Are the facts about chiropractic changing? The Secret of Chiropractic Research Studies and Science Revealed
Do you ever get frustrated? When does the scientific facts seem to be changing from day to day? Instead of getting frustrated, here is a way to redefine our view of the study and science in chiropractic.
At the beginning of my career, I thought that research could answer all of my questions once and for all. However, I was wrong.
“Research and Science” doesn’t really work that way. Research is not a search for a definitive answer, but a means of finding greater truths. And research is a process that we need to participate in so that our profession can continue to grow.
Chiropractic Studies: A Cyclical Process
So how should we view studies and science in chiropractic? One way is to think of it as a continuous cycle of quality improvement, a concept that most chiropractors take for granted. This cyclical process allows us to ask questions, get new information and then use it to improve our theories and models.
Research is about asking questions and testing our hypotheses, rather than closing your mind when we’ve only found one answer as there may be multiple correct answers to a question. Therefore, the facts should change and improve as we gain new knowledge. And when we look at chiropractic, we know that chiropractic can be very powerful. Hence it is important to keep our minds open to the possibilities.
Thanks to the wonderful and fluid processes of research and science, we can go down to the smallest detail or make really great progress with analyzes and models. Research is a tool that helps us better understand what we are doing and how we can do it better. This process means that we can continue to grow as individuals and as a professional community.
Strengthening chiropractic care
Research and science also give us the opportunity to strengthen the foundations of our clinical practice and our profession.
When asked about the Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics (JMPT), the Journal of Chiropractic Medicine, and the Journal of Chiropractic Humanities, President Emeritus James Winterstein, DC, DACBR replied: Journals would hurt our industry’s overall academic and clinical reputation. These journals give relevance and meaning to our practice because they represent the science that underlies the work of chiropractors. Their presence has both promoted and published the research, which in turn has given stature to our researchers who can publish in other scientific journals as a result of this research. “
In this way, our chiropractic journals help provide opportunities for our researchers and contribute to strengthening the scientific knowledge of chiropractic, which helps secure our future.
Whether a chiropractor reads one or more different journals, scientific journals are important to the health and safety of our profession. Building our science reservoir means building an information library so that it is available when needed. We can’t just rely on other professions to build our library for ourselves. We have a responsibility to do this for ourselves. Therefore, our chiropractic magazines are indispensable. The information we feed into the research and science of chiropractic strengthens the foundation of the chiropractic profession. Therefore, it is our duty as chiropractors to support our research and science, as well as our chiropractic journals.
For example, the JMPT was founded at a time when there was no other scientific journal of its kind. During the 1960s and 1970s, a turbulent period in chiropractic history, Dr. Joseph Janse discusses the oppression of the mainstream medical-scientific community and how it affected chiropractic law and practice. In 1978, he took a leap in confidence, knowing that there had been unsuccessful attempts to set up a respected indexed journal, but knew that a scientific journal in chiropractic was badly needed by the profession. In a few years, the JMPT was the first chiropractic journal to be listed on MEDLINE and continues to be a leader in scientific publications on chiropractic. Since that time, the JMPT has published thousands of articles helping our chiropractic researchers build a scientific track record so that they can continue their research and publish it in a wide variety of journals. And the JMPT articles have in many ways helped practitioners establish the legitimate science of chiropractic and show that there is evidence of what we are doing.
I sometimes hear, “I am a practicing chiropractor, not a researcher. How can I participate in research and science? “My answer is: You don’t have to be a professional artist to appreciate and support art. Hence, one does not need to conduct research to appreciate and support chiropractic research.
When you find value and recognize the importance of research and science to the chiropractic profession, you are in good company. The 2020 Chiropractic Practice Analysis found that the majority of chiropractors in the United States value research and science. In their analysis, 96.2% of chiropractors say they have read peer-reviewed research and 90.3% say they use research-based treatments. This is great news when we consider that knowledge is an important component to being invited to sit at the decision-making table that ultimately determines what happens to the chiropractic profession.
Chiropractors read magazines to gain, maintain, and improve their proficiency, and to keep abreast of health care trends. Reading scientific journals is an efficient way to raise awareness of evidence-based approaches in healthcare. So the bottom line is:
- The information is expected to change and improve over time.
- Research and science are participatory.
It is our responsibility as chiropractors to know what is being done and published in and about our profession. And it is also our duty to support the journals that support chiropractic to ensure that they continue to serve chiropractic in the future.
Many great thinkers in our profession have shown their love for knowledge and that one is never too old to learn new facts or propose new hypotheses. By continuing to ask questions, measuring the facts, evaluating them when they are worth considering, and then applying what has been found in practice, we will continue to improve. And being able to speak and understand the language of science gives us a voice so that we can be included at the table as important decisions about chiropractic care are made locally and nationally.
Additional research needed
There is still much to be discovered in the world of chiropractic research studies. While we’re off to a good start in our science, by 2021 we will only know a small fraction of what chiropractic can do and what potential it has to harm our patients’ health. There is much research to be done about the mechanisms of chiropractic care, not just at the cellular and systemic levels, but also at the patient level and its implications for the community.
As chiropractic research progresses, we will need additional research into pragmatic clinical applications and ways that practicing chiropractors can incorporate and contribute to this process. Our research and science will help guide chiropractic into the future, and each of us has a responsibility to be a participant.
CLAIRE JOHNSON is a professor at the National University of Health Sciences, editor of JMPT, JCM and JCH, and has peer-reviewed chair of many scientific chiropractic conferences. She is the administrator of the Research and Science Society (RASS), an online membership-based forum for chiropractors interested in better understanding and applying research and science. This society engages stakeholder participation by encouraging members to learn, apply, and influence research and science. For more information, please visit ResearchScienceSociety.org.