A growing number of parents are integrating chiropractic care into their children’s healthcare regimen, and this is putting new demands on chiropractors accustomed to treating only adults. A 2010 survey of DCs across Europe and the United States found that 5 to 11 percent of their client visits were pediatric patients.1
The usual chiropractic adjustment techniques don’t apply to babies and children—pediatric care is a specialty all its own.
“Kid’s spines are different than ours. They’re softer; they adjust more easily,” said American Chiropractic Association Council on Chiropractic Pediatrics President Elise Hewitt, DC, CST, DICCP, FICC, board certified pediatric chiropractor. “You use 90 percent less force on babies and young children. The maneuver is quick, soft, and light.”
Hewitt teaches manual techniques for pediatric care and uses them almost exclusively in her own practice in Portland, Oregon. An alternative is to use an instrument.
“Many DCs are more comfortable using an instrument because they think it’s safer,” said Jeanne Ohm, DC, FICPA, executive director of the International Chiropractic Pediatric Association. “They haven’t been taught the skills necessary to adjust kids in a low force way.”
Instruments are adjustable and apply a consistent known force to a very specific target area, which is a deciding factor for cautious DCs. But how do kids feel, and which approach is more effective?
“Personally, in my own practice, I find manual adjusting more effective,” Hewitt said, “and most kids are fine with it. I only use an instrument when they’re fearful or don’t like to be touched, and for unique conditions we don’t know much about, such as muscular dystrophy.”
Even an instrument can cause apprehension in a child, though—a reaction that can be eased by a demonstration in advance of treatment.
“I show the instrument to the child,” Hewitt said. “I put it in my hand and click it there, then I put it in the parent’s hand so they can feel its impact.”
It also helps to prepare the child for the clicking sound the instrument will make, Ohm added.
Like Hewitt, Ohm primarily uses manual adjustments in her practice, and it’s safe if you know how to do it. A recent study of chiropractic claims in Denmark and Norway found that not a single claim was filed in the pediatric age group between the years of 2004 and 2012.
1 Carroll M, Mitchell E, Robinson A, Todd A. “Adverse Events Due to Chiropractic and Other Manual Therapies for Infants And Children: A Review of the Literature.” J Manipulative Physiol Ther. 2014.
2 Christensen H, Hartvigsen J, Jevne J. “Compensation claims for chiropractic in Denmark and Norway 2004–2012.” Chiropr Man Therap. 2014:22(1);37.