Alternative Medicine and Children – Part 2 – Chiropractic for Children

The most common pediatric complimentary and alternative medicine (CAM) therapy requiring a therapist is chiropractic. One estimate claims that the number of children being treated by chiropractors increased 50 percent between 1997 and 2000.

This same study found that while many adults seek chiropractic care for musculoskeletal problems, children are commonly treated by chiropractors for ear infections, allergies, asthma, colic, and bedwetting.

Yet virtually no randomized controlled trials (RCTs) of chiropractic exist for AN Y pediatric condition. So, is chiropractic for children either safe or effective?

One of the first such RCTs found chiropractic was no more beneficial than a placebo for children with asthma. Those results have since been confirmed by other trials.

The first high-quality RCT of chiropractic for colic similarly found negative results. Infants improved to the same degree whether they received three ten-minute chiropractic treatments or were held three times by nurses for ten minutes.

While in general chiropractic is safe, there have been rare cases of very serious problems developing shortly after children have received chiropractic manipulation. Parents should be aware of this risk.

The cost of such treatments must also be borne in mind, especially given the lack of high-quality evidence of benefit for chiropractic on children.

We agree with the Canadian Paediatric Society, which states the following: “Open and honest discussions with families using or planning to use chiropractic for their children will, hopefully, bring about a rational use of this treatment in selected musculoskeletal conditions for which there is proof of efficacy, and enable parents to make informed choices about this form of therapy. Further, well-designed studies are needed to evaluate the chiropractic belief that musculoskeletal dysfunctions can be located and treated in children with nonmusculoskeletal conditions.”

My conclusions?

  • Chiropractic in children is generally safe, but the rare side effect can be disasterous.
  • Chiropractic in children has virtually NO data showing effectiveness for non-musculoskeletal conditions.
  • Chiropractic in children has virtually VERY LITTLE data showing effectiveness for musculoskeletal conditions.
  • There is no data showing that chiropractic in children is cost effective for non-musculoskeletal OR  musculoskeletal conditions.

You can read more about chiropractic care in my blog, “Chiropractic Care: an evidence-based evaluation.”

Here’s the entire series:

You can read more about this topic in my book, Alternative Medicine: The Christian Handbook, which is endorsed by the Christian Medical and Dental Associations.