Philip Straw, D.C. Cited for Improper Advertising

Stephen Barrett, M.D.

Philip Straw, D.C., who operates Optimal Health Straw Chiropractic with five offices in Southern California, aggressively advertises that he can help people who suffer from peripheral neuropathy. The clinic Web site states that his approach—which he calls "The Straw Protocol"—has four components:

  • A device that "produces and delivers electronic, biologically effective signals that are used to decrease nerve pain and allows for greater blood flow and thus healing and rehabilitation of the damaged nerves."
  • Light therapy administered with a light emitting diode (LED) device.
  • Vibration therapy with a device that "produces and delivers electronic, biologically effective signals that are used to decrease nerve pain and allows for greater blood flow and thus healing and rehabilitation of the damaged nerves."
  • "Empowerment" through nutritional education and proper supplementation, which attacks "inflammation" and enables your body to play a more dynamic role in healing and become much more effective at fighting off illness and disease.
 

The Web site states that the treatment program typically entails three 1-hour treatment sessions per week for anywhere between four and 16 weeks and can cost from "a few thousand up to ten or fifteen-thousand dollars in severe cases." The site's "FAQ" page suggests that the Shaw Protocol is able to "regenerate peripheral nerves that have been affected by your neuropathy." I can't judge from a distance whether people Shaw treats experience significant pain relief, but I do not believe that light, vibrations, or dietary supplements can cause nerves to regenerate. William M. London, Ed.D., M.P.H., who has investigated Straw's promotional activities, has posted a skeptical report of what he has seen.

In 2013, the Chiropractic Board of California cited Straw for misleading advertising and fined him $500. The citation reads:

Cause for Citation

On July 27, 2012 the Board received a complaint from N. F. alleging that the claims made in your advertisements, "Which of These Warning Signs Could Lead to Foot Amputation?" and "Don't Let Your Neuropathy Put You in a Wheel Chair" are misleading to the public. The advertisements and your response to the Board's Inquiry were forwarded to a chiropractic expert consultant for review. The Board expert opined that you have used worst-case clinical scenarios as headlines in your advertisements, and in doing so you have engaged in the use of misrepresentations, distortions, sensational or fabulous statements, or which have a tendency to deceive the public. In doing so, you are in violation of CCR section 311 advertisements. In addition, the Board's expert opined that your self-appointed designation as a "leading regional authority" and "expert" in such matters is a sensational, distorted statement that has a tendency to deceive the public. The Board expert added that the Board of Chiropractic Examiners does not recognize such expertise, and you have not demonstrated that you possess any diplomate status that might lend truthfulness to such a claim. In doing so, you are in violation of CCR section 311 advertisements.

Fine Penalty

The fine assessed on this citation is five-hundred dollars ($500.00).

The peripheral nervous system is the network of nerves that transmit information between the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord) and the rest of the body. Peripheral neuropathy is a group of more than 100 conditions conditions caused by damage to peripheral nerves. Standard medical treatments, which depend on the cause, are effective for some types. The National Institute of Neurological Disorders has published a fact sheet that describes the causes and treatments, many of which are outside of chiropractic's scope. Shaw says he has helped more than 10,000 patients. However, if he wants the scientific community to believe his approach is effective, he should do controlled studies and publish his findings.

This article was posted on March 4, 2015.

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