You have likely visited a Chiropractor or know someone that has for consultation or adjustments. How many of those are children? That number is quite possibly very small, especially when compared to the adult population. While Chiropractic visits are becoming more common among every segment of the population they are still primarily considered an alternative practice for children.

Why is Chiropractic medicine viewed as alternative medicine for children? Especially when there are numerous studies and first-hand experience showing the efficacy of Chiropractic treatments for common childhood conditions like tongue tie, colic, reflux, torticollis, scoliosis, ear infections and many others.

What To Know About Pediatric Chiropractic

Many chiropractic practitioners will tell you that continuing chiropractic pediatric education is key to treating children. It is important to understand children’s bodies, proper contact techniques and the depth to which you provide the hands-on care.

While children have the same joints they are not fully formed and have more cartilage and are not as bony. This requires gentler adjustments with as little force as possible to achieve the intended result.

The International Chiropractic Pediatric Association (ICPA), along with other Chiropractic accrediting agencies, provide training and continuing education in the area of Chiropractic Pediatrics. There are over 20 locations in the United States for continuing education in chiropractic pediatrics by the ICPA including options for Chiropractors in NYC.

While additional certification in New York isn’t required for Chiropractors to work with the Pediatric population, Dr. Alex Kaminsky is a lifetime learner and currently takes seminars on a regular basis. The ICPA certification program requires 15 in-person seminars, 4 online seminars, and a final exam.

Diplomate status requires even more study, hands-on work and examination by chiropractic peers.

Why is Chiropractic Considered Alternative Medicine?

With advances and clearer guidelines in Chiropractic pediatrics why is it still considered an alternative medicine for children? There are two primary terms used by the National Center for complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) label medical practices that are not part of the conventional or mainstream care; alternative or complementary.

There is a designation of medicine termed CAM for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. While this is one term it is important to note that their meanings are quite different. Both tend to address the person as a whole and focus on body, diet, energy, mind, and senses. Some of the more common CAM practices include Craniosacral Therapy, Meditation, Reiki, Pranic Healing, Laying of the Hands, Tai Chi, Massage, Acupuncture, and many more.

Complementary medicine works alongside conventional medical care and is often prescribed or recommended by the patient’s medical physician. In this regard for example, chiropractic care could be termed complementary if a patient’s medical doctor prescribed pain medicine and recommended chiropractic visits for something like back pain.

Alternative medicine is the term used to refer to practices used in place of, rather than alongside, conventional medicine. This definition of alternative medicine is possibly the foundational reason why chiropractic care for children is commonly included in this classification. Those people seeking Alternative Medical care such as chiropractic do not need a referral from their medical doctor, as chiropractors are trained to diagnose, refer for diagnostic testing and to treat patients within the scope of their chiropractic license.

While many healthcare practitioners work in tandem with chiropractic offices for medical care for their adult patients, this practice is far less common for pediatricians and Chiropractic Pediatrics. For the majority of children under chiropractic care their parents have taken this course of treatment without pediatrician recommendations. This does not mean that they are going behind their pediatrician, it simply is because of patients / parent’s choice.

Common Treatments for Children

A 2016 report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 3 out of every 100 children have been treated by a chiropractor. The nature of symptoms and conditions children present with at a chiropractic office are much different than for adults. Since pediatric chiropractic includes the ranges in age from birth to 18 years the complaints range greatly within this group.

Symptoms and conditions of varying origins are often seen in children. Seeking alternative methods such as pediatric chiropractic care can be a most beneficial, healthiest, and best results oriented alternative medicine approach.

Children do Well With Alternative Medicine

The central nervous system (CNS) has influence on every major body system and function. This is why undetected compromises within the central, motor, and neurological components most work in perfect harmony. When cranial bones of the skeletal system are stuck in such a way that the cerebral spinal fluid cannot properly move throughout its required path issues within the central nervous system will arise. Many chiropractic techniques are used to correct this problem which in turn can mitigate and even reverse many conditions.

Alternative Medicine for Infants

Babies in the infant category are typically seen for colic, nursing difficulties, or sleep issues. Plagiocephaly and torticollis, failure to thrive are other common conditions also treated by chiropractors. How are infants born with conditions that require skeletal and even cranial manipulation? Babies can spend several months in utero in positions that can create growth difficulties, cause joint and muscular issues. The birthing process is very taxing on the baby as well.

Lengthy periods of lying on your back can cause flat head syndrome and other facial and cranial misalignments.

Infants are born with the natural ability to suck and swallow. But babies who are having difficulty latching to nurse properly may have a problem in communication between the brain and the components of the suck-swallow reflex. This can stem from a subluxation within the musculoskeletal system.

Tongue-tie and lip-ties are two conditions that can create nursing difficulty for infants. The term tongue-tie refers to an uncommonly thick, short and tight frenulum, the tissue that connects the floor of the mouth and the bottom of the tongue. Lip-tie is a similar condition and is the occurrence of the tissue connecting the lip and gum is too short, tight, or thick.

Tongue tie and lip tie can both be positively affected with chiropractic care. Over several sessions, with consistency and patience the soft tissue specifically responsible for the tissue (fascia) tightness can release and lengthen resulting in proper alignment of the jaw and proper function of the mouth.

Your chiropractor can teach you mild hands-on methods and stretches you can do with your baby at home. This will help and aid the chiropractic in-office visits and improve the baby’s chances for the best possible outcome.

During the birthing process the pressure applied to the head bones can create pressure which in turn can cause subluxations, leading to blockages in structure and function mechanics of the CNS. For infants who may be experiencing this can also benefit from another form of alternative medicine called Craniosacral Therapy, a form of manual therapy based on the principles of Cranial Osteopathy.

Common infant conditions like colic, reflux, and failure to thrive can also be addressed with craniosacral therapy and with pediatric chiropractic care. Colic is a general term used to describe an infant that cries more than three hours a day for more than three days a week and continues for three weeks. This crying is loud and piercing and typically begins around three weeks of age.

There is no professional consensus on the cause of colic, which makes allopathic treatment of medication hard to improve. Chiropractic care can be a safe, non-invasive, and natural means of treatment. Because chiropractors address underlying issues rather than the symptom they are often more effective and efficient in correcting the problem. In the case of colic or reflux the chiropractor will perform mild adjustments to remove subluxations that are very likely blocking the central nervous system. The child typically stops crying immediately and parents report sensing an instant change in demeanor and relaxation of their colicky baby.

Alternative Medicine for Children & Adolescents

Children and adolescent complaints are more similar to adult musculoskeletal complaints, especially as children age and become more active and involved in sports. Quality of life conditions are also common conditions seen among child and adolescent chiropractic patients.

Conditions like autism, ADHD, and various ranges of developmental disorders are seen in chiropractic offices as an alternative means of treatment. A 2018 study looked at a 3 ½ year old child with sensory processing disorder (SPD), speech delay, and sleep issues.

After 36 visits and three months of chiropractic care the child had improvements in all three areas. The chiropractor utilized the Diversified Technique after analysis showed vertebral subluxations throughout the child’s musculoskeletal system.

Other common conditions sought to correct or mitigate among this age group include scoliosis, tummy aches, headaches, allergy issues, recurring ear infections, growing pains, joint or muscular pain and many other conditions.

One of the most common treatments in this age group is Craniosacral Therapy for children. This is a light touch therapy which is primarily used to support and improve the function of the central nervous system. As mentioned previously, when the central nervous system is not operating at sufficient capacity many life-altering conditions can arise.

Collaborative Communication in Care is Most Beneficial

With more parents utilizing chiropractic care for common childhood illnesses and conditions with alternative means, apart from pediatrician recommendations, communication may be a factor. The lack of communication between the two healthcare systems could be contributing to the use of the term alternative medicine within today’s pediatric culture.

Perhaps if there would be better communication between the pediatric professions chiropractic care would be considered complementary. This will certainly require more than communication, a better understanding and deeper appreciation of chiropractic by the allopathic Western pediatricians would only enhance the care for the pediatric population.

Understanding about the Scope of Practice

The term alternative medicine used to categorize Chiropractic Pediatrics has been assigned in part due to a lack of understanding regarding the scope of practice for this field. It is largely assumed by Western Medical Doctors (MD’s) that Doctors of Chiropractic Medicine (DC’s) are going outside their scope of practice to treat conditions that should be delegated to pediatricians and specialists.

A 2010 study looked at the field of Chiropractic Pediatrics and concluded that it is the largest field of both alternative and complementary medicine used by those in the pediatric category, under the age of 18. The study also concluded that greater collaboration of other medical fields in the care of the chiropractic pediatric patient would be most beneficial.

Chiropractic is Wholistic & Non-Invasive

On the surface the term alternative medicine may sound like an offense to the practice, but this term has been embraced by many in the field. The general public sees this term in a different way. To them the term indicates a non-invasive and holistic approach to health and healing for chiropractic patients. In this case, it is a welcomed classification as it better describes how the individual is being treated, not just the symptoms but the cause.

If chiropractic medicine can be, and is in many cases perceived as effective as conventional medicine why hasn’t it earned its recognition? The answer is simple; chiropractic medicine is not taught in traditional medical schools.

There are approximately 20 Chiropractic schools in the US and another dozen schools throughout the world.

Indications for Chiropractic Care

Symptoms and conditions listed above indicate that chiropractic care is a good option of care needed for your child. The root of the cause and not just medications may be the best most effective approach to improving your child’s issues. By identifying and properly diagnosing the root cause and not just the symptoms, adjustments of the associated subluxations, CNS compromises and related musculoskeletal imbalances is the best option for restoring the child’s health.

For instance, your child may be experiencing frequent crying, hyperactivity, ear infections, etc. Each of these conditions will be treated with Western medicine which may or may not eliminate completely the underlying issue such as the subluxation complex.

These ailments may all have a root cause found in the craniosacral mechanism, subluxation and or CNS compromises, leading to a stagnation in the flow of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), produced in the brain and found throughout the body.obstruction. Chiropractic care could address these issues without the use of medication or invasive treatments in the hands of an experienced, skilled Doctor of Chiropractic.

Key symptoms to look for when determining if your child should visit a chiropractor include:

  • Hyperactivity
  • Tummy aches
  • Torticollis
  • Scoliosis
  • Ear Infections
  • Allergies
  • Joint aches
  • Shoulder blades flared out
  • Fever
  • Poor coordination
  • Frequent colds
  • Scoliosis
  • Fatigue
  • Many other issues

What about other professions?

The question has to be asked; if Chiropractic medicine is considered alternative why isn’t Physical Therapy? The answer to this can be controversial and isn’t necessarily straight forward. To put it simply, Chiropractic medicine began as its own practice, apart from the medical profession, while Physical Therapy was originally an “aide” position. Just like the profession of Physician Assistants.

Physical Therapy is its own practice, but is not considered alternative, rather complementary in every case and often prescribed by physicians as a part of a plan of care for their patients. It began in the 1900’s and had to be conducted under a doctor’s supervision in a hospital setting. It wasn’t until the 1980’s that it became a licensed profession and could be conducted without a doctor’s prescription.

Chiropractors do not require a prescription or recommendation from a medical doctor which has been this way since its inception in 1895. Currently a College education with the minimum coursework in the sciences is required to be accepted to chiropractic school, just like medical, dental, podiatry and physical therapy schools. A chiropractic education consists of 3-4 years of study, including a clinical rotation. State boards must be passed in-order to attain a license to practice chiropractic.

The New Zealand government conducted research that found spinal manipulation required at minimum two years of study and some Physical Therapy programs are making this an option for their students.

In short, physical therapy grew under Western Medicine while Chiropractic Medicine matured on its own, and gained recognition out of demand, based on the results it provides. Other forms of complementary and alternative medicine includes acupuncture, aromatherapy, massage therapy, Tai Chi, Ayurveda and many other healthcare delivery systems have obtained the designation of alternative medicine.

The proof is in the pudding – Simple Statistics

It is easy to make the case for Chiropractic Pediatrics, and adults for that matter, to change from alternative to complementary medicine by reviewing statistics alone. The Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine released research showing that replacing a visit with a medical doctor for back pain could save Medicare $830.5 million dollars a year.

Comparing prescription medication treatment and spinal manipulation for low back pain found that chiropractic care was statistically more effective. Patients taking medication saw a 30% reduction in four weeks while those undergoing chiropractic care saw a 94% reduction in the same amount of time.

A cross-sectional survey looking at the safety and effectiveness of Chiropractic Pediatrics found that patients under the age of 18 have significant improvements in their presenting complaints as well as unrelated underlying issues. Those 577 children used in this cross-sectional survey underwent either the Diversified Technique, Gonstead Technique, Activator Methods, or Thompson Technique. Musculoskeletal complaints and “wellness care” were the chief complaints.

Final Thoughts about the efficacy of Chiropractic

Will the practice of Chiropractic Pediatrics ever receive the status it has surely earned as a modern, Western, and legitimate form of healthcare for children? As DC’s continue to look for ways to communicate more effectively with MD’s hopefully they will begin to receive the credit and recognition so rightfully deserved by the chiropractic profession it deserves in Western medicine.

As Chiropractic Medicine becomes better understood and used alongside Western Medicine it will gain the proper designation. However, this may require time as real prejudice still exists in the medical profession.

There is some hope on the horizon for more integration, regardless of designation. In 2015 the Joint Commission found that every major hospital in America and 20,000 other health care systems recognized chiropractic care as a valuable non-drug approach to pain management. The purpose of greater integration is to bring beneficial and effective care to a greater number of children and adults.

Regardless of age or condition, chiropractic care can have a significant impact on children and their quality of life. Beginning early in life and maintaining regular chiropractic visits is the best way to ensure your child is getting the best possible Alternative Medicine care available. Consistency is important in helping your child achieve their greatest emotional, physical, and mental potential.

Whether Chiropractic Pediatric care is ever merged with traditional Western medical scope of practice, it is still a unique science, art and philosophy practiced worldwide with significant benefit and great results.