Is It Safe to Send Your Child To A Chiropractor?

This paediatrician believes that parents thinking of taking their child to a chiropractor might want to reconsider.

As a general paediatrician, I see children of all ages, including many newborns. It’s not unusual for parents to seek the advice of non-conventional health practitioners before seeing me. In my experience, chiropractors are the most commonly consulted.

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

Any medical intervention, mainstream or otherwise, should be evaluated with two simple questions:

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

These are simple questions, but the answers need to be supported by evidence. 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. This is by no means a faultless process, but in most cases delivers safe and effective management.

When it comes to chiropractic-management approaches, evidence simply doesn’t exist in the same 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 there is no evidence the treatment will be safe or have any impact on their symptoms.

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 magical aura about them, compared with conventional medicine.

However as a conventional doctor, I’ll always struggle to understand some of the negativity towards mainstream medicine.

Parents are drawn by the idea that a chiropractor can fix a range of problems their baby might be experiencing. Does baby have colic? Off to the chiropractor. Does baby have reflux? Constipation? Must be due to spinal-alignment problems from the trauma of childbirth.

The notion that a single form of treatment can effectively eliminate a range of symptoms has no physiological or pathological basis.

This applies to many other treatments, including naturopathy, osteopathy, homeopathy and aromatherapy – not just chiropractic care.

For parents considering taking their child to a chiropractor for spinal adjustment following birth, there is no research to suggest babies need to be massaged or manipulated back into a ‘normal position’. If they are a little squashed or asymmetrical after delivery, any issues will fix themselves with time. If the practice of mainstream medicine is to follow the idea, “At first do no harm,” then I’m not convinced babies won’t be harmed by undergoing spinal adjustments.

So for me, chiropractic care doesn’t pass the ‘safe and effective’ test, and I wouldn’t refer a newborn or an older child to a chiropractor for any reason.


Note: This article provides general health information and in no way constitutes medical advice. Ideas and information expressed may not be suitable for everyone. Readers wishing to obtain medical advice should contact their own doctor.

Words By Dr Scott Dunlop / Image by Daniela Rey

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