Letter: Alternative medicine

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The Independent Online
Sir: Professor Ernst bemoans the lack of clinical studies on the effectiveness of various complementary therapies and describes chiropractic as unproven. He omits to mention that chiropractic is the only complementary therapy in the UK to have undergone any thorough evaluation by an independent medical research body (the Medical Research Council, who published two studies in the British Medical Journal in 1990 and 1995).

The results of both studies could hardly have been more positive about the benefits of chiropractic treatment, compared with orthodox medicine, for patients with low back pain.

The 1990 study concluded that chiropractic treatment had been significantly more successful in providing faster pain relief, greater patient satisfaction and measurably greater improvements (for example, only 21 per cent of the chiropractic patients required time off work compared with 39 per cent of the medical patients). A follow-up study in 1995 showed that 30 per cent fewer of the chiropractic group had experienced relapses of their original low back pain. The MRC concluded that were chiropractic to be available on the NHS the potential savings would be huge.

Professor Ernst also suggests that chiropractic manipulation is potentially dangerous. All medical treatments carry risks. It has been generally accepted (by, amongst others, the Royal College of General Practitioners) that manipulation is very safe when performed by a qualified practitioner.

NEIL AUSTIN

London Chiropractic Clinic

London W1

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