Answers to Questions about Chiropractic:
Should Chiropractors Treat Scoliosis in Children?

Samuel Homola, D.C.

Question

My daughter, who is 12 and lives with her mother, has been receiving treatment from a chiropractor for nearly two years. I first learned that she was being taken to a chiropractor in about six months after she began going. I had had no personal experience with chiropractic care so I asked family and friends for advice.I received positive and negative feedback. However, the positive feedback, without exception, included warnings that open-ended care should be avoided.

My ex-wife and the chiropractor promised that treatment would end after a year, but I've recently found out that it is still going on. The treatment began because the chiropractor alleged that my daughter has an early case of scoliosis. Her medical doctor did not agree with this diagnosis, but my ex-wife was so afraid that our daughter would have to wear a brace that she decided to "cure" the scoliosis with chiropractic.

My daughter has made alarming comments. I first found out she was visiting a chiropractor when she said she could hardly get out of bed unless she sees her chiropractor. My recent discovery of her continued visits came when, during some horse-play, she said that she had just "ruined what her chiropractor had spent two months working out."

I am so disturbed by this. It looks like she is set up for a lifetime of chiropractic treatment. Her mother does very little to ensure that she exercises or eats healthful,y. Anything you can do, including pointing me in the right direction for more information, will be greatly appreciated.

Answer

I believe that your daughter is being treated improperly. If she has scoliosis, there is nothing a chiropractic can do to cure it or stop its progression. But because some chiropractors who treat children diagnose abnormal curvatures that don't actually exist, you should have your daughter checked by an orthopedist.

If she has scoliosis, you should follow that doctor's advice. In most cases, the only thing needed is monitoring to see that the abnormal curvature does not progress too far. If your daughter does not have scoliosis, you should inform your ex-wife of this and request that your daughter's relationship with the chiropractor is terminated. Regardless, you should reassure your daughter that exercise is good for her and will not make her vertebrae slip out of place.

Your daughter has been unnecessarily frightened by the suggestion that her vertebrae are slipping out of place, making her fearful of normal activities. Even if she has scoliosis, there is no valid reason for her to avoid normal recreational activities. Chiropractic brainwashing can create "vertebral cripples" who become psychologically addicted to unnecessary, lifelong chiropractic care.

My book, "Inside Chiropractic," describes inappropriate chiropractic treatment in detail. It might be helpful to supply your ex-wife with a copy. However, if she has formed an unshakable belief that your daughter requires frequent chiropractic visits, legal action may be necessary to protect your daughter's physical and mental health.

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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 January 13, 2004.