The heretic chiropractor’s swan song

I started private practice as a chiropractor in 1957. My book Costing, chiropractic and cultism, published in 1963, he renounced the vertebral subluxation theory that defines the practice of chiropractic as primary care capable of restoring and maintaining health by simply manipulating (adjusting) the spine to remove nerve interference. My colleagues called me a traitor and I was denied membership in the American Chiropractic Association. I continued to write articles for journals and magazines recommending that the chiropractic profession abandon the scientifically indefensible theory of subluxation and seek development as a sub-specialty providing conservative care for neck and back pain of the mechanical type, a designation still unfulfilled in physical medicine. .

In the years that followed, I was inundated with hostile mail from subluxation chiropractors who threatened to revoke my chiropractic license. Although the chiropractic response to my published articles was largely negative, the support I received from scientific health professionals gave me the inspiration I needed to continue writing. My book Inside Chiropractic was published by Prometheus Books in 1999.


In 2019, researchers investigating the effects of spinal manipulation reported at the Global Summit that they found no evidence of an effect of spinal manipulative therapy for the treatment of non-musculoskeletal disorders, confirming what I have been saying since 1963. It is now clear that the comprehensive theory of vertebral subluxation he formulated magnetic healer in 1895 is a weak belief that the chiropractic profession should abandon. An asymptomatic chiropractic vertebral subluxation complex has never been proven to be the cause of disease, as opposed to a true orthopedic subluxation that causes musculoskeletal symptoms but has never been associated with organic disease. It is well known that spinal nerves supply the skin and musculoskeletal structures, while the body’s organs are supplied by a separate autonomic nervous system located outside the spinal column.

Properly defined and limited, chiropractic could fill a niche in primary care by offering the appropriate use of generic spinal manipulation combined with rehabilitation and physical therapy modalities, as I have done in my 41 years of practice. Unfortunately, the chiropractic profession continues to define chiropractic as a form of alternative medicine that covers a wide range of health problems, rather than specializing in the treatment of back pain, despite the fact that back pain and neck pain are still the #1 and #1. 2 cause of disability worldwide.


When I was nominated for a John Maddox Award in 2023 for my stand on the side of science as a whistleblower who endured ostracism and isolation as a heretic chiropractor, I was very honored. The nomination was a timely and comforting recognition at the end of my career as a chiropractor dedicated to protecting public health by advocating for reform of the chiropractic profession.

I didn’t win the John Maddox Award, but the nomination itself is a valuable footnote that enhances my legacy as a chiropractic heretic, adding a positive note to the last page of my autobiography, Sams Story: The Final Chapter.

My wife Marta and I review the first copy of my book Costing, chiropractic and cultismpublished in 1963. Martha shared and suffered the consequences of my published work on the subject of chiropractic, providing love and support during difficult times.

Excerpts from Letters to Heretic Chiropractors, 2012

The Aftermath of Costing, chiropractic and cultism

Given the absence of any comprehensive history of chiropractic, this book has a place in medical collections and reference libraries. –Eric Meierhoff, Director, New York Medical Library Center, New York, Library Journal, February 1, 1964.

Regarding your recent application for membership in the American Chiropractic Association and coverage with the National Chiropractic Insurance Company, please note that your application has been denied by the ACA Membership Committee. -HV Pruitt, DC, Executive Secretary, American Chiropractic Association, May 17, 1965.

I bought your book a few months ago Costing, chiropractic and cultism. I have found it to be the most intriguing and enlightening publication that has been of value to me in some of my medical anthropology studies. James G. Roney, MD, Ph.D., Stanford Research Institute, November 11, 1965.

I was more impressed by your reviews of chiropractic than by any other writer, since you are a chiropractor. I think every chiropractic college applicant should read your book, or at least every first year student. –Walter Wardwell, Ph.D., Professor of Sociology, University of Connecticut, August 26, 1976.

Thank you for the book Costing, chiropractic and cultism. I found it well written and most interesting. I have read a lot of material on the chiropractic controversy from authors on all sides of the issue. I rank your book among the best. -William Jarvis, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Loma Linda University, October 22, 1976

I just re-read your chiropractic book and enjoyed it even more than I did five years ago. Your thoughts and predictions held up very well. -Stephen Barrett, MD, Lehigh Valley Committee Against Health Fraud, July 28, 1979

Unfortunately unknown to most chiropractors, and unavailable in many if not most chiropractor libraries, Costing, chiropractic and cultism is a must-read for historians of chiropractic….Perhaps the profession will finally seek out this seer before his most dire predictions come true. -Joseph Keating, Ph.D., Professor, Palmer College of Chiropractic-West, Dynamic Chiropractic, January 3, 1990

Fifty years ago, you already expressed some of the things that today few dare to write! If chiropractors had more people like you in the beginning, it would be a respectable profession today. -Edzard Ernst, MD, Ph.D., Professor, Peninsula Medical School, England, January 12, 2010

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