Answers to Questions about Chiropractic:
Would Adults Be Healthier with
Chiropractic Adjustments from Birth Onward?

Samuel Homola, D.C.

Question

I am 66 years old and have been going to a chiropractor since my twenties. I went to monthly sessions to listen to the theory of chiropractic, and I read numerous books on the subject. I took all four of my children to a chiropractor. The youngest was six months old.

We had 18 kids on our block, and mine were the healthiest, out playing at times when others were in with colds, etc. My daughter at age 10 had a bad sore throat and a 105-degree temperature. I took her to an ENT doctor who wanted to remove her tonsils. I took her to my chiropractor who treated her a few times a week for a while, building up her immune system. She also took vitamin C. Today, she is 35 years old and still has her tonsils.

I still go for monthly adjustments and would not do without a chiropractor in my life. I recommend a chiropractor for everyone, starting from birth. I believe that if babies had spinal adjustments immediately after birth, they would be healthier adults. But of course there is no way to prove this unless it was done and recorded.

Answer

Many subluxation-based chiropractors brainwash their patients into becoming advocates of a belief system that encourages lifelong chiropractic care. However, the belief that "nerve interference" caused by a "subluxated" (slightly misaligned) vertebra will result in disease or bad health does not have the support of the scientific community. No such subluxations have been scientifically demonstrated, and no outcome studies have shown that people who have periodic adjustments have better health than similar people who do not. Thus there is no logical reason to believe that chiropractic adjustments at birth or any other time will promote better general health

The promotion of spinal manipulation of infants and young children is one of the most disturbing aspects of chiropractic care. The bony components forming the vertebrae do not completely unite until several years after birth. Because important growth centers (epiphyses) are soft and cartilaginous until the bones are fully formed, it is risky to manipulate the spine of a child under age six. In fact, some growth centers persist until about age 20, when their growth is completed, and the sacral vertebrae (at the bottom of the spine) do not fuse into one solid bone until about age 25.

Back pain in a child can be very different from that in an adult. It is unusual and is often the result of infection or a tumor that could require considerable skill to diagnose. An article in the July 1993 issue of Neurosurgery warned that potential complications and unknown benefits indicate that spinal manipulative therapy should not be used in the pediatric population. That's one reason why the guidelines published in 1994 by the Agency for Health Care and Research considered the use of spinal manipulation only for persons 18 years of age and over,

While there might be occasions when an adolescent child (roughly age 13 to 19) can benefit from spinal manipulation for back pain, I would not recommend such treatment for any child under the age of 12 except in carefully selected cases in cooperation with an orthopedist or pediatrician.

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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 22, 2004.