New Zealand Chiropractors in New Complaint

June 16, 2009 at 3:58 pm (Alternative Medicine, Chiropractic) (, , , , )

Remarkably, chiropractors in New Zealand are risking further damage to their reputation. Having used legal muscle rather than evidence to respond to criticism in The Journal of the New Zealand Medical Association [PDF], the New Zealand Chiropractors’ Association has laid a complaint with the Broadcasting Standards Authority about comments made by a doctor named Shaun Holt.

Apparently, “Dr Holt landed TVNZ in hot water for comments he made on 8 March about evidence for the effectiveness of chiropracty. Chiropractor Doug Blackbourn responded to his comments the next morning on Breakfast.” (New Zealand Doctor Online)

The reason for the hostile responses seems to be Dr Holt’s decision to criticise chiropractors for (allegedly) claiming to treat childhood asthma and ear infections. Chiropractor Doug Blackbourn responded the following morning by denying that chiropractors make claims such as those criticised by Dr Holt.

The New Zealand Chiropractors’ Association, on its website, claims that:

Chiropractic is not a ‘treatment’ as such for any particular symptom or disease, but rather a method of helping to ensure optimal joint function and nerve communication and is thus able to effectively assist the body in healing a wide array of symptoms and conditions.

I wonder what this “wide array of symptoms and conditions” encompasses? Well, let’s see shall we?

A smaller number of clinical trials alongside other preliminary studies, case reports and anecdotal evidence show that chiropractic may be effective in many different conditions such as colic, ear infection and other paediatric issues, HIV and immune problems, asthma, multiple sclerosis and other nervous system disorders, infertility issues, digestive and cardiovascular health etc. [from “Research and Literature: Examining The Evidence”,; New Zealand Chiropractors 1 PDF]

Many people find they have more energy, sleep better, have greater concentration and focus, are more productive, and have a greater ability to resist disease. We often see this improvement in children with chronic or recurrent ear infections. Other people find that their asthma, headaches, back or neck pain, shoulder, arm or leg symptoms significantly diminish or disappear entirely [from “What To Expect: Chiropractic Results”,; New Zealand Chiropractors 2 PDF]

Obviously, Dr Holt was wrong to suggest that chiropractors claim to treat childhood ear infections and asthma. The NZCA website makes it absolutely clear that chiropractic does not treat these conditions by, um, listing them both on their research page and on their page that tells clients what to expect from chiropractic. Err…

EDIT 19.45 16/06/2009: I checked the NZCA database of chiropractors and the first name on the list for the top district was Dr Neil Bossenger of Auckland Central district. Here’s something from his website:

We have supported adults and children with headaches and migraines, dizziness and ringing ears, high blood pressure, stress related issues, sleeplessness, chronic pain, depression, allergies, eczema, asthma, epilepsy, autism, chronic fatigue, eyesight trouble, learning disorders, emotional instability and more. […] Established in 1998, Spinewave Wellness Centre is a specialised chiropractic practice that cares for infants, children, adults, and clients with special needs such as autism, epilepsy, learning disorders, attention disorders, asthma and depression, for example. […] In our practice, we see clients with a variety of health problems respond very favourably to chiropractic care. Many even recover from conditions they didn’t actually come in for.

I was also interested to see that he is described as Dr Neil Bossenger on the NZCA database and as Dr Neil Bossenger, Chiropractor on his own website. I assume that he is a medical doctor who is also a chiropractor. (I note that in parts of his website he is described simply as “Dr Neil Bossenger”.) Link:; PDF: Spinewave Wellness Centre 1.


  1. Mojo said,

    From the article linked to above:

    “Dr Blackbourn responded saying chiropractors make no such claims, although some parents report their children’s asthma has responded well to treatments.”

  2. jdc325 said,

    Yep. The NZCA claim, though, that they see improvement in children with ear infections. I’ll take a look and see if I can find what NZ chiros themselves claim.

    EDIT: actually, they’re pretty bloody careful what they claim. Lots of weasel words and claims that they don’t treat or cure asthma – they just ‘release nerve pressure and as a result, stimulate the nervous system to open up the lungs and bronchus’. Apparently.


  3. CJD said,

    Yes – We have these clowns here in the States, too. Please keep up the pressure of truth on them. Regards.

  4. jdc325 said,

    Thanks CJD.

  5. Shaun Holt said,

    Thanks for posting about this. Here’s the TV piece



  6. AndyD said,

    It looks like a simple case of pedantry. They don’t claim to “treat” a condition, they just do some stuff then let biological functions do the actual treating.

    Using thew same logic, it’s likely no doctor treats anything. They might give you an antibiotic and then let your body work out what to do with it. They might put antiseptic on an abrasion – but they don’t get in their and destroy the infectious cells themselves. They leave that to a combination of chemistry and biology.

    Surgery involves cutting things out and throwing them away, not treating them. Prescribing pills is just writing on a piece of paper. No treatment involved.

  7. jdc325 said,

    50 seconds into the vid that Shaun Holt posted in the above comment, we find that 2/3 of chiropractors surveyed by Dr Holt stated that they would treat asthma and ear infections. So much for Blackbourn’s bogus* defence…

    “Dr Blackbourn responded saying chiropractors make no such claims, although some parents report their children’s asthma has responded well to treatments.”

    *Eady disclaimer: Deliberate deception not implied.

  8. jdc325 said,

    I emailed a randomly chosen New Zealand chiropractor and asked if he/she could treat my asthma. Here’s the response:

    We have seen a number of clients with breathing trouble respond favourably to chiropractic care by looking after their spine and nerve system.

  9. Two lawyers and two journalists squash criticism of chiropractic on TV said,

    […] and Nonsense. jdc described this story at the time the complaint was […]

  10. draust said,

    Doesn’t it all sound eerily familiar?

    And I don’t just mean the striking echoes of the Singh case in what is happening with Dr Holt… also the endless weasel word-ery about :

    “Oh yes, we don’t treat [random ailment unrelated to spine]…. we simply [apply quackery of choice] and we find peoples’ / your [random ailment] improves…”

    Can anyone find an Alt.Reality therapy which DOESN’T regularly employ this catch-all evasion when they think people are watching/listening?

  11. jdc325 said,

    Indeed. I like AndyD’s comment above: “Surgery involves cutting things out and throwing them away, not treating them. Prescribing pills is just writing on a piece of paper. No treatment involved.” I think this shows just how ridiculous this use of weasel words is. Possibly the worst example of weasel words I’ve seen recently is that of the Westminster University course which had a slide that stated: “Legally, you cannot claim to treat cancer. This is not a problem because: ‘we treat people, not diseases’.” (Link.)

  12. starpath said,

    After listening to both Dr Shaun Holt and ‘Dr’ Douglas Blackbourne’s interviews, and reading the Broadcasting Standards Authority findings, it is difficult to understand the logic regarding the efficacy of chiropractic ‘treatment’ for asthma. The full Cochrane Review on Manual Therapy for Asthma is clear. There is no evidence to support the use of spinal manipulative therapy for patients with asthma.

  13. jdc325 said,

    Thanks for commenting starpath. I agree that “it is difficult to understand the logic regarding the efficacy of chiropractic ‘treatment’ for asthma”.

    The Blue Genes website has some comment on Ernst’s recent review here: link.

  14. What the chiropractor said, 23-Oct-2009 | Code for Life said,

    […] From the ‘Stuff and Non­sense’ […]

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