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Chiropractor Controversy…

I recently wrote an article for an online publication. It generated a very emotional response, as I suspected it would. There were those who agreed, and many who vigorously didn’t. I thought it worthwhile reproducing it here, in the knowledge that there may be an onslaught of criticism coming my way…

“Is it Safe to Send Your Child to a Chiropractor?”

In my practice as a General Paediatrician, I see children of all ages, including many newborns. It is not at all uncommon for parents to seek the advice of non-conventional health practitioners. Chiropractors would be the most common in my experience. Many parents have seen a chiropractor, or other non-conventional practitioner, prior to seeing me.

The basic essence of the chiropractic approach is that spinal malalignments, or subluxations, can be responsible for a broad range of presenting symptoms in both adults and children.

Any medical intervention, whether it be mainstream or other, should be evaluated with two simple questions….

 

  1. Is it safe?
  2. Is it effective?

 

These seem to be fairly simple questions, but in answering them, one must be able to provide evidence for the answers. The practice of mainstream medicine, of which I am an advocate, is based on rigorous research and testing, with equally rigorous analysis of that research. In other words, research published in a high-quality publication, with stringent peer review.  The tick of approval comes with transparency as to the reasons why. This is by no means a faultless process, but in most cases delivers safe and effective management.

When it comes to chiropractic management approaches, the same rigorous evidence simply doesn’t exist in any meaningful form. So, when a parent brings their newborn to see me, and asks what I think about the baby seeing a chiropractor, I have no choice but to tell them that there is no evidence that the treatment will be safe, and no evidence that it will have any impact on their symptoms. The simple facts, plainly stated.

So why do parents consider chiropractors? I think part of the temptation is that alternative therapies, “natural” products, and unconventional medicine seem to have a growing “magical aura” about them – they can fix anything, and without going to the doctor! Somehow conventional medicine looms dark and ominous for many people. But I guess I’m a mainstream, conventional doctor, so I’ll always struggle to understand some of that negativity.

Parents are drawn in by the idea that a chiropractor can fix a whole range of problems their baby might be experiencing.  Baby has colic? Off to the chiropractor. Baby has reflux? The chiropractor can fix that too. Constipation? Must be due to spinal alignment problems from the trauma of childbirth. The chiropractor will know what to do.  The notion that a single form of treatment can effectively eliminate a range of symptoms has no physiological or pathological basis to it, and makes no common sense.

So, at best, questionable effectiveness. At worst, waste of time.

Dealing specifically with the issue of safety is equally concerning, if not moreso. Babies do not need to be massaged or manipulated back into “a normal position.” If they are a little squashed or asymmetrical after delivery, leave them alone! The body is clever – almost always all of those packaging issues will fix themselves with time, without anyone touching them! “At first do no harm” – I’m not convinced that babies won’t be harmed.

So for me, chiropractic doesn’t pass the safe and effective test. My response as to when would I refer a newborn or older child to a chiropractor? Never.

 

Addit: Before I’m accused of targeting chiropractors, I’m definitely not singling them out. Naturopaths. Osteopaths. Homeopaths. Herbalists. Aromatherapists. I never refer to them either.

 

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