Answers to Questions about Chiropractic:
Why Do You Advise against
Chiropractic Treatment for Ear Infection?

Samuel Homola, D.C.

Question

I disagree with the statement you made in one of your articles that "there is no reason to believe that chiropractic adjustments are effective for treating such ailments as ear infection, colic, bedwetting, sleeping problems, asthma, eczema, and so on."

Last February my son spiked a fever and I brought him in to see our medical doctor. It was decided that he had an ear infection. He was put on antibiotics for 10 days. We followed the prescription and the fever and any other symptoms went away. As soon as he was done with the antibiotic, he spiked a fever again. So again we went to see the doctor. The doctor agreed that the infection came back. We went through this cycle for 8 rounds of antibiotics!!! Our doctor finally said that there was nothing else he could do for him and it was time to see a specialist to get tubes put in my son's ears. My son turned one last March. That last appointment with the doctor was in June!! In the meantime, I was talking to some people at work and they asked if we had ever tried a chiropractor. I had never been to a chiropractor and so hadn't thought of it. I called 3 local chiropractors to ask if they work on children and if chiropractic could help children with ear infections. They all said they worked with children and that they all have had great success with helping ear infections. We chose one of those 3 chiropractors. The chiropractor we chose uses the Gonstead method. I talked to doctor to see if we could wait to schedule the appointment with the specialist for a month because I wanted to try the chiropractor. He was fully supportive and said yes! We started chiropractic care for my son on June 13th and by the end of July when we went back to see our "medical" doctor. He was amazed that both of my son's ears looked PERFECT!! He said to keep going to the chiropractor and that we would wait to see what happened. He said that the real test would be to see how my son did in October/November when ear infections tend to return. I am happy to say that my son is a regular chiropractic patient and he has not had another ear infection since last June.

Can you please explain to me how this would happen if chiropractic adjustments are not effective for treating ear infection? I would really like to know if I am harming my children by bringing them in for regular adjustments!! I currently do not see any harm yet but would like your opinion also!

Answer

It is now the consensus among pediatricians that most ear infections in children are self-limiting and do not need treatment with antibiotics. In rare cases, however, severe infections can lead to hearing loss, so any infection should be followed medically in event antibiotics are needed. Chiropractors who treat ear infections typically say they are correcting a "subluxation" or "vertebra out of place." Statements like that are not true. It's possible that manipulating the neck will cause help drain the ear by stretching the eustachian tube that runs from the ear to the neck. However:

I would strongly urge you keep in touch with a pediatrician. You should get a second opinion from one or more pediatricians if the ear infection returns, even if you continue with the chiropractor. Was the doctor who prescribed eight rounds of antibiotics for your one-year-old child a pediatrician?

I wish you the best. And I certainly hope that your child will continue to be free of ear infection. There is reason to believe that as a child grows older, the angle and size of the eustachian tube changes, making it less likely that fluids will become become trapped in the inner ear. But you should depend upon the expertise of a pediatrician to differentiate simple otitis media from a fulminating bacterial infection, something that is not taught by chiropractic schools. I don't know of any chiropractor, myself included, who is qualified to diagnose and treat ear infections or any other ailment in a child only a few years old.

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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 article was posted on March 14, 2009.