Chiropractic for Children
    Chiropractic for Children

    Why is chiropractic useful in the treatment of conditions that seem unrelated to the spine, such as middle-ear infections or colic in babies?

    The use of chiropractic techniques for infants is increasing. According to Dr Mitchell Travis, a family chiropractor with a special interest in paediatric chiropractic. All children should have at least one adjustment done as part of their preventive health care. ‘Be proactive,’ he advises. ‘Just as you take your child to a dentist to have a check-up, you should also take him or her to a chiropractor.’


    Most chiropractors recommend that a child should have a chiropractic adjustment as soon as possible after birth. ‘I adjusted my own son when he was just three days old,’ says Dr Travis. Prevention is always better than cure, and having a treatment can assist with normal development.

    Chiropractors can assist with:

    • Spinal dysfunction related to poor muscle tone
    • Developmental delay related to joint dysfunction
    • Headaches
    • Back and neck pain, including whiplash and torticollis
    • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and asthma (as part of a multi-disciplinary approach)
    • Growing pains
    • Sleeping and feeding problems
    • Scoliosis
    • Postural abnormalities
    • Colic
    • Prolonged crying

    Dr Travis makes it very clear, however, that chiropractic alone does not cure these conditions. Having an adjustment done will help the nervous system to develop normally, which has ripple effects on the entire body. As a non-invasive and safe therapy, it allows the body to function properly and can be used safely in conjunction with other medical treatments, such as occupational therapy and physical therapy.

    It’s not only infants who can benefit from a chiropractic adjustment. Older children, who are often heavily laden with school satchel, books and sport bags, could also be treated before negative spinal habits become entrenched as postural problems, which can be difficult to treat later on.


    The International Chiropractic Paediatric Association states: ‘It is important to realise that chiropractic is not the treatment of any condition. The purpose of chiropractic is to find and reduce stress and interference to the nerve system, allowing the person to experience greater function and an overall improved quality of life.’

    Dr Jacqui Bunge, a chiropractor from the Children’s Therapy Centre in Johannesburg, agrees with this, stating that correct spinal alignment influences the nervous system and general health. Good spinal health affects the rest of the musculoskeletal system as well as the nervous system.

    According to Dr Travis, a chiropractic adjustment can be defined as ‘a sensory input into the body to facilitate a normal process of development’. This means that when an infant is taken to a chiropractor, he or she will not be ‘cracked’. A child’s adjustment is not the same as that for an adult. Only gentle pressure techniques are used on infants. Dr Travis puts this in perspective by comparing the force applied during an infant’s adjustment to what you’d use when testing ripeness of an avocado pear, or when pressing on your eye. ‘It is in no way painful or traumatic,’ agrees Dr Bunge.


    Dr Travis explains that chiropractic treatments are only gentle manipulations, and can’t cause any damage. There are of course circumstances in which a child, or any other person for that matter, should not be treated, such as during an emergency when medical attention takes first priority. It is usually safe to treat any person or child, regardless of age, and if it isn’t safe at that particular point in time, the chiropractor won’t proceed with the treatment.

    After a session with the chiropractor there might be some discomfort in the areas that were treated. This is normal. ‘The body often resists change, even if the change is good for it. Sometimes this resistance is misinterpreted as harmful,’ says Dr Travis. He advises that if a child experiences severe or prolonged pain after treatment, or discomfort that lasts more than a day or two, the chiropractor who administered the treatment should be contacted.


    Chiropractic as part of a preventive health care programme, or in conjunction with other medical practices, is a safe treatment for anybody, starting from birth. It doesn’t claim to cure any of the disorders that often plague infants, but it can assist the infant’s body to function correctly and thereby help to eliminate or lessen the severity of these problems.


    Dr Travis advises any parent who is seeking a chiropractor to work on his or her child to look for one who has a special interest in paediatric chiropractic. If in doubt, ask the receptionist if the chiropractor treats children. He also suggests that the parent should have a conversation with the chiropractor during the first session, to establish a working relationship that both parties are comfortable with.

    For more information on chiropractic please contact the Chiropractic association of SA.

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