Research on chiropractic effects on LD

Somewhere someone who’s read my two earlier entries about chiropracty and Learning Disabilities probably said, “How can he say chiropractic treatment of LD is ‘bogus?’ Hasn’t he read the research?” Well, I actually did read what research I could find.

I looked for studies about the effects of chiropracty and LD. I didn’t find any credible studies demonstrating the benefits of chiropractic treatment for LD or related problems. Indeed, the studies I found used inadequate research methods (unrepresentative samples; weak measures; designs that do not permit causal inferences; etc.). I was pleased to learn that my quick review agreed with a review reported by Yannick Pauli.

Dr. Pauli, who is a practicing chiropractor, serves as an editor for a journal about chiropracty. Here’s the abstract for his review:

Pauli, Y. (2007, 15 January). The effects of chiropractic care on individuals suffering from learning disabilities and dyslexia: A review of the literature. Journal of Vertebral Subluxation Research, 1-12.

Objective: To present current mainstream and alternative theories about learning disabilities, with a special emphasis on dyslexia, as well as to systematically review the chiropractic and related literature about the effects of chiropractic care in people suffering from learning disabilities and dyslexia, and to compare chiropractic causal theories to accepted medical models.

Methods: Computerized and hand searching of the various databases Mantis, ICL, CRAC as well as the Proceedings of the International College of Applied Kinesiology were conducted with the following index terms: “dyslexia”, “learning”, “learning disabilities”, “learning disorders”, “applied kinesiology”, and “neurologic disorganization”. The retrieved literature was selected or rejected according to predetermined inclusion and exclusion criteria and was subsequently classified according to level of evidence and critically reviewed on predefined methodologic criteria. We also compared the various causal chiropractic theories to accepted mainstream science causal theories of learning disability and dyslexia.

Results: Eight studies met our criteria. Four of them belonged to the lowest class of evidence, for a total of 25 anecdotal reports. The remaining four were before/after studies. None of the studies met all of our predefined methodologic criteria. Points of interests and methodologic weaknesses are discussed.

Conclusion: All studies reviewed suggested a positive effect of chiropractic care in individuals suffering from learning disabilities and dyslexia. However, the various methodological weaknesses of those studies preclude any definitive conclusions and all the results are therefore to be considered preliminary. Within those limitations, there seem to exist a potential role for chiropractic care in improving various cognitive modalities known to be essential in learning. The model of vertebral subluxation and its effects on cognitive function may serve as a link between the field of chiropractic care and the neuroscience of those disorders.

I teach a doctoral-level course about conducting systematic literature reviews, and according to my understaning, Dr. Pauli’s review uses sensible methods to conduct the review. He searched extensively and employed defensible criteria for evaluating the studies. And, when he gets to the results, he reports that “none of the studies met all of our predefined methodologic criteria.” That means that the studies did not employ the necessary scientific methods to permit any inferences about effectiveness. Still, Dr. Pauli arrives at an optomistic conclusion.

When I examined the language in the conclusions in the abstract, I saw phrasing that fits the term “weasel words.” The words and phrases include “suggested,” “seem to exist,” “potential role,” and “may serve.” If one rereads the conclusions in the abstract and emphasizes those words, you’ll see what I mean.

So, please allow me to summarize: Dr. Pauli’s review found no methodologically acceptable studies that demonstrated positive effects of chiropractic treatment on Learning Disabilities.

Link to the source for Dr. Pauli’s article. Link to the Wikipedia page about weasel words. Links to my earlier posts: Is It the Answer? (1 June 2009); BrainBalance Music (2 June 2009); and LD and Chiropracty—NOT (18 June 2009).

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