Please - help keep any more people with FM from being conned into bankruptcy or worse

"Fraud is deliberate misrepresentation. Quackery, as we define it, involves the promotion of unsubstantiated methods that lack a scientifically plausible rationale."

Stephen Barrett, M.D.
Board Chairman, Quackwatch, Inc.

I am writing this series of blog posts on chiropractic and quackery because it is inconceivable to me that Paul Whitcomb continues to be allowed to be paid to practice chiropractic medicine on people with Fibromyalgia while his patients/victims are becoming bankrupt, their families are falling apart, and their health is no better, and in many cases it is worse than it was before they laid their life savings out for “the cure” to Fibromyalgia, a.k.a. "The Whitcomb Method."

This can be stopped. We can stop it. All it takes is awareness. While it may be obvious to you and I that The Whitcomb Method is a scam, to others it sounds like the cure they’ve been hoping and praying for. I hope you will help me create the simple awareness it will take to stop this guy, by mentioning this series to your own readers if you have a blog or website or by doing your own research and writing your own blog post or article, or by telling everyone you know with Fibromyalgia about it, before Whitcomb makes enough money to retire comfortably and does so.

Worried about retaliation? Check out these Tips for Activists on Fighting Quackery.

I've been studying up on how it can be that Whitcomb remains in business as the years continue to pass, and I think I'm beginning to have a some clues.

What's in this post:

  • Explanation of why I'm taking this mission upon myself
  • Overview of how Whitcomb stays in business
  • What the Better Business Bureau says about it
  • What the National Fibromyalgia Association says about it
  • What immunesupport.com says about it


Explanation of why I'm taking this mission upon myself

I'm really tired of Dr. Whitcomb's holdings (book, website) coming up when I do a legitimate search on just about anything to do with Fibromyalgia. This has been happening for several years now. It seems unbelievable, but currently you have to look really hard to find anything negative online about Whitcomb. (More on why that could be, later.) I'm doing this so there will be some truth to the hype on the internet available to anyone who takes the precaution of doing a search on the person (Paul Whitcomb, DC), the book (Fibromyalgia: Finally Solving the mystery), or the business (Fibromyalgia Relief Centers) in question.

I got motivated to take this on now by an email I received last month from a friend of my mom's who also has FM. This is what the mail said:

"Subject: Fibromyalgia diag.&cure-really!
I stumbled upon the Dr. that figured out what fibromyalgia is and has learned to test for it and treat it and give folks their lives back. I got the testing which relieved me from virtually all my "phantom pain" and got up and walked around in a straight up position. Realized later as I watched others getting the test that I was also sitting up straight in my wheelchair. I sat about 3 feet away from the goings on and saw weary faces lie down and get up smiling and with some color in their faces and the tiredness was completely eased. This test helps temporarily. One needs to go in for 3 times a day 6 days a week for up to 8-10 weeks. The therapy is different than the test. I think you and I got jarred something fierce when that rope swing broke when we were swinging double. In other words, I think our necks got misaligned and we have suffered all these years, gradually getting worse, spending most of our time in bed. There is a lot of information your can look up on: stopfibro.com. Dr. Paul Whitcomb had it himself and knows what a debilitating disease this is. It has to do with choking off of the menegis that surround the nerves that go thru the neck making the nerves misfire, telling you that you hurt in places that you regular doctor tells you nothing is wrong with. I will try to get these treatments when I can, but I can tell you that just from the test I feel like I have a large portion of my life back. Let me know what you think when you read up on the at the above website."

Shades of snake oil salesmen* from the past!

When I first read this email I thought it was one that was making the rounds and that the friend was just forwarding it to me. Then I got to looking at it a little closer I began to wonder if she had actually written it in the first person. I asked her if she had and this was her response:
"I saw {to protect the friend I have removed all info that could be used to track this person's identity). They said Dr. Whitcomb would be at an address on {location and time} that day. So I went. He "tested" about twenty people. I was number 4. I am still enjoying relief from my "phantom" pains. I don't have that tired look in my eyes anymore, I sit up straight again and walk up straight again. I can bend my knees to pick up stuff now when I used to do it straight legged. I can walk a lot farther than I have in years, however, if I walk too much my bone on bone in the knees and some arthritis kicks in. My lower back pain is all but gone. And this was only from the "test". They say the treatments are 3 a day 6 days a week for about 8 - 10 weeks. There were two ladies that he had treated that came along to give their testimonies and they are both bouncing right straight up and down. Both were more incapacitated than I. So far what I was helped with hasn't returned but they said the symptoms would most likely return. If I don't pursue the treatments, I am still allowed the freedom from most of my pain and I can function decidedly better. I plan to go to {location} next month."
The sentence in red is what anyone who is knowledgeable in legitimate chiropractic care would refer to as "excessive chiropractic care." The better to take you for all you have in the fastest way possible. More on that later.


Overview of how Whitcomb stays in business

  • The chiropractic boards that investigate complaints about chiropractors almost never interfere with the chiropractic practices in question.
  • Sleight of hand tricks like being an accredited member of the Better Business Bureau when the BBB does not ever handle complaints involving professional services conducted by health care professionals. They leave that to the government agency with specific expertise in chiropractic. Yeah, that would be the state chiropractic board. The one that almost never interferes (see above).
  • He leans heavily on personal testimonial as proof of the efficacy of the treatment, which is difficult to prove.
I'll go into details on all of the above and more in future posts. For now:


What does the Better Business Bureau say about Whitcomb and the FM Relief Centers?

Reno BBB Reliability Report for Fibromyalgia Relief Center

Yes, Whitcomb's Fibromyalgia Relief Center is accredited with the BBB and has been since 2/2007. Here's what they have to say about him:
BBB Accreditation Status
This company has been a BBB Accredited business since February 2007. This means it supports the BBB's services to the public and meets our BBB Accreditation standards.

Program Participation
This company participates in the BBB Accreditation Identification Program and has agreed to use special procedures including arbitration, if necessary, to resolve disputes.

Customer Experience
Based on BBB files, this company has a satisfactory record with the BBB.
A satisfactory record means a company has been in business for at least 12 months, and properly addressed matters referred by the BBB. The company does not have an unusual volume of complaints, or any government actions involving its marketplace conduct. The BBB understands and has no concerns about the company's products, services and type of business.
The BBB processed a total of 0 complaints about this company in the last 36 months, our standard reporting period.

Report as of April 21, 2008
Copyright© 2008 BBB®, Inc.
That sounds all good, right? It does until you read the fine print in the BBB Complaint Acceptance Guidelines.

Complaint Acceptance Guidelines

  • BBB will not process anonymous complaints.
  • Complaints must include a company name and sufficient information to forward the complaint to the company.
  • The complaint must involve a consumer-to-business or business-to-business transaction that relates to the advertisement or sale of a product or service.
  • Some types of complaints are more effectively handled by government agencies with specific expertise, or the legal system. Therefore, BBB generally does not handle complaints involving:
    • employment practices
    • allegations of discrimination or violation of statutory/constitutional rights
    • the professional services or procedures conducted by health care professionals, lawyers, etc. However BBB DOES handle complaints concerning billing practices for services or procedures
    • a request that BBB engage in debt collection activities
    • matters which are or have previously been in litigation

In English that means they don't take complaints about the services of doctors, chiropractic or otherwise. But they will nonetheless accredit them. If you have a complaint about billing, by all means report it to the BBB.

To file a complaint with the Reno BBB click here.



What the National Fibromyalgia Association Says About The Whitcomb Method:

'C' (as in "cure", not "cancer") Word Raises Red Flags: National Fibromyalgia Association Founder Says She's Heard About 'Cures' Before

By Gregory Crofton
Tahoe Daily Tribune

Paul Whitcomb, a South Lake Tahoe chiropractor, believes he has found a cure for fibromyalgia, a disease that hypersensitizes the nervous system and causes debilitating pain in millions of Americans, most of whom are women. He says his repeated neck adjustments realign the top vertebra of the spine and allow 95 percent of his fibromyalgia patients to get well. Experts on the illness and its leading researcher in the country are skeptical of this claim. They did not dismiss it altogether, but say controlled studies would be needed to prove it.

"When I hear this red flags go up all over the place," said Lynne Matallana, president of the National Fibromyalgia Association. "You start using the 'c' word and I get very nervous. As far as we know there isn't a cure yet."
Excerpted from Source: http://www.tahoedailytribune.com. © Copyright 2005 tahoedailytribune.com


What immunesupport.com says about it:

Letters From Our Readers - Diagnosis and Treatment Issues 01-10-2007

Dr. Whitcomb’s Treatment Protocol

I've recently been looking into a program for curing or helping Fibromyalgia, which is done in Lake Tahoe by Dr. Paul Whitcomb. I'm sure you have heard about it because you had an article in 2005 talking about it. There seems to be a lot of people who are getting better. Have you heard something negative about this program/procedure that you do not mention it as a possible solution to Fibromyalgia? - Judy

Note: First, it is always wise to question any treatment that claims to ‘cure’ Fibromyalgia. While some treatments may help a number of people, no treatment has yet been proven beneficial for all FM patients. Dr. Whitcomb’s treatment seems to focus on treating upper cervical spinal stenosis (a narrowing of the spinal column), which has several symptoms similar to Fibromyalgia. If an FM patient has upper cervical spinal stenosis, this treatment may very well be helpful. However, before considering this expensive and time-consuming treatment, it is important to make sure you have this particular problem. Your doctor can determine whether you have upper cervical spinal stenosis through a combination of medical history, a physical exam and one or more tests, such as: X-ray, MRI, CAT scan, myelogram, or bone scan.

The Bottom Line

Remember that in matters of health there should be no tolerance for deception. Your effort in opposing quackery may save many people from being hurt—and may even save a life!

Dr. Stephen Barrett
Quackwatch Founder
Quackwatch is a website that was created by Stephen Barrett, M.D., a retired psychiatrist who now serves as Vice President of the National Council Against Health Fraud (NCAHF), a private nonprofit, voluntary health agency that focuses upon health misinformation, fraud, and quackery as public health problems.


Other posts on this topic:

Intro to The ICIE Blog Series on Paul Whitcomb, D.C. and the Fibromyalgia Relief Centers, and Book Review Part 1


*definition of snake oil salesman, from wikipedia - The snake oil peddler became a stock character in Western movies: a travelling "doctor" with dubious credentials, selling some medicine (such as snake oil) with boisterous marketing hype, often supported by pseudo-scientific evidence, typically bogus. To enhance sales, an accomplice in the crowd (a "shill") would often "attest" the value of the product in an effort to provoke buying enthusiasm. The "doctor" would prudently leave town before his customers realized that they had been cheated. This practice is also called "grifting" and its practitioners "grifters".

The practice of selling dubious remedies for real (or imagined) ailments still occurs today, albeit with some updated marketing techniques. Claims of cures for chronic diseases for which there are reputedly only symptomatic treatments available from mainstream medicine, are especially common. The term snake oil peddling is used as a derogatory term to describe such practices.


To be continued.

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