Spinal Injury of Baby Leads to Debate about Merits of Paediatric Chiropractic

11th December 2013

Chriopractic has become an increasingly popular alternative therapy for many suffering from long term back pain and other such related issues. Despite this widespread application of the practice, chiropractic remains a controversial practice in medical circles, with questions raised about the scientific merit of the treatment and its effectiveness. A recent mishap in which a chiropractor was accused of breaking a baby's neck has brought into sharp focus many of the long standing issues surrounding chiropractic treatment, particularly in the care of young children.

The child in question was a four month old baby who had sought chiropractic treatment for an abnormality of the neck known as torticollis. The treatment resulted in a fracture of the vertebra, and the child was reportedly lucky to have avoided lasting injury. The vertebrae encase the spinal cord, and had the injury been a few millimetres towards the spinal column, a serious neurological impairment and/or paralysis could easily have been caused.

The lack of scientific evidence to support the use of chiropractic in infants has proven to be a major issue in the past, and this incident has brought the question of whether chiropractors should be allowed to carry out treatments for which there is no scientific basis, and which can potentially lead to injury. The practitioner in this particular incident was allows to continue their practice provided that they received professional education from an expert in the field of childhood chiropractic. This conclusion to the incident was met with some dissatisfaction from the paediatrician responsible for the care of the affected infant, Dr Pappas.

This is far from an isolated incident as evidenced by a review published in 2007 which documented a number of injuries following chiropractic manipulations in children. These included adverse events as serious as bleeding within the brain and paralysis. The lack of evidence for the medical advantages of spinal manipulations in children, coupled with the examples of serious injury, have caused the question of paediatric chiropractic to be raised more seriously.