Dedicated to “chiropractic superheroes, young and old, past, present and future”, The Heroic Adventures of Kid Ki’ro: Chiropractic Superhero Adventure Series: Book 1 is a children’s book written by Marcus Chacos, a chiropractor practicing in Australia. Chacos promotes a fundamentalist chiropractic philosophy, meaning that he believes that an unhindered nervous system maintains optimal health via an essentially supernatural healing power described as an innate healing force. What could possibly serve as a hindrance to the function of the nervous system? The chiropractic subluxation, of course.

Chacos also heavily promotes a rather revisionist history of chiropractic on his practice website:

The history of chiropractic dates as far back as ancient China, Egypt and Greece. Ancient records show that practitioners performed techniques on the spine, giving pain relief. However, it wasn’t until 1895 that a man called David Palmer began making these techniques more widely known.

I have seen claims of the ancient underpinnings of modern chiropractic before and have never been impressed. Even taken at face value, supposed documents describing manipulation of the spine to help back pain would not support the vitalistic beliefs of modern straight chiropractors such as Chacos. It was Palmer who essentially ripped off the early beliefs of osteopath Andrew Taylor Still to invent the practice of chiropractic, claiming to have accidentally discovered it when he cured a janitor of total deafness, an account that was disputed by family members of the first chiropractic “patient”. Palmer’s tweak to osteopathy was to entirely focus on the spine and to claim that disruptions in the flow of “the Innate” resulted in all human medical ailments.

Chacos, unlike the typical straight chiropractor, also dabbles in various other forms of pseudomedicine. His website promotes herbs, homeopathy, special diets, supplements, aromatherapy, and even flower essences. He also incorporates some bogus diagnostic tests, such as electro-dermal meridian analysis and urine studies for “leaky gut syndrome” into his clinic’s armamentarium.

Chacos sits on the board of directors for the Australian Spinal Research Foundation, which claims to be seeking answers to chiropractic’s biggest questions. Since its creation in 1977, however, the ASRF has had the sole purpose of raising money to promote the chiropractic subluxation, mostly through research grants and propaganda in the form of newsletters and press releases. They are apparently not doing all that well financially, as they were forced to “streamline the foundation” by selling their headquarters and moving online.

In 2017, the ASRF released a conceptual definition of the vertebral subluxation for research and practice. This framework contains one of my favorite descriptions of the chiropractic subluxation:

A vertebral subluxation is a diminished state of being, comprising of a state of reduced coherence, altered biomechanical function, altered neurological function and altered adaptability.

Actually I take that back. It is my favorite. A close second is the definition published by the Association of Chiropractic Colleges in 2001:

A complex of functional and/or structural and/or pathological articular changes that compromise neural integrity and may influence organ system function and general health.

Both are things of beauty, but the ASRF takes vague chirobabble to an entirely new level. Confused? Don’t worry, they define “coherence” for us:

Coherence may be described as the property of unity; logically connected; consistent. Having a natural or due agreement of parts; harmonious;

It also may be described as nonsense in the context of chiropractic.

All proceeds of Chacos’ Kid Ki’ro book go to the ASRF, which may partly explain their financial woes. It is definitely no The Monster at the End of This Book. It’s not even a Latawnya, the Naughty Horse. The ASRF exaggerates a bit in their description:

This beautifully illustrated children’s book subtly emphasizes the health and lifestyle impact of chiropractic, coupled with a delightful imaginary story. The Heroic Adventures of Kid Ki’ro represents a wonderful book for chiropractors to have in their practices and to share with their patients. Non-preachy, the message of chiropractic is cleverly disguised as Kid Ki’ro lives the chiropractic lifestyle and a reaches for the stars as a result.

And now, my very serious review of The Heroic Adventures of Kid Ki’ro: Chiropractic Superhero Adventure Series: Book 1.

Every day is a chance for heroic adventures


Thus Chacos opens his book and the adventure of Kid Ki’ro, chiropractic superhero, begins. Kid Ki’ro is depicted daydreaming of impossible feats, such as soaring through the sky, walking on water, or fighting a dragon. He imagines building the world’s tallest skyscraper, which would be quite a feat for a young child considering that it would need to reach more than 2,717 feet in order to surpass the Burj Khalifa in Dubai.

Kid Ki’ro could, according to Chacos, design the world’s greatest railroad. This is a tough one to parse because greatness is an entirely subjective determination. Does it mean the longest track? If so, it would need to beat the Trans-Siberian railway’s 5,772 miles. Frankly I don’t think that Ki’ro has the time or resources. Perhaps he means that Ki’ro might construct a train that runs faster than Japan’s experimental maglev train, which set the speed record of 375 mph in 2015, but that is also hard to imagine.

The reader is then asked to think of what heroic adventures they might go on today, and they are reminded that every superhero has superpowers. This is demonstrably false, however. It might be fair to argue that all the members of the Avengers are incredibly talented and bring a particular set of skills to the table, but Hawkeye and Black Widow do not have any superpowers to speak of yet they identify as superheroes.

The next section of The Heroic Adventures of Kid Ki’ro continues to promote laughably unlikely physical achievements. Chacos inquires if the reader has any superpowers, specifically if they can jump higher than a mountain. The world’s smallest registered mountain is Mount Wycheproof in Victoria, Australia. At 141 feet above the surrounding terrain, it is rather small to be sure, but the current human high jump record, held by Javior Sotomayor since 1993, is just over 8 feet, which is well below what would be needed to clear Mount Wycheproof.

The reader is then asked if they might be able to run faster than a cheetah. Any honest child would respond that this would almost certainly be impossible. I was unable to find the world record for the fastest school-age child, but I think it would be considerably slower than the cheetah, which can run upwards of 70 mph. I emailed the San Diego zoo to inquire if they were aware of any documented head-to-head races between a young child and a cheetah but did not receive a response, so we will have to withhold judgement pending additional evidence. It’s important to be open-minded, of course, but not so open that your brain falls out.

I am similarly skeptical of the possibility of a child being stronger than a gorilla. These large primates are exceptionally strong according to the Gorilla Facts comprehensive database, and are capable of lifting up to 1,800 pounds. Even the strongest adult human would be considerably weaker than the typical gorilla, which would easily defeat a young child in an arm wrestling match.

Can a 6-year-old fly? I doubt it! Certainly not without being aided by small rockets or perhaps a glider of some kind. Their light weight would perhaps give them an advantage over a much larger adult, but I would be concerned that a young child wouldn’t have the frontal lobe capacity to make good decisions once in the air.

It’s time to unleash your superpower!

In the next section of Chacos’ book, he reveals the secrets to unleashing your superpower. His recommendations, which mostly consist of standard advice you might get from your doctor, would be unlikely to help a child develop superpowers. These typically require an exposure to gamma rays, advanced alien technology, magical artifacts, or perhaps the bite of a radioactive arachnid. But to be clear, I don’t disagree with a healthy diet, plenty of exercise, a focus on mental health, and proper amounts of sleep as far as recommendations for a healthy lifestyle go.

Chacos gets a bit into the weeds, however, when he claims that every superhero should make sure that their “brain-body connection is working perfectly” without explaining what that means. Without specification, this reads like an overly simplistic truism. The accompanying illustration of Kid Ki’ro laying prone as an adult appears to be massaging his back, likely represents a chiropractic adjustment.

This assumption is confirmed by the next few pages which give “the adjustment” credit for correcting an apparent post-traumatic brain injury suffered by our protagonist. Chacos also claims that chiropractic adjustments result in performance enhancements, with children jumping higher and running faster, but also feeling happier, sleeping better at night, and staying healthy in general. Even after reading the book several times, I remain unconvinced by the evidence provided to support assertions.

Conclusion: Kids don’t need chiropractic adjustments to be heroes

This book is big on claims but light on scientific evidence in support of them. While there are some basic recommendations for a healthy lifestyle that I agree with, there is a lot of nonsense. I hope that parents of young children aren’t fooled by this chiropractic propaganda. And I hope that no young children become disappointed and disillusioned when they fail to achieve the unrealistic accomplishments depicted in the book. Though unable to outrun a cheetah or out-lift a gorilla, children are our future and their laughter should remind us all of how we used to be.

Author

  • Clay Jones, M.D. is a pediatrician and a regular contributor to the Science-Based Medicine blog. He primarily cares for healthy newborns and hospitalized children, and devotes his full time to educating pediatric residents and medical students. Dr. Jones first became aware of and interested in the incursion of pseudoscience into his chosen profession while completing his pediatric residency at Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital a decade ago. He has since focused his efforts on teaching the application of critical thinking and scientific skepticism to the practice of pediatric medicine. Dr. Jones has no conflicts of interest to disclose and no ties to the pharmaceutical industry. He can be found on Twitter as @SBMPediatrics and is the co-host of The Prism Podcast with fellow SBM contributor Grant Ritchey. The comments expressed by Dr. Jones are his own and do not represent the views or opinions of Newton-Wellesley Hospital or its administration.

Posted by Clay Jones

Clay Jones, M.D. is a pediatrician and a regular contributor to the Science-Based Medicine blog. He primarily cares for healthy newborns and hospitalized children, and devotes his full time to educating pediatric residents and medical students. Dr. Jones first became aware of and interested in the incursion of pseudoscience into his chosen profession while completing his pediatric residency at Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital a decade ago. He has since focused his efforts on teaching the application of critical thinking and scientific skepticism to the practice of pediatric medicine. Dr. Jones has no conflicts of interest to disclose and no ties to the pharmaceutical industry. He can be found on Twitter as @SBMPediatrics and is the co-host of The Prism Podcast with fellow SBM contributor Grant Ritchey. The comments expressed by Dr. Jones are his own and do not represent the views or opinions of Newton-Wellesley Hospital or its administration.