Answers to Questions about Chiropractic:
Should Chiropractors Treat Young Children?

Samuel Homola, D.C.

Question

Every day, I pass a chiropractic clinic on a very busy main road which has written on its front windows in large lettering: "Do your children have these symptoms: Colic, bed-wetting, sleeping problems, asthma, eczema? Free spinal examination for all children." As this suggests that chiropractic can help with these problems, how accurate and responsible is this?

Beyond regulation, can anything be done to protect patients from being exploited and possibly even harmed by chiropractors?

Answer

I do not recommend that children under the age of 10 or 12 see a chiropractor without referral from a pediatrician or an orthopedist—and only then for certain postural or mechanical-type problems. Unnecessary or inappropriate use of spinal manipulation in the case of a small child might damage the child's cartilaginous growth centers. Backache is not common in small children and might be a sign of a potentially serious illness. There is no reason to believe that chiropractic adjustments are effective for treaitng such ailments as ear infection, colic, bedwetting, sleeping problems, asthma, eczema, and so on. While most ailments of this type in children are self-limiting, they should be treated by pediatricians and not by chiropractors.

Chiropractors who advertise "Free spinal exams for all children" invariably find "subluxations" and recommend treatment. This is not a valid process and should be considered a form of exploitation.

Because state laws permit chiropractors to "restore and maintain health by correcting vertebral subluxations," it may be up to an informed public to seek the information needed to avoid inappropriate treatment by some chiropractors—just as you are doing.

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Dr. Homola is a second-generation chiropractor who has dedicated himself to defining the proper limits on chiropractic and to educating consumers and professionals about the field. His 1963 book Bonesetting, Chiropractic, and Cultism supported the appropriate use of spinal manipulation but renounced chiropractic dogma. His 1999 book Inside Chiropractic: A Patient's Guide provides an incisive look at chiropractic's history, benefits, and shortcomings. Now retired after 43 years of practice, he lives in Panama City, Florida.

This page was posted on July 18, 2002.