No ‘significant risk’ to children from chiropractic therapy, B.C. college says

The College of Chiropractors of B.C. say it will not take any regulatory action on the use of spinal manipulative therapy in children. (Shutterstock/New Africa)

B.C. chiropractors will not be restricted from using spinal manipulative therapy on children, following a two-month review by their professional college.

The College of Chiropractors of B.C. launched the review in July, promising an “exhaustive” analysis of the available research on the use of the therapy in children younger than 10. That project was wrapped up in time for the most recent college board meeting on Sept. 25, according to a public notice posted online.

“After considering all of the available evidence, including an independent research review, the board has determined that the treatment of children with SMT [spinal manipulative therapy] does not present a significant risk to the public,” the notice said.

The college said it “remains vigilant” and will keep an eye on new research on the subject, but it’s not taking any action at this point.

Spinal manipulative therapy is when a chiropractor applies force to a joint of the spine, causing it to move more than it normally would.

‘It’s disappointing’

Tim Caulfield, research director at the University of Alberta’s Health Law Institute, said he wasn’t surprised the college isn’t taking action, but he’s still disappointed.

“You could see why an organization that is trying to support the practise of its members would come to this result, but it’s disappointing because I don’t think the body of evidence supports that conclusion,” Caulfield told CBC.

He acknowledged that in his reviews of the available research, he hasn’t seen much robust evidence about the risks of spinal manipulation for children. But he said he hasn’t seen much evidence suggesting the therapy is helpful, either.

“Consider the fact that the harms associated with it, while perhaps speculative, are nevertheless possible,” Caulfield said.

“Given the lack of evidence of efficacy, given the possibility of harm, I’m disappointed.”

Tim Caulfield says there’s little evidence suggesting chiropractic care benefits children. (CBC)

He said he would have liked to see the college follow the lead of Australia, where the country’s chiropractic board has placed a moratorium on using spinal manipulation on anyone under the age of two.

According to a position paper from the Canadian Pediatric Society, there have been no satisfactory studies of chiropractic treatments for back pain in children. Some studies have suggested that chiropractic manipulation of the neck can provide short-term relief of neck pain in children, but its efficacy hasn’t been compared to other therapies, the paper says.

Over the last year, the B.C. college has been cracking down on chiropractors making unsupported and unscientific claims about how their therapies can help patients, including children.

The college has formally banned all chiropractors from making claims about being able to treat a range of conditions, including autism, ADHD, speech disorders and infections “due to the absence of acceptable evidence.”

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