, it will be of far more benefit to you, the chiropractic profession and the patients we serve.

- See more at: http://www.phschiropractic.com/learn/blog/how-to-respond-when-the-media-criticizes-chiropractic-dos-and-donts.aspx#sthash.i4t7k8iw.dpuf

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PHS Chiropractic

In the chiropractic field, flexibility is the name of the game. It’s our mantra too. Since we launched in 2005, PHS Chiropractic has become a leader in beautifully designed, customizable chiropractic tables and accessories. We design our base tables to be feature-rich, meeting the needs of the student or new practitioner. Yet as you grow your practice, our tables grow with you: We’ve dreamed up every possible feature, from drops to elevating heights to adjustable head pieces—all easily added to your existing table to broaden your options. It’s all part of the thought and care that we put into each and every PHS Chiropractic product. Made right here in the Midwest at our plant in Watertown, South Dakota, our products reflect our strong values: high quality, integrity, creativity and innovation. The result is a rich line of chiropractic tables and accessories—from our groundbreaking Tradeflex series to our patented ErgoStyle drops—all offering a high level of design expertise, patented features and great value that give you the tools you need to build a successful practice.