Chiropractic treatment in selected musculoskeletal conditions has proven effective for many patients. But, can it make a difference as a complementary therapy if your child has stable asthma, colic or other non-musculoskeletal illnesses?
Chiropractors treat common childhood ailments such as these on a regular basis. Renee Bruning recalls taking Ben for chiropractic treatment when he was only 10 days old. “He had colic and reflux, and as a first-time mom, I was beside myself,” says Renee.
“My husband, Paul, and I really believed in chiropractic treatment. A family friend from the US told us that chiropractors can help to relieve these conditions. So, I went to one who only treats children. She calmly talked me through it. She showed me the exact pressure she would use on Ben on my own body. It’s incredibly gentle, and I held him the entire time.”
The reflux stopped almost immediately. Renee recalls that Ben slept very well after each half-hour consultation. They had five treatments over a month and Ben’s colic eventually subsided. Renee admits that it’s difficult to say if he would have recovered from the colic during the same period or not. However, she noticed a difference in her child after each treatment.
Chiropractic was first established as a discipline in 1895. DD Palmer, an American magnetic healer, believed that diseases are often caused by subluxations (partial dislocations) of the vertebrae. These sublaxations, in turn, impact the nervous system. When it comes to children, chiropractors believe that the birth process often results in spinal trauma, which they claim can lead to conditions such as colic. After medicine and dentistry, chiropractic is the third-most used primary healthcare profession in the world. It is, therefore, the most widely used form of alternative or complementary medicine. In South Africa, chiropractors are expected to have an MTech degree in chiropractic – a five-year course offered by Durban University of Technology and the University of Johannesburg – and must complete an internship before being registered to practice.
Dr Lauren Forbes, a chiropractor in Pretoria, says that many medical doctors and paediatric nurses refer babies and older children to her practice. “Parents usually bring children to me for spinal check assessments after birth. They also consult me for for infantile colic, reflux and torticollis (abnormal asymmetrical neck spasm),” says Forbes. “Misalignments in the spine can occur inter-uterine, during child birth, or later from tumbles and falls as babies develop. This can irritate the nervous system if left untreated. The purpose of chiropractic is to restore and maintain normal functioning of the nervous system to enable the body and organs to heal without any drugs or surgery.”
Conditions such as colic, allergies, asthma and recurrent chest and ear infections respond well to chiropractic therapy. “A chiropractic adjustment of the upper cervical spine (neck) helps to drain the fluid build-up in the eustachian tube. This prevents and treats recurrent ear infections,” claims Forbes.
Read more about colic in this article.
Is it really safe?
According to the medical journal Paediatrics & Child Health, several reports have been published on major neurological complications in adults resulting from cervical manipulations. However, reports of paediatric complications are few. The journal does state that: “Of greater concern is the possibility that chiropractors may attempt to treat acute paediatric conditions, leading to a delay in appropriate medical therapy.”
Affirming Renee’s experience with Ben over nine years ago, Forbes assures us that paediatric chiropractic is safe, effective and gentle. “The amount of pressure used to adjust a child is the same as you would use to check if a tomato is ripe,” says Forbes. “In some cases, we use less pressure than a parent does when they lift their child.”
Paediatrics & Child Health advises medical doctors to inquire whether neck manipulations or forceful thrusts have been used on children by chiropractors, and if herbal or homeopathic preparations have been given, but Forbes says we have a greater chance of being struck by lightning than suffering a complication from spinal manipulation. Still, it’s clear that physicians question whether chiropractic is effective in treating the variety of conditions for which it is used, especially for the paediatric age group. If anecdotal evidence is good enough for you as a parent, then it may be worth looking into for your child.
There does seem to be agreement across the board, however, that detecting and treating spinal dysfunction as early as possible can prevent it from becoming a chronic condition later on. And this is where chiropractors have played a substantive role.
Forbes believes that chiropractic also plays a vital role in preventative healthcare. “During the first year, a child’s spine grows almost 50 per cent,” explains Forbes. “The secondary curvature of the neck and lower back also develop during this time. Spinal growth and development continues until the mid-20s. During this development time, there is great potential for spinal trauma or functional abnormalities like muscle imbalances and scoliosis. If detected early, these can be managed and treated effectively.”
Chiropractic is widely used, so you’re certainly not delving into unchartered waters if you decide that your child may benefit from treatment for nonmusculoskeletal conditions. But, have an open and honest discussion with your family doctor first good idea. After all, it’s always best to make informed choices.
Marc de Chazal