Nov 02 2017

Chiropractor raises concerns about physiotherapy advertisers, but physios appear to be much more evidence based than chiropractors

We regularly monitor chiropractic and osteopathy websites and urge regulators to act against practitioners making misleading claims. Should we be looking at physiotherapy too?

A chiropractor emailed us recently explaining that he thinks our work should be across the board for manual therapists. He also highlighted five physiotherapy websites, all of which were making misleading advertising claims to treat paediatric conditions, including colic, reflux and asthma.

Although limited resources mean that we can only look at a fraction of the pseudoscience health claims on the web, we agree that it is worrying to see physiotherapists making these claims. We will therefore investigate the five websites identified and will share concerns with regulators as appropriate.

We also carried out a small survey to check whether the five websites highlighted by the chiropractor are indicative of widespread misleading claims.

The Health & Care Professions Council (HCPC) regulates physiotherapists in the UK and maintains a searchable register. We used the HCPC register to randomly select ten physiotherapists. We then searched for any websites advertising their services and examined those websites against the Committee of Advertising Practice advice on physiotherapy advertising.

We were unable to find any problematic advertising on any of the ten websites in our survey. Although this was only a very small survey, it does suggest that misleading advertising claims are not widespread among physiotherapists, and certainly not to the same high levels found among chiropractors and osteopaths. For comparison, when we initially surveyed 10 chiropractors back in 2014, we found that 8 out of 10 were making misleading claims; similarly, our initial survey of 10 osteopaths in 2015 found 3 out of 10 making misleading claims. More recent surveys suggest that the level of misleading claims is around 5 out of 10 among chiropractors and 2 out of 10 for osteopaths.

Although many have recently amended their websites, a significant proportion of chiropractors and osteopaths still make problematic claims. Many are still advertising to treat conditions such as colic, reflux and asthma. We will therefore continue to monitor chiropractic and osteopathy advertising and to share our concerns with regulators.