The Toftness Radiation Detector Is A Fraud

George J. Magner, III

The Toftness Radiation Detector is a hand-held instrument claimed to detect low levels of electromagnetic radiation from the human body and focus it so that a chiropractor could detect conditions requiring treatment. The device, patented in 1971, consists of a plastic cylinder containing a series of plastic lenses. Its inventor, chiropractor Irwing N. Toftness, claimed that energy with a frequency of 69.5 gigahertz emanates from compressed spinal nerves. The device supposedly focused the radiation so the chiropractor could detect it while rubbing his fingers on the detection plate. Rubbing hard could produce a crackling sound similar to that of a Geiger counter. The purported disturbances would then be treated by spinal adjustments.  

Yale University's Edmund S. Crelin, Ph.D., who tested the device for the FDA, concluded that it was "hocus-pocus" He pointed out that radiation at 69.5 gigahertz would penetrate only about one millimeter of body tissue, while the spinal nerves are two to three inches from the body's surface. So even if a dysfunctional nerve could radiate the tiny amount of energy claimed by Toftness, the radiation would be absorbed by surrounding tissues and would not be detectable at or above the body's surface [1].

In 1984, after winning a lengthy court battle initiated by the FDA, the Justice Department ordered chiropractors who still possessed a Toftness device to return it. The number of chiropractors still using the device is unclear, but 3.3% of American chiropractors who responded to a 1991 survey of the National Board of Chiropractic Examiners (NBCE) said they used Toftness techniques. Subsequent NCBE surveys found that 1.8% of Australian chiropractors, 2.2% of Canadian chiropractors, and 2.9% of New Zealand chiropractors reported using Toftness techniques.

Irwing Toftness is still held in high esteem in many chiropractic circles.


  1. Crelin ES. Chiropractic. In Stalker D, Glymour C (eds). Examining Holistic Medicine. Prometheus Books, Amherst, NY, 1989.
  2. Christenson MG, Morgan DRD. Job Analysis of Chiropractic: A Report, Survey Analysis, and Summary of the Practice of Chiropractic within the United States. Greeley, CO: National Board of Chiropractic Examiners, 1993.

This article was adapted from Mr. Magner's book Chiropractic: The Victim's Perspective. If you encounter a practitioner who uses this device, report the matter to the appropriate licensing and law enforcement agencies.

Photograph of Toftness Detector

This article was revised on April 9, 2002.

Links to Recommended Vendors

  • Compare drug prices and save money at verified online pharmacies.
  • Evaluates the quality of dietary supplement and herbal products.
  • Discount prices, huge inventory, and superb customer service
  • OnlyMyEmail: Award-winning anti-spam services.
  • 10 Types: Website design, development, and hosting with superb technical support.