Musculoskeletal (MSK) problems in children are a common problem, with between 10-70% of children experiencing back pain, neck pain and headache. 1
Current opinion is that MSK problems, including low back pain (LBP), mid back pain (MBP) and neck pain (NP), starts early in life, can increase during the early teens up till early adulthood and that its presence in young age is a precursor for MSK pain also in adulthood. 2
In Australia, chiropractic courses include units of study for the diagnosis and management of childhood conditions.3 As such new graduates are equipped to treat musculoskeletal conditions.
Whilst treatment of children for non-musculoskeletal conditions (eg asthma, otitis media, ADHD, bed wetting, etc), can sometimes improve after chiropractic treatment, the level of scientific evidence for these issues is not yet strong.
Low back pain (LBP)
LBP in children or adolescents is common, with some studies estimating new onset rates of around 20% a year. Pain rates increase with age, with more girls than boys reporting pain. However, whilst many children have limitations to daily activities as a result of their pain, consultation to health care providers is low.
Several studies, have shown an association between high mechanical load and LBP, but there are conflicting views on heavy schoolbag weight being associated with an increase in the risk of future LBP. An increasing concern is poor posture over devices including iPads and laptops.
Scoliosis can be acquired or structural (present from birth). Although a child may have had a scoliosis throughout their juvenile years, it may usually go unnoticed until further growth development occurs during the pre and early adolescent years. More common in girls, particularly with taller, petit frames, a structural scoliosis can cause pain and discomfort as well as developmental issues.
Chiropractic treatment for children is seen by some as controversial, but often a short trial of treatment has shown benefit. However, not everyone will have improvement with chiropractic treatment. Therefore, it is important to discuss with your chiropractor the expected outcomes of treatment.
Research on adverse effects
Recently there has been a lot of media attention (most of it negative) towards chiropractic care for children. As has happened many times in the media in recent years, certain topics become hot areas of discussion and many opinions are broadcast on social media or the web. It is important to ensure that you assess the validity and reliability of articles, blogs and even news stories before taking these facts as concrete.
Here is a summary of a study addressing the adverse effects of chiropractic treatment on children.
Adverse Effects of Spinal Manipulative Therapy in Children Younger Than 3 Years
Results: Six hundred ninety-seven children received a total of 5242 chiropractic treatments, with 85% of parents reporting an improvement. Seven parents reported an adverse effect. There was a reaction rate of approximately 1 child in 100, or one reaction reported for every 749 treatments. There were no serious complications resulting from chiropractic treatment (reactions lasting >24 hours or severe enough to require hospital care).
Conclusion: This study shows that for the population studied, chiropractic manipulation produced very few adverse effects and was a safe form of therapy in the treatment of patients in this age group.4
Please contact Springwood Chiropractic if you have any questions regarding chiropractic treatment for children.
- CALVO-MUNOZ, I., GOMEZ-CONESA, A. & SANCHEZ-MECA, J. 2013. Prevalence of low back pain in children and adolescents: a meta-analysis. BMC Pediatr, 13, 14.
- HESTBAEK, L., JORGENSEN, A. & HARTVIGSEN, J. 2009. A description of children and adolescents in Danish chiropractic practice: results from a nationwide survey. J Manipulative Physiol Ther, 32, 607-15.
- MILLER, J. E. & BENFIELD, K. 2008. Adverse effects of spinal manipulative therapy in children younger than 3 years: a retrospective study in a chiropractic teaching clinic. Journal of manipulative and physiological therapeutics, 31, 419-23.
- HUMPHREYS,B K.2010. Possible adverse events in children treated by manual therapy: a review.Chiropractic & Osteopathy,18:12