At Birth Injury Guide, our birth injury attorney knows well that chiropractic care for infants is a controversial topic. Some parents swear by it, while others would never even consider it. If you have ever been curious about chiropractic care whether it helps or harms infants, you are in the right place. Read on for information about the controversial practice of chiropractic care, and why our injury lawyer thinks parents should use caution.
Birth Injury Attorney Discusses Infant Chiropractic Care
Chiropractors in the United States are currently free to treat infants with little regulation. Many solo chiropractors and even the national franchise chain “The Joint” treat infants in spite of critics who believe chiropractic treatment for infants is neither effective or safe. Parents and practitioners argue in favor of chiropractic care for infants saying treatments will not cause any harm. Instead, they argue it may help with a variety of baby woes.
Regardless, the scientific evidence for the efficacy of infant chiropractic treatment is insubstantial, and the risks are very real.
Controversial to the Core
Originally founded by a “spiritist” named Daniel David Palmer who claimed to have invented it using wisdom gleaned from the ghost of a deceased physician, the chiropractic profession has been associated with shaky claims and dubious authenticity. Since its earliest days, the practice has been controversial.
The main treatments performed by chiropractors are “adjustments,” which consists of correcting vertebral subluxations, or misalignments. Vertebral subluxations usually do not show up in X-ray images, and mainstream physicians largely question their existence. Orthopedic subluxation is a well-established medical condition with measurable evidence of a joint partially dislocated. Chiropractic subluxation is more theoretical.
The theory behind it, according to chiropractors, is that people perform activities every day that misalign the vertebrae. This misalignment supposedly disrupts the functioning of the nervous system and can cause the symptoms of various ailments. Pediatric chiropractors say that vertebral misalignment can even start at birth, from both the trip through the birth canal or from Caesarean section (c-section) birth. There is, of course, a lot of controversy over whether this is true.
What Infant Chiropractic Treatment Looks Like
Aligning an infant’s spine looks as horrifying as it sounds. An Australian chiropractor posted a video on Facebook in August, 2018 where he hung a 2-week-old newborn upside down by the ankles. After a few seconds of holding the baby up by the feet, he laid the baby on a table and begin to apply neck and spine treatments.
Using a spring-loaded “activator,” he repeatedly delivered pulses of pressure to the baby’s neck and tailbone and used his hands to manually adjust various parts of the infant’s body. The video is three minutes of the child screaming and trying to wriggle away while the chiropractor attempts to reassure the parents that crying during an adjustment is a good thing.
Unsurprisingly, the video resulted in a call for a ban on chiropractors treating infants in Australia. Period.
In fairness, as a birth injury attorney I have never personally witnessed a chiropractor adjusting an infant. It is my understanding the majority of pediatric chiropractors merely indent the skin when adjusting infants. I recommend that parents use an abundance of caution when deciding on any medical procedure for their infant.
Chiropractors Insist Infant Manipulation is Helpful and Safe
A magazine published by the International Chiropractic Pediatric Care Association has made the claim that an incredible 90 percent of newborns suffer birth trauma that should be corrected through chiropractic adjustment. According to the magazine, the trauma is caused by strain on the neck and head during labor and delivery.
Some chiropractors refer to “traumatic birth syndrome,” which allegedly can cause nerve dysfunction even when there are no symptoms or medically detectable injuries. Dubiously, chiropractors tell parents that so-called “traumatic birth syndrome” must be corrected for the healthy development of a seemingly healthy child.
As birth injury attorney, I can tell you the statistics cited above are based on an unreliable interpretation of a single study from 50 years ago. More reliable and reputable interpretations of statistics suggest that excessive force injuries happen in only about three percent of live births.
More importantly, spinal misalignment at birth is a rare phenomenon that generally manifests in devastating consequences for an infant’s development. Asymptomatic misalignments are a shameful, fear-mongering diagnosis unsupported by scientific research.
Are there Any Benefits to Pediatric Chiropractic Care?
Aside from the sketchy claims of birth trauma, chiropractors are more likely to recommend alignments in response to the movements and actions in an infant’s daily life. Some chiropractors will argue that even a diaper change can misalign a baby’s spine. The alleged benefits of these minor manipulations include treating colic, ear infections, sleeping problems, gas, difficulty latching for breastfeeding, and more.
The bottom line is that there are not a lot of scientific studies about the benefits of chiropractic treatments, especially for infants. Even the best, most rigorous study linking effective chiropractic treatment for recurrent ear infections can only present results that are inconclusive at best.
However, parents continue to take their kids to the chiropractor. They report favorable anecdotal evidence. One study published in 2008 in England found that 85 percent of parents whose children received chiropractic treatment reported improvement in their child’s symptoms.
Birth Injury Attorney Warns – Don’t Confuse Correlation with Causation
Many of the conditions pediatric chiropractors treat have subjective symptoms. That is, a parent can be easily influenced by sleep deprivation or frustration, and may attribute improvements to chiropractic treatments. In reality, the improvement may not be related at all. Satisfaction with the treatment does not always translate to quality of care.
In many instances, chiropractors take credit when the natural course of a child’s symptoms resolve. For example, colic is a poorly understood condition that affects babies mostly from ages six weeks to three months old. It involves frequent, unexplained bouts of intense crying. Pediatric chiropractors claim they can treat colic.
Medical doctors make recommendations for making a colicky baby more comfortable, but do not directly treat this poorly understood condition. Colic goes away on its own. Babies simply age out of it. It is the perfect example why anecdotal evidence may seem to support chiropractic treatments for babies. In this case, the treatment is correlated, but almost certainly does not cause the resolution of colic.
Even if it’s not Helpful, Is Chiropractic Care Really Harmful?
If most pediatric chiropractors only apply the same amount of pressure that you would use, say, to test for ripeness on a tomato, can it really be harmful? It’s unlikely that this light pressure can break an infant’s neck or cause true spinal misalignment. However, the harm that should concern parents is that which takes place when a child sees a chiropractor instead of a medical doctor. The delay in appropriate diagnosis and treatment of a potentially serious condition is the truest danger.
More and more chiropractors every year are claiming primary care status. This is very dangerous because chiropractic students do not receive the necessary training to recognize the variety of ways in which serious illnesses can present. Sometimes, the danger is in their lack of training. They do not know when it is time to refer to a medical doctor.
Sometimes, the danger is in hubris. Any chiropractor treating a seriously ill infant in the absence of medical treatments may potentially expose himself to liability. As a parent, consider speaking to a birth injury attorney if this has happened to your child.
The best advice for parents is to use infant chiropractic care sparingly and when in conjunction with your child’s doctor. Chiropractic treatment is by no means a replacement for medical treatment.
Need to know More? Talk to a Birth Injury Attorney
If a chiropractor has told you your child suffers from a traumatic birth injury and needs aggressive alignments, proceed with caution. Before you start any treatment of a birth injury, you need to know exactly what happened and why. Question if your child is really injured, and get appropriate medical advice. Consider questions like:
- Is my child’s injury due to a birth defect?
- Is my child’s injury due to the delivery doctor using too much force?
- Were assistive tools like a vacuum or forceps used during delivery?
Consider these questions, and also consider your child’s rights. Patients of all ages have a right to medical care that is safe and effective. If you have questions or concerns about the care your child is receiving by a provider, contact Birth Injury Guide.
Call our office to schedule a consultation with our birth injury attorney. If your child did suffer a birth injury, you need to know what your options are. Call 1-877-415-6603 now for more information, or fill out our online form.