Chiropractic is a healthcare profession that focuses on diagnosis, treatment and prevention of mechanical disorders of the musculoskeletal system, with special emphasis on the spine. It emphasises manual therapy including spinal manipulation and other joint and soft-tissue manipulation, and includes exercises, and health and lifestyle counselling.
Chiropractors are regulated by statute by the General Chiropractic Council (GCC) and may therefore refer to conditions for which suitably qualified medical advice should be sought, provided they hold convincing evidence of the efficacy of their treatments.
Which medical conditions can Chiropractors claim to treat?
In 2017 the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) carried out an evidence review on the use of multi-modal approaches used in Chiropractic in treating sciatica, whiplash and sports injuries as well as the treatment of babies, children and pregnant women as specific patient groups. The subsequent ASA Guidance explains in more detail the types of claims (including phraseology) that are likely to be acceptable for chiropractors to make in their advertising and those which are not. The Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) recommend chiropractors consider this CAP advice and the ASA Guidance together when making treatment claims in advertising.
Based on all evidence submitted and reviewed to date, the ASA and CAP accept that chiropractors may claim to treat the following conditions:
- Ankle sprain (short term management)
- Elbow pain and tennis elbow (lateral epicondylitis) arising from associated musculoskeletal conditions of the back and neck, but not isolated occurrences
- Headache arising from the neck (cervicogenic)
- Joint pains
- Joint pains including hip and knee pain from osteoarthritis as an adjunct to core OA treatments and exercise
- General, acute & chronic backache, back pain (not arising from injury or accident)
- Generalised aches and pains
- Mechanical neck pain (as opposed to neck pain following injury i.e. whiplash)
- Migraine prevention
- Minor sports injuries
- Muscle spasms
- Plantar fasciitis (short term management)
- Rotator cuff injuries, disease or disorders
- Sciatica (General references, as opposed to pain reduction claims – see ASA Guidance)
- Shoulder complaints (dysfunction, disorders and pain)
- Soft tissue disorders of the shoulder
- Tension and inability to relax
Can Chiropractors claim to treat other conditions?
Any conditions that are not reflected above or which go beyond the specific conditions as described above would need to be supported by robust clinical evidence to support their claims.
Are claims to treat babies, children and pregnant women acceptable?
As regulated health professionals, chiropractors may refer to treating specific population groups such as pregnant women, children and babies. However, at present there is a limited or negative evidence base for the effectiveness of chiropractic in treating conditions specific to those groups, such as colic or morning sickness.
Consequently, references to treatment for symptoms and conditions that are likely to be understood to be specific to babies, children or pregnant women are unlikely to be acceptable unless the marketer holds a robust body of evidence.
Where an adequate evidence base has been established for the efficacy of chiropractic treatments for particular conditions in the general population, claims that do not materially depart from those already deemed acceptable by the ASA and CAP and which describe interventions that are consistent with chiropractic practice, are likely to be acceptable.
The ASA Guidance provides some very useful examples about which claims are likely to be acceptable and which claims are not.
Note: This advice is given by the CAP Executive about non-broadcast advertising. It does not constitute legal advice. It does not bind CAP, CAP advisory panels or the ASA. CAP’s AdviceOnline entries provide guidance on interpreting the UK Code of Non-broadcast Advertising and Direct & Promotional Marketing.
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