Fight breaks out over allegations that chiropractor broke baby’s neck.

An image from ABC's Catalyst program on chiropractors and their practice on children.
An image from ABC’s Catalyst program on chiropractors and their practice on children.






Crack. It’s enough to make you physically shiver.

The knowledge that a little baby could have their tiny neck broken. And, even more shockingly, that the injury may have been preventable.


A Fairfax exclusive yesterday claimed that a chiropractor was responsible for breaking a baby’s neck during a session last year. And (almost unbelievably) that that same chiropractor has been allowed to continue working and practicing on infants.

According to Fairfax, the incident was reported to the Chiropractic Board of Australia, however the case has since been closed. The chiropractor was allowed to continue working so long as he studied under a specialised paediatric chiropractor.

But now the Chiropractic Board of Australia have responded.

In a media release distributed today, they are demanding a formal retraction. They claim that little of yesterday’s damning report is actually true. And they want the public to be informed as such.

Chiropractor press release

It’s a pretty definitive response from an organisation who are clearly frustrated, believing that their position has been erroneously portrayed by the press.

However the doctor who cared for the baby following his chiropractic treatment, maintains that the injury to his patient could have been incredibly damaging.

Paediatrician Chris Pappas cared for the four-month-old baby last year after he was brought into the doctor’s surgery with a fractured vertebrae. The fracture had occurred during a chiropratic treatment designed to ‘fix’ torticollis, which is an unusual neck position that typically causes no harm.

Dr Pappas told Sydney’s the Sun-Herald that the baby was lucky to have made a full recovery, saying that, “’Another few millimeters and there would have been a devastating spinal cord injury and the baby would have either died or had severe neurological impairment with quadriplegia”.

This argument between Fairfax papers and chiropractic practitioners, has restarted an on-going debate about chiropractic practice on infants.

Namely, that there is no scientific evidence to support chiropractic treatments for infants. While adverse effects of chiropractic treatment are rare – they do exist. Spinal manipulations in children have resulted in brain haemorrhage and paraplegia in the past.

Many Australian doctors are now calling for an outright ban on chiropractors treating children.

A picture from Reasonable Hank's blog, which he obtained from a chiropractor's Facebook page.
A picture from Reasonable Hank’s blog, which he obtained from a chiropractor’s Facebook page.

The debate has been exacerbated by reports released from Australian blogger Reasonable Hank, who has obtained Facebook conversations between chiropractors on professional practice pages where they discuss sneaking into hospitals to treat people without doctors’ full consent or to check on and “adjust” newborns.

AMA NSW head Brian Owler told The Sun-Herald this week that it was “absolutely outrageous” and that “none of us can go into an emergency department of a hospital and start treating patients without proper credentials and medico-legal coverage.”

Back in March the debate was in full force, when it was revealed that government funding of chiropractic care for children had risen by 185% in 4 years – which was worrying given that there was evidence potential harm could come to children.

The Chiropractors’ Association of Australia said at the time that these were merely “purported concerns” with no evidence behind them – but as Michael Vagg wrote for The Conversation, that’s not entirely true. He wrote:

Well, I have some news for CAA. It took me about a minute to find it [evidence of chiropractors hurting children] on PubMed.

Here is one case. And here is another. Here is a whole systematic review of serious adverse events in children receiving chiropractic care, including some fatalities.

In summary, there appears to be no evidence that chiropractic methods help cure children of the ailments they claim to, such as asthma and headaches. There’s also no conclusive scientific evidence that adjustments can help newborns with conditions like infant colic, although some chiropractors claim that it can.

But there is evidence that a chiropractor’s spinal adjustments can potentially hurt newborns.

Those facts don’t speak in favour of chiropractic practice.

ABC’s Catalyst ran a program about chiropractors last year, where they interviewed both supporters and critics of chiropractic practice.

So, do you think chiropractic practice should be banned for infants and newborns? Does it concern you that chiropractors claim to be able to help with conditions that are not considered by doctors be linked to the spine? 


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