Lifewatch: Kids and chiropractors

Reported by Claire Hosmann - bio|email
Posted by Debra Worley - email

(WECT) - Nearly 2 million children in the United States saw a chiropractor last year, looking for help with everything from back pain to asthma.  Now, space age technology is creating a new twist on the treatments for smaller patients.

Hanna Smith, 7, had a strained neck, but instead of the typical twisting and turning, Dr. Matthew Mendillo used a device originally created to assess wear and tear on space shuttles.

A sensor designed to find the problem spots on a shuttle is used to find the problem spots in the spine.  A computer tells the chiropractor where to work.  The device then gently taps on the specific areas.

The computer calculates the force needed for each tap, relieving pressure on the nerve.

Chiropractors say it's more consistent than traditional therapy where experts rely on their own judgement on where and how much pressure to apply.

There are mixed opinions on whether children should see a chiropractor.  The American Academy of Pediatrics says there's not enough evidence that it works for kids, and they caution patients not to rely on chiropractors for primary treatment of serious conditions.

This treatment does not involve rotation of the spine, which can cause serious injuries in kids, according to the Journal of Pediatrics.

For more information, please contact:
Matthew Mendillo, DC
Chiropractic and Wellness
(401) 884-7600

BACKGROUND: The number of children receiving chiropractic care is on the rise. According to the American Chiropractic Association, the percentage of chiropractic patients under 17 years of age has increased at least 8.5 percent since 1991. One Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study reports that nearly 3 percent of children in the United States were treated with chiropractic or osteopathic manipulation in 2007. This makes chiropractic care the second most common form of complementary or alternative medicine for kids, the most common form being the use of natural products such as fish or herbs.

Parents have reported numerous reasons for taking their children to the chiropractor. The most common reasons are typical back and neck pains. New to the list are issues such as asthma, chronic ear infections, nursing difficulties, colic and bedwetting. Chiropractors will admit that their success stories are not studies. Their work is not backed by the studies that would be necessary if their techniques were a drug. The president of the American Chiropractic Association's council, Elise Hewitt, was quoted as saying, "There is insufficient proof that (alternative practices) are safe and effective."

RISK FACTORS: Although there have been a few randomized controlled trials (RTCs) that have reported significant clinical benefits for kids receiving chiropractic care, experts agree future studies are needed. Researchers caution parents not to rely on chiropractic care as the primary treatment for serious conditions like cancer.

The official journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics published a study stating certain risks associated with chiropractic treatment of children, including damage as a result of immaturity of the spine. The journal says rotational manipulation of the cervical spine and high-velocity spinal manipulations are especially risky for kids. A case series featured in the journal presented three cases of dislocated atlas as a result of pediatric spinal manipulation. The study showed a direct link between severity of injury to the spinal cord and the immaturity of the spine. Injuries occur more often in children because the atlas and dens of axis are more vulnerable to trauma than those of adults, according to the journal.

TREATMENT: The newest piece of technology used by chiropractors is inspired by the device NASA engineers use to evaluate the integrity of the cooling tiles on the outside of the space shuttle. Civil engineers have also used this technology when testing metal fatigue in bridges and aircrafts. Known as the ProAdjuster, the device oscillates a force with uninterrupted motion, much like that of a woodpecker, but with softer tips comfortable and safe for the human body. The purpose is to increase mobility of spinal segments by controlling the motion of abnormal areas. It works by "unsticking" the joint and doesn't involve rotation of the spine.

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