Keeping chiropractic research a secret
by Dr. Matthew McCoy

John D. Rockefeller was right when he said: "I know of nothing more despicable and pathetic than a man who devotes all of the hours of the waking day to the making of money for money's sake." In a way, the same can be true of those who devote their efforts to research for research's sake. I know that may sound blasphemous coming from a researcher, but the fact is, research has to be used for something worthwhile if it is to have any value at all.

In the early 1960s, European researchers reported that the drug thalidomide, used as a sleeping pill, caused birth defects. The research was published in respected medical journals, yet that's not what caused the drug to be taken off the market. The research, in and of itself, was useless even though published in well known publications. In fact, even after the research was published, Canada continued to distribute thalidomide to pregnant women. It wasn't until others read the report, publicized it to the public, and acted upon it that the drug was withdrawn.

Clearly, having research is the first step in the process. But after that, the research has to be put into practice by doctors, and shared with the public before its true potential as an agent of change can be realized.

This is particularly true of chiropractic, since our critics continue their campaign to suppress any positive news about our profession while sensationalizing anything that might hurt it.

That's why our research journals must intensify their efforts to publicize news of chiropractic research both within the profession and to the public at large. This is no easy task, given the media's pro-medicine bias (dictated by the billions of dollars they make each year in pharmaceutical advertising). It's very difficult to get newspapers and the broadcast media to listen to and cover news about research showing chiropractic's benefits. But it can be done.

We've had a number of success stories to bear out this contention.

Look at the remarkable coverage the Journal of Vertebral Subluxation Research (JVSR) generated over the report by Madeline Behrendt, DC, on chiropractic and infertility. The report, "Insult, Interference and Infertility: An Overview of Chiropractic Research," reviewed 14 retrospective articles on the possible effect of spinal problems on fertility. All of the women in these studies were found to have vertebral subluxations and all became pregnant after their subluxations were detected and corrected.

A press release was sent to all major news media and wire services and within days the story began appearing on Internet sites, in newspapers, and as the subject of a syndicated television news segment. Dr. Behrendt was contacted by numerous reporters for interviews and additional information.

Previously, a research article published in JVSR about the potential for subluxation correction to stimulate a reversal of symptoms for patients with Multiple Sclerosis and Parkinson's Disease, generated equally impressive coverage. A press release on the research results was quickly picked up by major news media, including Reuters wire service. The news was relayed to newspapers and television stations around the world, and the story showed up in a wide array of media.

Viewers watching CNN saw the headline scroll by on the late breaking news crawl, readers saw all the details in The Washington Post, Internet browsers found the story on sites as varied as the National Institutes of Health's MEDLINE and the Armenian Medical Network. Yahoo! News featured the story and it even appeared on the Merck pharmaceutical company's website.

Within days, millions of people were exposed to information about chiropractic and how correction of subluxations might result in an improvement or reversal MS and PD.

JVSR continues to publicize its research, looking for ways to raise public awareness, not only of the benefits of subluxation correction but of the scientific basis for chiropractic.

A few other chiropractic research publications and groups also recognize the need for publicity. RCS (Research & Clinical Science), for instance, retains a professional communication company to write press releases and submit them to major wire services. It realizes as much as we do at JVSR that even the most remarkable results won't help the profession or the world if they remain merely words printed on a page or computer screen.

That's one major reason why I encourage all researchers (including field doctors who wish to report case history studies) to submit their work to chiropractic journals rather than medical journals. It might sound more impressive to have your paper published in the Medical Pain Relief Journal but will they actively publicize your work if it puts chiropractic in a positive light? Probably not.

According to one paper published by the Congressional Research Service, an arm of the Library of Congress, "Due to medical journal practices and drug sponsor and researcher incentives to publicize positive results, many trials with inconclusive or negative results are not publicly reported." It's very unlikely that any research which shows chiropractic to be effective would be considered "positive" to the medical and drug community. The result would be that the research will sit silent and ignored while news of the latest drug "breakthrough" gets the headlines.

We can't allow chiropractic research to be kept secret. We have to stop hiding our light under the bushel! We must make sure research is not only published, but publicized.

(Dr. Matthew McCoy is one of the founding members of the Council on Chiropractic Practice and has been instrumental in the development of the profession's most widely accepted set of chiropractic guidelines. He's also editor of the Journal of Vertebral Subluxation Research and has extensive practice, research and educational experience. He gained international acclaim when he helped introduce chiropractic to the Russian medical community by developing a chiropractic spine treatment, teaching & research center in Vladivostok, Russia. He is currently the Director of Research at Life University. Dr. McCoy is Vice-President of RCS, serves as a member of the WCA Board of Directors, chairs the WCA Chiropractic Advocacy Council and was a liaison member of the National Academy of Sciences and Institute of Medicine's Committee on Alternative Medicine. He can be contacted via e-mail at

Terry Rondberg, DC, has been named as the acting Chief Executive Officer of Research & Clinical Science, Inc. ("RCS") and will assume day to day operations and management.