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It’s only for adults. Nope. In fact, it’s a good idea to take your child for a chiropractic exam during the first year of life, according to the International Chiropractors Association’s Council on Chiropractic Pediatrics. Why? The logic goes like this: Spinal trauma can occur during birth and also can result from improper lifting or tumbles taken while learning to sit or walk. Plus, the spine grows dramatically in the first year of life, so the sooner a problem is caught, the better. Ong, who treats infants to adults, offers this up-close-and-personal story. “When my son was born, he had trouble turning his neck from left to right. I was worried about a brachial plexus injury. When I felt his neck, I could detect neck spasms. So I adjusted him, and he was fine.” For such mobility issues, gentle pediatric chiropractic care seems to make sense. But turning to a chiropractor for your child’s asthma, colic or other medical conditions is something else entirely, and findings are mixed. In a scientific review published in a 2008 issue of Chiropractic & Manual Therapies, the authors concluded that the use of manipulation as a health care intervention for such pediatric conditions were supported by “only low levels of scientific evidence.” More rigorous scientific studies were needed, they said, to prove the value of such treatment. On the other hand, a controlled clinical trial found short-term chiropractic care to be more effective than the medicine dimethicone in treating colicky children.
It’s dangerous. Pop the neck, have a stroke? Yes, such tragic outcomes can and have happened. But not as often as you may think. According to webmd.com, there have been cases in which neck manipulation led to stroke or spinal cord injury, but it’s rare. As long as you are a good candidate for treatment—meaning you don’t have such health issues as osteoporosis, inflammatory arthritis or spinal cord compression, to name a few—and are in the hands of a qualified chiropractor, it shouldn’t be dangerous. But do be honest and thorough with your chiropractor about your health history, urges Ong.
Once you start, it never ends. We’ve all heard stories of chiropractors pressuring patients to sign up for the lifetime plan. But an ethical chiropractor won’t do that, says Lau. “Whether a patient is getting better or not, some chiropractors ask them to keep coming in,” he admits. “But it’s impossible to tell a patient, ‘You need 25 visits.’ It’s not possible to know that.” Chiropractic is generally divided into three categories of care, explains Gunther: acute care to relieve pain; a course of care (usually just a few more visits) to more fully resolve the issues that led to the symptoms; and maintenance, to keep things moving properly. It’s this last category that seems to give chiropractic a bad name, suggests Gunther, who says it’s completely up to the patient to decide whether to continue with regular tune-ups. “I’ll get them where they want to be in as few visits as possible, and it’s up to them to decide whether they want to continue,” he says. If you feel your chiropractor is coercing you into a lifetime partnership, run, don’t walk, to a new practitioner.