An Australian pediatrician is trying to make his country’s medical authorities see that violently twisting a baby’s neck of might not be the most advisable way to treat a child of that vulnerable age.
Melbourne doctor Chris Pappas says that last year he treated a 4-month-old infant for a broken neck caused by an out-of-control chiropractor. Now he wants Australia to ban chiropractors from treating babies altogether.
“Another few millimeters and there would have been a devastating spinal cord injury and the baby would have either died or had severe neurological impairment with quadriplegia,” Pappas said. “Everybody was very nervous about this little baby.”
But when he brought the case to the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency, Pappas got a letter back saying only that the chiropractor’s treatment of the child “is, or may be, unsatisfactory.” The chiropractor in question was told to take more classes in how to treat small children.
Pappas found the agency’s response just as unsatisfactory, so now he is speaking out.
“I think they have put the chiropractor’s interests before the interests of the public and I think that’s wrong,” Pappas said. “I don’t think chiropractors should be treating infants full stop. In my opinion it’s inappropriate and it carries a very small but real risk of causing damage.”
Other reports in Australia have said that in Sydney hospitals, chiropractors have been treating small children right in the pediatric wards with no authorization from hospital brass. The New South Wales branch of the Australian Medical Association issued a statement calling the actions of those chiropractors “outrageous.”
The president of the country’s Chiropractor’s Association, on the other hand, says there’s nothing to worry about.
“Chiropractic care can be remarkably gentle,” said Laurie Tassell. “Being a five-year, university-trained spinal health expert, a chiropractor will modify their adjustment techniques to suit the age and spine of each individual child.”
Doctors have opinions, but there is little evidence either way on the risks and benefits of chiropractic care for children.
One study in the journal Pediatrics for 2007 found nine cases of adverse effects, including one child who was reportedly rendered paraplegic by a chiropractor’s mistake. The journal said that in 1997, the year under study, children made 30 million visits to chiropractors.
Sources: Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, The Skeptical Inquirer