I’ve been getting a bit bored lately, due to all the downtime at the Ministry arising from my webhost undertaking a series of major upgrades, but when its comes to shaking off the ring rust there’s nothing quite like having an unfamiliar form of quackery to play with and trust me this one’s a doozy.
It’s called ‘Chirokinetic Therapy’ and it was dreamed up by a quack named David Stevens as recently as 1997. As for what it is, well I will explain in more detail in a moment but its also fair to say the the name contains some pretty strong clues.
‘Chiro’ derives from the Greek word Khier, via Latin and means ‘hand’; so Chiromancy is the practice of telling fortunes and interpreting character by looking at the lines on the palm of the hand, i.e. palmistry. ‘Kinetic’ derives from the Greek word kīnētikós, which means ‘moving’, so the literal meaning here is ‘hand moving therapy’ or, more colloquially, ‘wank’, all of which sums up this particular brand of quackery very nicely.
For a more formal definition of chirokinetic therapy we should, however, turn to Stevens’ own website – www.chirokinetictherapy.com – where it’s described in the following terms:
The treatment itself is very straightforward. It employs muscle testing as a way of communicating with the body to establish areas of imbalance. The CKT conversation with the body is at a cellular level. Cellular memory, communication and intelligence are of particular importance in CKT.
The body communicates with the CKT practitioner by relaxing a muscle group, allowing cellular memory to be investigated. Testing may include checking for allergies, digestive and eliminative concerns, also the hormonal, structural and emotional effects. The aim is to build up a clear picture of the imbalances that the body considers a prioriy.
During this testing procedure, cellular intelligence becomes more active or acute directing the practitioner to a specific cranial spot. These cranial energy portals work in a unique way, redirecting healing energy to areas of the body which have become depleted. Once the portal is activated using a gentle flicking technique, the treatment can have an immediate effect, structural imbalances causing back, neck or joint pain may be improved within a few minutes following treatment.
The next step is to establish with the body a response time, this is to enable your body to begin the re balancing process. After your response time, you will then be retested to ensure that the treatment has been successful.
Eliminating all the pseudoscientific bullshit about ‘cellular memory’, ‘cellular intelligence’ and ‘cranial energy portals’ what we’re left with is nothing more than a variation on the well documented ‘Applied Kinesiology’ scam for which RationalWiki provides this useful and extremely straightforward explanation:
The applied kinesiology scam is a trick used by some chiropractors and purveyors of “power bracelets” to fool someone concerning the efficacy of an object or therapy. It entails placing someone in an unstable position or touching them in a way designed to momentarily distract them then pushing or pulling on them to make them unbalanced. The procedure is then repeated but with the aid of the ‘magic’ item, however, this time the subject is sub-consciously prepared for the action and is able to successfully resist the pushing or pulling.
In this case, the ‘magic item’ consists of tapping the mark lightly on the head while spouting a bunch of complete bollocks about ‘cranial energy portals’ after which the CKT practitioner will typically perform the only scientifically validated procedure that they know; a swift walletectomy.
From a quack’s point of view, one of the distinct benefits of taking a ‘roll your own’ approach to quackery, as opposed to buying into one of the more established brands of pseudoscientific nonsense is, of course, that it provides a gilt-edged opportunity to rook other quacks alongside scamming your punters. And, sure enough, Stevens has his own ‘College of Chirokinetics’ which charges a total of £1,000 for a course consisting of three modules into which he appears to be chucking a bit of iridology in addition to offering training in ‘using a surrogate for treatment’ (tapping someone else on the head?) and ‘sending a distant treatment’ which could be anything from tapping a photograph to his marks repeated headdesking when they realise that they’ve paid over good money for this pile of shite.
As Steven’s has, thus far, managed to slip under the skeptical radar, you won’t be the least bit surprised to find that his site also includes an extensive list of illnessess and conditions that he claims have been ‘successfully treated’ (which I have, of course, grabbed via Freezepage as well) and these range from the vague (‘imbalance’ and ’emotional issues’) through minor self-limiting conditions (‘wind’ and ‘bloating’) to the downright serious (and deeply irresponsible) including anorexia, anaphalaxia, circulatory disorders, colitis, infertility, irritable bowel syndrome, ME, oedema, palpitations, thyroid problems.
What makes this case all the more interesting is the fact that Stevens knows perfectly well that he is not permitted to claim that CKT can be used to treat several of the conditions he lists on his website. In 2004, Stevens found himself on the wrong end of a complaint to the Advertising Standards Authority, which was submitted by, of all organisations, the General Chiropractic Council. On that occasion, the ASA upheld the complaint and ruled as follows:
The General Chiropractic Council objected to a leaflet that stated “”David Stevens” CHIROKINETIC THERAPY ”Let Nature be your teacher””. The leaflet, which explained the theory and procedure of the therapy, listed on its back page serious diseases and conditions including “ANAPHYLAXIA”, “ANOREXIA”, “DEPRESSION”, “FERTILITY”, “M.E [sic]” and “PALPITATIONS”. The complainants challenged whether the advertiser could prove the efficacy of chirokinetic therapy in treating the serious medical conditions listed in the leaflet.
The advertiser sent several letters and feedback forms from patients; the letters and forms reported health improvements from his chirokinetic therapy (CKT). He sent a letter template that was sent to potential participants in a pilot trial to study the effect of CKT on anaphylaxia, with which that he was involved. The advertiser said he was willing to take advice from the CAP Copy Advice team on how to advertise the treatment appropriately; he asserted, however, that he had understated the effectiveness of CKT therapy.
The Authority noted the pilot trial had not yet produced results. It considered that the evidence sent by the advertiser did not substantiate that CKT therapy successfully treated the serious conditions to which the leaflet referred. The Authority noted the advertisement claimed that serious medical conditions could be treated by CKT; it noted the treatment was not conducted under the supervision of a doctor or other suitably qualified healthcare professional. It told the advertiser to remove references to those serious conditions that the complainants had challenged and also the references to the serious conditions of arthritis, migraine, obesity and thyroid imbalance. The Authority advised him to seek guidance from the CAP Copy Advice team before advertising again.
At the time, Stevens was trading as the ‘Vital Body Clinic’ from commercial premises at 8, The Crescent, Leatherhead, Surrey. He still operates from this address today, and the name ‘Vital Body Clinic’ remains above the door, although his website for the same trading name no longer exists.
However, while researching Stevens, I ran across his personal profile on LinkedIn, while led me to another website at www.vitalbodyhealth.co.uk and to an extremely disturbing page of testimonials (also via freezepage)
Marilyn Humphreys – Surrey, UK
I was diagnosed in August 2007 with breast cancer and was told in December 2007 after a follow up ultrasound to undergo an operation which would be a wide excision of the primary site in my breast and sentinel node and axillary node sampling after appropriate localisation. It was then that I decided to start looking at the holistic route. I was introduced to David six months ago and he put me on an Alkaline Diet, deep breathing exercises and very hot flannels and ice cubes to be placed on my tumour – I had an under-active thyroid and was on Thyroxine for years – I have managed to come off the Thyroxine through the help of David’s Alkaline diet and the ‘hot and cold method’ my thyroid is now functioning normally – my Doctor is amazed at what I have achieved!! From my recent visit to the Royal Marsden it has been diagnosed that the tumour is now shrinking and has shrunk by 44% within 6 months of David’s programme.
Interestingly, this may not be Marilyn Humphreys’ first cancer quackery testimonial as the following appears on the website of a ‘Journey practitioner’ named Marion Howells:
‘My name is Marilyn and I am 55 years old and I am writing about my Breast Cancer experience.
I was diagnosed with breast cancer in August 2007. The lump was 2cm in size. I was told by the Royal Marsden that I was to have the operation sooner rather than later. After I had received my diagnosis I was stunned and shocked but something was telling me deep inside to stop and think before making any decisions. This is where my story begins on the pathway to WELLNESS.
I explained to the Consultant that I wanted time to think things through. I went to a healer and I was advised to read the book ‘The Journey’ by Brandon Bays. I ordered it immediately. When the book arrived I could not put it down.
Once I read the book I went onto the internet and found a Journey Practitioner who lives in my area of Surrey. Her name is Marion Howells and I confirm that I have not looked back since, with the help of Marion and a very special lady whom Marion introduced to me, her name is Barbara.
Barbara has been there for me during the various stages I have gone through. She has guided me, given me Journey Processing, reflexology, and whenever I needed support she was there and still is there supporting me. I cannot express that without their help and support and guidance I would not be where I am today. I also attend Marion’s meditation classes, manifestation classes and Secret Evening courses.
So we have a variant spelling of the name ‘Humphreys’ but otherwise the main diagnostic elements of the two stories (dates, hospital, etc.) are the same.
Perhaps the most worrying testimonial on Stevens’ site is that of Renate Pallett…
I first came to David in May of 2011 with diagnosed Ductual Carcinoma In Situ (DCIS) early breast cancer as doctors call it. In three hospitals in the UK they told me I needed full mastectomy in my left breast, that it would never improve only get worse and I should not wait till it becomes agressive. Since I knew it was very slow growing cancer and they did not find any aggressive cells, it did not make any sense to me to have mastectomy. Like my brain could not compute what they were telling me. I said no thank you for surgery and started researching natural ways to get well. When I came to David the first time he treated me and advise me to do three things: healthy diet to alkalise, breathing technique and hot and cold therapy on breast. Sounded very simple, I thought well I have nothing to lose and its free. I started to do the breathing and hot and cold therapy’s and diet. My breast started to feel different within a few weeks, it started to lift up and become more fuller. I was very pleased with the result my husband commented that it looked like I had implants. When I went to have a thermo imaging scan done the result came back: breast has improved going back to normal. Today I feel much happier person no longer scared of cancer. I think CKT helped me to have more energy, be happier and improved my breast health. David is good with answering my questions and finding solutions naturally what my body needs be as a supplement or therapy.
Although both spontaneous remission and overdiagnosis are possibilities here, as discussed in detail here by David Gorski, there are a number of worrying elements to this testimonial. A full mastectomy is usually only recommended in specific circumstances…
A mastectomy is the preferred treatment if either of the following conditions apply:
- There are two or more areas in the breast with DCIS greater than 5cm apart (called “multi centric”), or there are diffuse, malignant-appearing microcalcifications in the breast.
- There are persistent positive margins after surgical lumpectomy was done in an attempt to remove all of the DCIS.
Even when these conditions are not present, there are some women for whom the risk/benefit ratio of breast conservation must be carefully assessed and consideration given to mastectomy as a treatment alternative.
Neither size nor histology of DCIS is an absolute indication for mastectomy. A relative indication for mastectomy is the presence of extensive DCIS; this usually refers to an area several centimeters in diameter or encompassing an entire quarter of the breast that can be removed with only a small negative margin. Mastectomy is particularly appropriate for women with small breasts in which an adequate resection would result in a significant deformity.
And yet, according to the testimonial, three different hosptials recommended a full mastectomy despite, seemingly, not finding any evidence of aggressive malignancy.
The testimonial also refers to an assessment carried out using a ‘thermo imaging scan’ – breast thermography is not currently used in the UK, by the NHS, because it remains an experimental screening method the reliability of which has not been fully assessed/verified – again, David Gorski provides an excellent review of the reality of breast theromography.
One aspect of thermography for breast cancer detection that its advocates almost always mention is that it is FDA-approved for the detection of breast cancer. That is true, but not in the way it is often implied. Yes, thermography is FDA-approved for the detection of breast cancer, but what they don’t tell you is that thermography is not approved alone for screening women for the detection of breast cancer. It’s approved to be used in conjunction with mammography. What thermography boosters also fail to tell you is that the reason why thermography fell out of favor 30 years ago was as a result of a study by Feig et al in 1977 that found thermograpy to come in dead last among existing screening modalities of the time in finding breast cancers. Mammography detected 78% of breast cancers. In contrast, thermography only detected 39%, and in all 16,000 women in the study thermography was interpreted as positive in 17.9%. This is not a stellar record. In a separate trial in the early 1970s, the Breast Cancer Detection Demonstration Project (BCDDP) planned to compare thermography, mammography and clinical examination. However, BCDDP investigators decided to drop thermography early in the project due to a high false positive rate and low sensitivity.
Pallett’s best case scenario here is that she’s an unwitting victim of overdiagnosis. The worst case scenario doesn’t bear thinking about as there is absolutely no evidence that an alkaline diet, breathing exercise and ‘hot and cold’ therapy can treat breast cancer.
What we have here, if these testimonials aren’t bullshit, is prima facie evidence that shows Stevens to be dabbling in cancer quackery in addition to pushing his bullshit head-tapping nonsense, which – of course – means that in the next few days both the Advertising Standards Authority and his local Trading Standards department will be made aware of his activities, with the latter being invited to review his testimonials in line the provisions of the Cancer Act 1939.
UPDATE -3 May 2012
Both of Stevens’ websites have now been reported to the Advertising Standards Authority. A complaint to his local trading standards office is also in the offing but, thanks to the government’s decision to shut down Consumer Direct, it will have to be sent by snail mail as the only online reporting option provided by Surrey County Council appears to be by way of reporting issues to Crimestoppers.