Backing up your claims for Chiropractic.

We’ve got your back when it comes to advice about advertising but with that in mind, depending on your claims for your Chiropractic services, you may need to make a few adjustments to stick to the rules.

  • Back-ground

Neither the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) nor the Committees of Advertising Practice (CAP) wants to be an (unwarranted) pain in the neck for Chiropractors.  So, after a two year ASA/CAP project on Chiropractic, a new piece of ASA Guidance was launched last year with the help of the General Chiropractic Council (GCC).

The Guidance focussed on new evidence submitted by industry bodies in relation to sciatica, whiplash and sports injuries and considered the likely acceptability of claims to treat babies, children and pregnant women

CAP Code requires that health claims be supported by robust evidence and the ASA has long taken the position that such evidence should consist of clinical trials, carried out on people (or indeed animals if the health claims are related to them).   Over time the ASA and CAP have built up an established position on the claims that are likely to be acceptable, based on reviews of bodies of evidence on a range of medical conditions.  You can find the full list of ‘accepted’ claims here but it includes things like joint pains, lumbago and migraine prevention.

Although individual Chiropractors are still entitled to make claims other than those on the list if they hold appropriately robust clinic evidence to support them, if you don’t hold that evidence you’re better off limiting your claims to those which are already accepted by the ASA.

  • The main muscle

In terms of the most recent ASA Guidance, with the help of an independent expert, the ASA found that – whilst the evidence it saw did not demonstrate that chiropractic techniques were effective in treating whiplash – claims to treat sciatica and some minor sports injuries were supported.  It therefore took the position that those claims were likely to be acceptable.

However, the proposed claims to treat some conditions were not fully supported by the evidence.  For example, the evidence did not demonstrate that chiropractic techniques could improve sciatic pain intensity and neither did it support claims to treat all types of sports injury. As such the ASA Guidance gives examples of the types of claim that are likely to be acceptable (e.g. “Conditions we treat: Sciatica”) and those that are not (e.g. “Spinal manipulation can provide relief from sciatic pain”).

The ASA also found that, to date, there is little or no evidence to support claims that Chiropractic techniques can treat conditions or symptoms which are specific to babies (such as colic or ‘birth trauma’), children (such as growing pains) and pregnant women (such as pelvic pain).

That said, it was agreed that certain relevant claims that the ASA had accepted in relation to the general population could be reasonably attributed to those patient groups.  For example, it is likely to be acceptable to state that chiropractic techniques can be beneficial for treating back pain caused by carrying the extra weight of a baby.  There are further examples of types of claims that are likely to be acceptable and those that go a bit too far in the ASA Guidance.

  • Use of Dr

Following a recent ASA ruling, a new position on the use of the courtesy “Doctor of Chiropractic” title has been established. Although Chiropractors are permitted to use the title, you will need to clearly qualify it in your ads to ensure it does not mislead consumers who may assume you hold a general medical qualification.  The position on the use of the title (and its various abbreviations) is explained in more detail here.

  • Preventing a regulatory headache

The best way to avoid problems with the ASA is to take note of the ASA Guidance and CAP advice and amend your advertising (including your website) where necessary.  CAP also ran a webinar on this topic earlier this year that you can listen to below.

If, having read the guidance, you are still unsure about whether the changes you have made are acceptable or what changes you need to make, the CAP Copy Advice team are on hand to answer your questions.

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