Chiropractic Treatment for a toddler with ear infections?

I didn’t know if this question was better suited for IMHO, but I’ll put it here for now. If a moderator feels the need to move it, I’ll have no problem.

Back Story

My 13 month-old son has been fighting an ear infection for about two months now, and after five different antibiotics, our pediatrician has referred us to an Ear, Nose and Throat specialist. Our doctor feels, our son may need tubes put into his ears. Now I’ve talked to a lot of people about this, and they all tell me they themselves have had tubes or know someone who has, and that it’s really not that big of a deal. (I know. Every medical procedure has some inherent risk, but this seems to be on the low end) I’m really not that freaked out by the tubes, but they’ll have to put him under in order to do it, and that concerns me a little.

The Question

I’ve heard that some chiropractors treat toddlers for ear infections. I’ve done some research, and apparently, spinal adjustments, in some cases, can boost the child’s immune system and allow them to fight the ear infections better.

Has anyone ever heard of this? Has anyone ever had any experience with this? If you have had experience, would you recommend giving it a try before resorting to surgery?

I don’t have any experience in this field but I found a website you may find useful.

Apparently the treatment involves ‘a very light finger-tip adjustment’ which is reassuring if like me you had the image of the doctor with a knee in your child’s back pulling his arms!!

Good luck with whatever you decide to do, hope it gets sorted out quickly.

There are in my opinion some non-trivial risks associated with chiropractic. I think the claim that manipulation can improve the immune system is unproven and/or overstated. Obviously it’s your call and good luck with whatever method you choose but I think chiropractic is bunk.

Any chiropracter who claims that spinal adjustments can cure an ear infection is a quack at best and a psychopath at worst. These people make their livings on pseudoscientific bullshit. Stay away.


Chiros are overpriced massures at best, quacks & con artists at worst.
Your child has an infection!
Take him to a credible physician!
Get the tubes!!

What BobLibDem said. Only less politely. And there are additional risks associated with exposing so young a child to manipulation of the spine.

This is totally an IMHO (and the forum to which the mods should probably move this discussion), but this “boosting the…immune system” rationale is classic pseudoscience quackery with no causative link and a very questionable clinical corralation. Chiropractic adjustments can definitely help with spinal misalignment, and in that sense are not qualitatively different from other forms of physical therapy, and doing so can relieve stresses and alieviate pinched nerves, but the notion that this somehow affects viral infections or makes a profound difference in the action of the immune system is as founded in scientific fact as the four bodily humours or invisible auras. :rolleyes:

Don’t risk your child’s health on this. I’d be slightly concerned about possible injuries from inept adjustments, but I’d be far more worried about putting off legitimate treatment in favor of “trying out” alternative medicine. Go ahead and give it a (very circumspect) go if you like, but absolutely don’t let it delay you from scheduling a surgery and having the problem addressed by an established remedy. Medical science may not have all the answers, but (for the most part) it doesn’t try to provide answers it doesn’t have, either, and the methods they use have been tried again and again with a statistically established efficacy, not an anecdotal “It worked for my neighbor’s brother’s father in law” justification.


There is essentially no evidence to suggest that chiropractic “medicine” does anything to enhance or support the immune system. The only generally conceded benefit is to people who have certain muscle or skeletal injuries, and many of these benefits may be attributed to the placebo effect. Check the out the Penn & Teller Bulls**t episode on quack medicine for more info. And for God’s sake, don’t delay treating your child with bonafide medical procedures.

I forgot to mention, this reminds me of an anecdote out of Richard Dawkins “A Devil’s Chaplin”, in which he relates a visit to a chiropractor to fix an ache in his neck. As I recall, the quackmeister put a box of vitamins on his chest, told him to breathe deeply, and pronounced him treated. :eek: Needless to say, Dawkins wasn’t impressed.

Now, not all chiropractors are this full of crap, and as I said, there is some demonstrated theraputic value in spinal adjustment for fixing stress and nerve problems relating to the spine and back, but the notion that it can address other medical issues, particularly infections, tumors, congenital or genetic neurological disorders, et cetera, is entirely unfounded. If you want to know more about the legitmate qualities of chiropractic, I’d encourage you to talk to an osteopathic doctor, who has a traditional medical background plus training in osteopathic manipulation. They won’t give you any nonsense about using adjustment to eliminate viral infections or somesuch.


Thanks for the replies.

I hadn’t planned on delaying any medical treatment. Our pediatrician just referred us to the ENT yesterday, and we have yet to be contacted. He is currently on antibiotics so hopefully that keeps the infection at bay until we can get in to see the specialist. The pediatrician said that the ENT may hold off on putting tubes in right away as cold season is coming to a close. This is all speculation at this point as we have yet to meet with the ENT. I was simply looking for some info on an alternative route if the tubes are not an immediate possibility.

Just a word on the tubes. Fang had tubes put in his ears at 13 months. He was only under for five minutes, and he recovered fine. This was nearly nine months ago.

After six months of almost constant ear infections, he has not had a single ear infection since. His hearing has also recovered. Get thee to the ENT, and avoid the quack.

My little boy had ear tubes put in when he was almost 2 years old. We were in the clinic for less than 2 hours. He was upset when he came out of the anesthetic, and upset all the way home. Then he took a nap, and when he woke up you couldn’t tell he’d had anything done at all.

Unfortunately, the ear tubes didn’t prevent him from getting more ear infections. But when he did get them the pus drained out of his ears via the tubes, which was disgusting but less painful for him. And we were able to treat most of the infections with antibiotic ear drops instead of oral antibiotics.

His infections didn’t really stop until he had his tonsils and adenoids removed when he was almost three.

Another good word for the tubes. My son got ear infections whenever he got the slightest sniffle. After he got the tubes at about 2 years old, we had maybe one or two and they were much milder. The only downside was that we were warned against flying with him for a year or so. Not that we were planning to do much cross-country travelling with a 2-year-old anyway. If possible, go to a hospital or outpatient clinic that specializes in children. It might make you feel better if you knew the anethesiologists work with children day in and day out.

Some thoughts about osteopathic practitioners, and then some advice in dealing with them.

This topic should definitely be in IMHO, as there is no single topic about which there is a greater fund of vociferous ignorance on display at the SDMB than chiropractic.

Some facts, though, as this is GQ:

A bit of logic, please. Beware hysteria. If chiropractic were pure bunk, pseudoscience, quackery, bullshit, voodoo, etc. etc., it is unimaginable that the Boards of Professional Regulation in all 50 states and DC (District of Columbia) would license doctors of chiropractic; it is just as highly unlikely that large numbers of major league sports franchises would have chiropractors on staff or trust their multi-million-dollar athletes to them. Also, chiropractic doctors are found at all Olympic Games, major boxing events, pro tennis, martial arts championships, etc. There are VA hospitals with DCs (doctors of chiropractic) on staff. There are an increasing number of neurosurgeons and orthopedic surgeons who work side by side with chiropractic physicians to deliver manipulations under anaesthesia in severe cases. The list literally is too long to put here but you get the picture.

Yes, Virginia, there are people practicing chiropractic who should not be. These individuals we call quacks. Just as there are quacks cutting off the wrong leg, leaving surgical implements inside their patients, and outright killing their patients through a variety of means from negligence to misdiagnosis to poisoning to all manner of incompetence. Thankfully, in both cases these miscreants are in the tiny minority, and most doctors (DC, MD and DO) are not crackpots. Health care is not an exact science, but those who are crackpots are rightfully derided by their peers who are more scientifically minded.

–Won’t my child DIE if I take him to the chiropractor? Relax. The risk of death as a direct result of chiropractic adjustment or manipulation is vanishingly infinitesimal compared to the risk of death due to medical malpractice or being struck by lightning five times. This is partly because, as crisis intervention specialists, medical doctors typically see patients who have much more dire illnesses than chiropractic patients have. Many parents swear by chiropractors for ridding their children of bedwetting, for example, after years of other alternatives (including MDs) had failed. Often the results are dramatic, after just one or two visits. It took me two adjustments to eliminate my stepdaughter’s headaches at age 10. Why does it work in these types of cases? I honestly don’t know, and I’m not entirely sure it is knowable. As long as we do no harm and deprive the patient of no necessary medical care, we have nothing to lose by giving non-invasive, non-poisonous, conservative therapy a chance to assist the body in its quest to normalize itself. If it works, fine. If not, then it makes rational sense to go to more stringent measures. (Give it a fair chance. A few, say 5-12, visits–not 500.)

–Can chiropractic boost the immune system? This is not known with a reliable degree of certainty. A properly funcioning nervous system, however, would certainly not be expected to hinder the immune system, but rather just the opposite.

–Do chiropractic students get any training? The first two years are identical to medical school in terms of gross anatomy, dissection and hard sciences; the second two focus on radiology, clinical diagnosis, laboratory testing (as in med school) plus physical manipulation instead of pharmacology and surgery.

–What about the infection? If it’s an infection, it’s a medical problem and not simply a chiropractic one in my professional opinion. Claims of curing infections, cancer, epilepsy, AIDS, hepatitis, etc. through physical manipulation, while exceedingly rare, make headlines because they are absurd. Once something is infected, it has reached what I consider crisis stage and needs to be arrested immediately, though any reliable means possible. The body does try to heal itself, but sometimes it needs urgent assistance such as drugs or surgery, which chiropractic physicians, by deliberate choice, do not employ. I recommend seeking competent medical advice for your child’s chronic ear infections along with the adjustments, and if you are at all uncomfortable with the therapies suggested, get a second opinion from another physician. (If needed, your chiropractor should be able to recommend several competent medical doctors in your area whom he or she works with when referral is indicated.)

–You seem sane and scientific; why isn’t the truth about chiropractic known more widely? Because it is inconceivable that there could be an organization on earth more piss-poor at public relations and image communication than the chiropractic profession. There’s some infighting and civil war going on between opposing associations that does nothing but waste time and money. Meanwhile, 110 years later, intelligent people in the general public are still repeating nonsense and half-truths they’ve picked up from other laypeople no more knowledgeable than themselves. You can tell the profession pisses me off–but that does diddly squat to change the fact that it’s a viable healing art with a vast and growing body of scientific evidence to support its effectiveness in a range of cases, chiefly but not exclusively neuromusculoskeletal in nature.

–Despite all that, will other people still continue to cut chiropractic down with a quasi-religious zeal? Probably. :slight_smile:

Hope this helps. Good luck to you and your child–I hope everything works out well.

Your post, sir, does not do you credit!

Newspapers throughout America list horoscopes in their features pages.
Millions of Americans read & believe them.
Surely they can’t all be wrong?
Yes, they can.
Horoscopes are nonsense.

“Chiropractors” are no more legitimate medical practitioners than astrologers are scientists.

Their pseudo-scientific nonsense is utterly unsupported by outside investigators.

hyjyljyj --you are an enemy to every innocent person that reads your poisonous, evil, lying rubbish!

Don’t forget that, even though a thirteen-month-old is preverbal, hearing impairment may cause delays or problems in language acquisition, since at this age he is listening to and filing away linguistic information in his environment. Chronic ear infections can cause temporary hearing impairment, which is one of the reasons the tubes are so popular. Treating his condition inadequately (i.e. through chiropractic) could cause speech problems later.

Bosda. This is GQ. If you need to get this vitriolic with a poster, take it to a Pit thread. OK?

samclem GQ moderator

Actually, there’s been a legitmate study done that showed that seeing a chiropractor can be more helpful for chronic lower back pain than other more traditional methods.
I’ll search for a link. I heard about it on NPR within the last few years.

That being said, I wouldn’t use a chiropractor for anything but similar issues. I have little faith that it can help wioth an ear infection.

I found a JAMA recommendation of spinal manipulation. I hope that’ll do for now.

(JAMA. 1998; 279:1846)

Published in JAMA: June 10, 1998

Proven Treatment Options:

* Medication

* For mild to moderate symptoms, over-the-counter painkillers, such as acetaminophen, aspirin, or ibuprofen, may be all that is needed. For more severe symptoms, your doctor may recommend prescription medication.

* Heat or cold applied to the back

* Within the first 48 hours of symptoms, you may want to use a cold pack (or a bag of ice) for five to 10 minutes at a time. For symptoms lasting longer than 48 hours, you may want to try a heating pad or a hot shower or bath to relieve symptoms.

* Spinal manipulation. This treatment should only be done by a professional and may be helpful for some people in the first month of symptoms.^TAB~Web%20Site^MNU~Dr%20L.%20Columbus^PST^1730348~Home%20Page^CAT^1~Article^MAP^ZZZT1M7WMAC&cid=ZZZT1M7WMAC&secure=2&rndm=0.8603282