from the world's big
Does chiropractic work?
Despite acceptance by many insurance companies, a number of studies don't confirm its effectiveness.
- With over 70,000 certified chiropractors in America, the modality has gained wide acceptance.
- Yet many studies do not show chiropractic to be more effective than placebo or pharmaceuticals.
- Some chiropractors treat newborns as young as two weeks to help alleviate "birth trauma."
The first chiropractic adjustment took place in 1896 in an Iowa office building. D.D. Palmer, a fan of magnetic healing and anti-vaxxer, ran into the building's janitor, who was suffering from back pain; he was also deaf. It's not quite clear exactly how Palmer adjusted the janitor's vertebral subluxation—a term unique to chiropractic that implies an undetectable spinal misalignment—as, with all origin stories, details are murky. Supposedly, Palmer claims the adjustment cured him of deafness; the second patient he treated apparently left with no more heart disease.
Palmer was a metaphysics fan and correlated physical symptoms with spiritual phenomena; chiropractic is based on the idea that energy flows block the "innate," which manifests in things like back pain. Not only did he believe chiropractic had a religious and moral purpose, he also claimed he "received" it from a deceased physician. He called chiropractic a religion; he even tried to use the freedom of religion clause to circumvent the fact that he wasn't a licensed medical professional, a move that got him jailed and fined. He ended up selling his school to his son, who apparently killed him in 1913.
While Palmer's emphasis on the nervous system was an early contribution to an important physiological discourse that doctors are still uncovering today, chiropractic is still considered pseudoscience. Regardless, this is America, where suspect folk remedies and metaphysical interventions are commonplace. Within three decades there would be over 80 chiropractic schools established in the United States. Today, there are over 70,000 certified chiropractors in this country.
I've seen chiropractors hundreds of times. When I had trouble getting out of bed in high school—a case of sciatica following a femur break—it seemed to be the only thing that had me walking without pain. I revisited a number of chiropractors over the decades for various reasons, including neck pain and a broken collarbone. Eventually a pattern emerged that caused me to stop going: pain relief offered by chiropractic never led to addressing the actual issue.
For example, going to a chiropractor 2-3 times a week for years alleviated my sciatica but never fully stopped it. That only happened when I began practicing yoga. Time and again, chiropractors provided temporary relief without ever pointing to the cause of the pain. Every time I found actual relief through a new exercise modality or physical therapy.
Are chiropractors worth it?
I recalled my chiropractic history after reading science journalist Kavin Senapathy's recent essay on infant adjustments. She writes about the small yet disturbing contingent of chiropractors that treat "birth trauma," a number that the International Chiropractic Pediatric Association pegs at 90 percent, but which is actually less than 3 percent. As with many forms of complementary or alternative medicine, positive studies usually appear in journals dedicated to the modality (see: acupuncture; see: homeopathy).
Senapathy opens her article with the case of an Australian chiropractor adjusting a two-week-old newborn. This includes hanging the baby upside-down by the ankles and "activating" his spine by pulsing his tailbone and neck. Given the fact that during a newborn's first month of existence every movement is a reflex action, how a spinal adjustment would do anything positive for the child remains a mystery. It also points to a deeper cultural issue.
This phenomenon of a baby needing an adjustment to treat trauma is really a reflection of the emotional temperament of our time, especially, it appears, in relatively affluent Western nations. "Trauma" has broadly become a signal to discuss personal issues. There is certainly plenty of actual trauma, as victims of rape and sexual harassment and soldiers returning from war know too well. Yet trauma has also become a buzzword that people apply to minor disturbances and grievances, which sadly takes the focus away from those who need it most.
Birth trauma is also real, yet the coddling of the child is its own modern issue. I refer to it as the playground problem. In the early eighties, all of the jungle gyms I played at had some form of dangerous obstacle: rusty pipes, nails, shoddy wood, questionable bridges, slides baking in the midday sun. No parent wanted their child to get hurt, but as a brave and dumb boy part of learning meant discovering my boundaries. Sometimes a scrape or bruise teaches lessons.
Today, jungle gyms are constructed of curved plastic with soft mats or sand at the bottom. We've removed the boundaries so that children no longer have an opportunity to discover them. There might be fewer injuries, but there's also less education. Falling onto something soft during play does not prepare anyone for life, and play is an essential skill throughout the animal kingdom for learning boundaries.
Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine - Zephyr the dog gets a chiropractic assessment from Dr. Judith Shoemaker while the skeleton of a dog stands in the background on the classroom sidelines.
Photo by Mark Wilson/The Boston Globe via Getty Images
Education is essential, because the lessons you don't learn become their own limitations, only these prohibit growth. That's how the proliferation of pseudoscience began. There's little coincidence that two of our most important medical advancements—germ theory and vaccinations—greatly aided the explosion in human population. Millions of years of evolution led to one billion humans only in 1804; in just over 200 years, we're well beyond seven billion thanks to those two discoveries. Though life remains tenuous and prone to tragedy, we're better off now than ever before, which has led to the neurosis known as pseudoscience.
Enter "alternative" healing, a conglomeration of industries worth many tens of billions of dollars, many of which address the "innate trauma" we experience while basically just living. Chiropractic, admittedly on the tamer side of this industry, is like taking an aspirin. It treats symptoms and only treats causes by coincidence. There's also a good chance that what's actually aiding your muscles is the electro-stimulation and massage (if offered) more than spinal manipulation. And if your chiropractor is also offering vitamin infusions, you can be certain the business is a sham.
As with every modality, medicine that works should be investigated. Sadly, a lot of chiropractic studies show no benefit greater than placebo or painkillers. The best chiropractors I've seen offered massage before an adjustment, which makes sense: loosen the muscles pulling on the spine before adjusting the spine. But if you don't teach your patients how to strengthen those muscles on their own, they're only going to keep getting tight or weak, which is good for repeat business but terrible for healing.
Our bodies are the result of our individual movement patterns. As movement expert Katy Bowman says, no one is out of shape; we're all in the exact shape that we train for. If you don't train, that's the shape you're in. Manipulating vertebrae is a useless practice without addressing the entire muscular structure of a human body and how that body moves on a regular basis.
Which is not to say that chiropractic is without value. As mentioned, it has helped me. It just never cured me. As Senapathy writes, the real problem, especially when dealing with infants, is that it could stop you from finding a professional that can heal you.
"While it's reassuring to know that chiropractors are extremely unlikely to break an infant's neck or otherwise cause physical injury, the concern is that parents who take their children to a chiropractor will do so in place of seeing a traditional primary care physician, which could delay the diagnosis and treatment of potentially serious conditions."
That's a risk we should all consider before deciding which medical professional to visit next.
Sallie Krawcheck and Bob Kulhan will be talking money, jobs, and how the pandemic will disproportionally affect women's finances.
A neuroscientist argues that da Vinci shared a disorder with Picasso and Rembrandt.
- A neuroscientist at the City University of London proposes that Leonardo da Vinci may have had exotropia, allowing him to see the world with impaired depth perception.
- If true, it means that Da Vinci would have been able to see the images he wanted to paint as they would have appeared on a flat surface.
- The finding reminds us that sometimes looking at the world in a different way can have fantastic results.
The study<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xODc3Mjc2NS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1MTA4MDg2NH0.T-98YvLjS9mUCQkgqHyV43Q7h_JIiubrev-Fp_0j4Pg/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C38%2C0%2C579&height=700" id="58346" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="674799ba34e115a2e9a3e94c366bfc26" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
The Virtuvian Man. Christopher Tyler suggests that Da Vinci used his own image as a template for the face in the drawing.
Vitruvian Man, by Leonardo da Vinci created c. 1480–1490<p><a href="https://www.city.ac.uk/people/academics/christopher-tyler" target="_blank">Professor Christopher Tyler</a> of the City University of London's optometry division analyzed six pieces of Renaissance art by or held to be images of Da Vinci, including the famous <em>Vitruvian Man. </em>By looking at the paintings, drawings, and statues and applying the same techniques optometrists use on patients, Tyler was able to conclude that the eyes of the men depicted were misaligned.</p><p> He concluded that, if the images he analyzed were truly reflective of how Da Vinci looked, that the great artist had a mild case of exotropia. </p>
How would this have helped him paint?<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="b221010aa7688734d4d6a41f0df5933f"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/j6F-sHhmfrY?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p><a href="https://shileyeye.ucsd.edu/faculty/shira-robbins" target="_blank">Shira Robbins</a>, a professor of ophthalmology at the University of California at San Diego, who was not involved with the project, explained to <em><a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2018/10/19/leonardo-da-vincis-genius-may-be-rooted-in-a-common-eye-disorder-new-study-says/?utm_term=.d3f44ed91c16" target="_blank">The Washington Post</a> </em>how individuals with exotropia often turn to additional information to help understand the world around them:</p><blockquote>"What happens in some people is when they're only using one eye . . . they develop other cues besides traditional depth perception to understand where things are in space, looking at color and shadow in a way that most of us who use both eyes at a time don't really appreciate." </blockquote><p>Dr. Robbins agrees that, if the artworks analyzed accurately depict Da Vinci, then he probably had exotropia.</p><p>If Da Vinci did have a mild form of the condition, which would allow him to focus with both eyes when concentrating and with one when relaxed, Tyler asserts that the famed artist could have viewed the world in two or three dimensions at will, showing him the world exactly as he would need to recreate it on a flat surface. Quite the superpower for an artist.</p>
Does this mean Da Vinci would have been a hack if he had normal eyesight?<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xODc3MjY5NS9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyMjYwOTgxOH0.eSu3YBpCuaDj59-4lzSeZ1WgwtV2ETGiWHqczzW3how/img.png?width=980" id="9c323" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="edd4e9e9d9c1156a53242df6288d7cc0" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
A graph showing the difference in where each eye is focused for each painting, drawing, and statue used in the study. The larger the difference, the more pronounced the exotropia is in the image.<p>Not at all. What Dr. Tyler is suggesting is that the tendency of people who have exotropia to rely on using one eye to see the world and thereby lose some depth perception allowed Da Vinci to understand better how the three-dimensional objects in the world could be translated into a two-dimensional image on a canvas. This could account for some of Da Vinci's skill in depicting shadow and subtle changes in color, since he would have relied on these details to understand the world. <br><br>His polymathic brilliance extended far beyond art, and nobody is claiming that his ideas for flying machines, tanks, or <a href="http://www.da-vinci-inventions.com/davinci-inventions.aspx" target="_blank">other inventions </a>were at all influenced by a vision problem.</p>
How can we know this? He has been dead for five hundred years.<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="c26fc51b0aebbcd6905593015fec79e5"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/LRAptNtN9-A?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p>There are reasons to be cautious anytime we make claims about people who are long dead. In this case, we have the bonus problem that we aren't 100 percent sure that the images used are supposed to look like Da Vinci. </p><p> That is the major caveat of the idea; all of the images used as evidence of his condition are assumed to look like him. While some of the images, like the <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_(Verrocchio)" target="_blank"><em>David</em> by Andrea del Verrocchio</a>, are generally agreed to be based on Leonardo the other pictures are claimed to be reflective of him based only on his statement that "[The soul] guides the painter's arm and makes him reproduce himself, since it appears to the soul that this is the best way to represent a human being." </p><p>Tyler also argues that the portraits he claims are based on Da Vinci share similarities with the images generally accepted to be portraits of him; including similar hair and facial features. This lends weight to the idea that the artist incorporated his own traits into his artwork, including his vision problem. </p><p>Leonardo da Vinci was undoubtedly one of the greatest geniuses of all time. If he had exotropia, then it was merely a minor addition to his artistic skills. It does, however, give us a literal example of how people who look at the world differently can use that vantage point to their advantage to create things we all can appreciate. </p>
Want help raising your kids? Spend more time at church, says new study.
- Religious people tend to have more children than secular people, but why remains unknown.
- A new study suggests that the social circles provided by regular church going make raising kids easier.
- Conversely, having a large secular social group made women less likely to have children.
Be fruitful and multiply<p>Scientists in the United Kingdom collected data on more than 13,000 mothers and their children. Most of them were religious, but 12 percent were not. The data included information on their church habits, social networks, number of children, and the scores those children achieved on a standardized test.</p><p>In line with previous findings that religious women have more children than secular women in industrialized countries, a connection between at least monthly church attendance and fertility was confirmed. However, religious parents showed they could avoid the pitfalls that having more children can bring. </p><p>Typically, more children in a family leads to reduced cognitive ability and height in each <a href="https://academic.oup.com/ije/article/37/6/1408/729795" target="_blank">child</a>. Some studies find that children do less well in school for each <a href="https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s13524-016-0471-0" target="_blank">additional sibling they have</a>. This makes a kind of intuitive sense, as parents with more children would have to divide their time, energy, and resources among more people as families expand. One would expect that the larger families would also lead to things like lower test scores. </p><p>Despite the expectation, the children of religious parents didn't have lower scores on standardized tests. There were small positive relationships between the size of the mother's social network, the number of co-religionists helping out, and the children's test scores. However, this association was small, didn't show up in all of the testings, and was unrelated to other variables. </p> These effects might be explained by the size and helpfulness of the social networks around the more religious. Women who went to church at least once a month had more extensive social networks than those who never go or who attend yearly. These social networks of co-religious people mean that there are more people to turn to for help with child-rearing, a point also demonstrated in the data. The amount of aid women got from their fellow churchgoers was also associated with a higher fertility rate. <br> <br> Conversely, an extensive social network was associated with fewer children for secular women. This finding is in line with <a href="https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1207/s15327957pspr0904_5" target="_blank">previous studies</a> and suggests that the social networks comprised of co-religious individuals differ from those found elsewhere.
So, how quickly should I join a local religious group?<div class="rm-shortcode" data-media_id="6RrmYM8M" data-player_id="FvQKszTI" data-rm-shortcode-id="9eb4740a7d1e10108a75fd2ed627a90f"> <div id="botr_6RrmYM8M_FvQKszTI_div" class="jwplayer-media" data-jwplayer-video-src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/6RrmYM8M-FvQKszTI.js"> <img src="https://cdn.jwplayer.com/thumbs/6RrmYM8M-1920.jpg" class="jwplayer-media-preview" /> </div> <script src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/6RrmYM8M-FvQKszTI.js"></script> </div> <p>The study is not without its faults, and more investigations into the relationship between fertility, childcare, ritual, and social networks are needed.</p><p>These findings all show correlation, not causation. Though it might be said the results point towards causation, various alternative interpretations of the data are apparent. The authors note that most religions are explicitly pro-natal. It is possible that religious women have internalized these values and simply choose to have more children than secular women do.</p><p>This idea is similar to a potential interpretation of why large social networks have the opposite effect for secular women. The authors suggest that, in some cases, these more extensive social networks are associated with work and exert an anti-natal influence. Again, the people who build such networks may be people unlikely to have large families under any circumstances.</p><p>However, the researchers' hypothesis endured. The help religious women get from their church-based social networks allows them to have larger families than those who lack these support systems. In some instances, these support systems also prevent the adverse effects of larger families. </p>
The community religion offers<p>As we've mentioned <a href="https://bigthink.com/culture-religion/what-is-secular-humanism" target="_blank">before</a>, religion offers a community, and a community provides social capital. As religion continues to decline in the West, the social bonds of faith communities that used to tie social communities together begin to decay. However, as has been noted by a variety of observers for the last few decades, fewer and fewer new organizations appear ready to replace religion as a source of community in our lives.</p><p>While many different organizations might offer social support that religion once provided the whole of western society, this study shows that different social circles can differently affect the people in them. This finding must be considered by those trying to find new communities to join or the authors of future research. </p><p>The community offered by religious groups provides real benefits to those who join them. As this study shows, having the support network religious community offers allows some parents to avoid pitfalls that bedevil those lacking similar support. It suggests that previous studies demonstrating that group ritual offers benefits like increased amounts of <a href="https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/0956797612472910" target="_blank">group trust</a> and <a href="https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/1069397103037002003" target="_blank">cooperation</a> are onto something and that those benefits have a variety of applications. </p><p>While this study is not without its blind spots, it offers a strong starting point for further investigations into the nature of ritual in our modern lives and how local support networks remain vital in our increasingly globalized world. </p>
Health officials in China reported that a man was infected with bubonic plague, the infectious disease that caused the Black Death.
- The case was reported in the city of Bayannur, which has issued a level-three plague prevention warning.
- Modern antibiotics can effectively treat bubonic plague, which spreads mainly by fleas.
- Chinese health officials are also monitoring a newly discovered type of swine flu that has the potential to develop into a pandemic virus.
Bacteria under microscope
needpix.com<p>Today, bubonic plague can be treated effectively with antibiotics.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Unlike in the 14th century, we now have an understanding of how this disease is transmitted," Dr. Shanthi Kappagoda, an infectious disease physician at Stanford Health Care, told <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health-news/seriously-dont-worry-about-the-plague#Heres-how-the-plague-spreads" target="_blank">Healthline</a>. "We know how to prevent it — avoid handling sick or dead animals in areas where there is transmission. We are also able to treat patients who are infected with effective antibiotics, and can give antibiotics to people who may have been exposed to the bacteria [and] prevent them [from] getting sick."</p>
This plague patient is displaying a swollen, ruptured inguinal lymph node, or buboe.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention<p>Still, hundreds of people develop bubonic plague every year. In the U.S., a handful of cases occur annually, particularly in New Mexico, Arizona and Colorado, <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/plague/faq/index.html" target="_blank">where habitats allow the bacteria to spread more easily among wild rodent populations</a>. But these cases are very rare, mainly because you need to be in close contact with rodents in order to get infected. And though plague can spread from human to human, this <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health-news/seriously-dont-worry-about-the-plague#Heres-how-the-plague-spreads" target="_blank">only occurs with pneumonic plague</a>, and transmission is also rare.</p>