Teuila Fuatai is a reporter for the NZ Herald

Chiropractor ordered to formally apologise

File photo / Thinkstock
File photo / Thinkstock

A chiropractor accused of pinching a woman's nipples while treating her for lower back and leg pain has been told to formally apologise.

Treatment provided by the chiropractor came under scrutiny after the 48-year-old woman complained to the office of the Health and Disability Commissioner (HDC), which subsequently investigated her case.

The HDC's report found that the chiropractor, referred to as Mr A, failed to provide the woman, Ms B, with appropriate diagnosis and treatment of her problems.

Ms A saw Mr B four times over a week in February 2011.

On her first visit, Mr A diagnosed Ms B with inflammation around the right hip joint and sacroiliac joint, which is located in the pelvis.

She was also diagnosed with "cervical bursitis", which can be attributed to inflammation or tenderness around the neck area. Shooting pains down the back of Ms B's leg were also noted.

The lower back and leg pain was caused by an accident Ms B had eight months earlier, the report said.

Mr A used several techniques including "urtication", which involves applying stinging nettle to various parts of her body.

Stinging nettle is a common weed which can cause skin irritation if touched but urtication has been used on musculoskeletal pain throughout history.

An expert opinion for the HDC from another chiropractor found "urtication is an unorthodox pain management not usually performed in chiropractic practices".

It was not "a generally accepted procedure for the management of lower back injury involving sciatic pain", the report said.

Mr A also failed to ask Ms B for permission to undo her trousers when he was applying the stinging nettle to her stomach.

Ms B also complained that Mr A had pinched her nipples during a consultation. Mr A denied the claims and demonstrated that the "poison point test", which was the treatment method Ms B had referred to in her complaint, involved applying light pressure to the patient's nipple with his little finger for about one second.

The test was used in Ms B's case to help increase his understanding of another medical condition affecting his patient, Mr A said.

The woman said: "I was [lying] on the table with my arms across my waist, when he mumbles something about nipples and nerve endings. He then says, 'can I pinch your nipples?' or something to that effect...I said 'Sure whatever'. How stupid am I."

Both Mr A and Ms B had different accounts of the treatment sessions.

The report said that the treatments given by Mr A were inappropriate in the light of Ms B's symptoms and recommended Mr A apologise to Ms B in a letter.

A copy of the report was also sent to the Chiropractic Board of New Zealand, which was recommended to perform a competency review of Mr A.


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