Can a spinal adjustment protect you from COVID-19? Associations call Mequon doc's claim 'misleading'

MEQUON -- Can a spinal adjustment protect you from COVID-19? A Mequon chiropractor told a FOX6 producer it can. Chiropractic associations in Wisconsin and around the world say that's misleading, and potentially dangerous.

"Life has changed quite a bit," said Dr. Hutan Ghojallu with Balance Chiropractic.

While the state of Wisconsin considers chiropractors essential, Dr. Ghojallu said many of his patients are choosing to stay home amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

"And that's what they should do," said Dr. Ghojallu.

But a FOX6 investigation found he may be trying to keep patients coming in with a controversial claim -- that spinal adjustments can actually boost your immune system, and protect you from viruses like COVID-19.

"I'm not sure if I can use the word 'boost,'" said Dr. Ghojallu.

On Thursday, April 2, the owner of Balance Chiropractic in Mequon said a claim like that would be misleading.

Dr. Hutan Ghojallu

"Would it be an overstatement to say that this kind of care could prevent someone from getting COVID-19?" asked FOX6 Investigator Bryan Polcyn.

"That would be an overstatement," said Dr. Ghojallu.

But two days earlier, he said this to a FOX6 producer attending one of his free workshops.

"I don't advertise that I take care of illnesses and sicknesses," said Dr. Ghojallu.

"So the coronavirus going around right now, is that...?" asked the FOX6 producer.

"And this, so, this could help you prevent that," said Dr. Ghojallu.

"Prevent what?" asked the FOX6 producer.

"Prevent you from getting it," said Dr. Ghojallu.

"The flu or the coronavirus?" asked the FOX6 producer.

"The flu or anything," said Dr. Ghojallu.

"How's that?" asked the FOX6 producer.

"Because the T3, T4 cells are controlled from this area, and that's the area that helps you fight anything," said Dr. Ghojallu.

"Do you believe you're misleading patients by saying something like that?" asked FOX6 Investigator Bryan Polcy.

"That would be misleading and I don't remember saying that to him," said Dr. Ghojallu.

Dr. Keith Overland

Dr. Keith Overland is past president of the American Chiropractic Association, which issued a statement on Monday, March 30, addressing "misinformation" about any link between spinal adjustments and the immune system.

"It's unfortunate if someone is misleading the public," said Dr. Overland. "There is no quality research, data or evidence that suggests that a spinal manipulation to itself will support the immune system."

The World Federation of Chiropractic called such claims "potentially dangerous to public health."

"You did tell one of my producers exactly that," said FOX6 Investigator Bryan Polcyn.

"What I think what I mentioned was... there is a connection between the immune system and the nervous system," said Dr. Ghojallu.

Earlier in the week, Dr. Ghojallu had a message displayed on a chalkboard inside his clinic: "Concerned about coronavirus? Boost your immunity and get an adjustment."

When FOX6 News came to talk with him Thursday, it was gone.

"His actions are, in my opinion, considered somewhat irresponsible, and they are certainly not representative of the chiropractic profession as a whole, or the American Chiropractic Association," said Dr. Overland.

But the ACA doesn't regulate chiropractors in Wisconsin. That's the job of the state Chiropractic Examining Board, which met by phone on Thursday to discuss this very issue. They ultimately decided not to take any action until their next meeting on June 25.

"We cannot control individuals, but we can develop standards for our profession," said Dr. Overland.

Dr. Overland said chiropractors do perform an essential function during the pandemic -- helping patients manage stress and pain in uncertain times.

"I believe that we play a vital role," said Dr. Overland.

He would just prefer they let their hands to the manipulation.

So what do you do if you're a chiropractic patient? Well, experts say if you feel like you're at risk, if you're unsure, err on the side of caution and stay at home, but if you're in pain and need an adjustment, chiropractors are considered essential services during this pandemic.

Wisconsin Chiropractic Association statement:

“The Wisconsin Chiropractic Association fully endorses the statements of the World Federation of Chiropractic and the American Chiropractic Association on the topic of chiropractic adjustments and immunity to Covid-19."

"Given the lack of quality scientific evidence related to spinal adjustments and immunity to Covid-19, the Wisconsin Chiropractic Association has been advising its members to avoid making any such claims or risk being in violation of state laws regarding misleading advertising, professional conduct and practicing outside of their scope of practice."

"Chiropractic clinics that are choosing to remain open as essential healthcare providers under the Governor’s emergency Stay at Home order should exercise an abundance of caution and closely follow all relevant safety, sanitizing, privacy, advertising and evidence-based guide-lines.”

World Federation of Chiropractic statement

American Chiropractic Association statement