Research: Why Did These Pre-Term Babies get Manipulation?


This week I found a very interesting study published in the journal Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine.

The Effect of Optimally Timed Osteopathic Manipulative Treatment on Length of Hospital Stay in Moderate and Late Preterm Infants: Results from a RCT or Here

I know what you’re thinking.

If I’m a Structural Chiropractor, then why am I talking about a paper involving osteopathic manipulation? I just enjoy learning about what other people in the world are doing to improve the lives of patients. Especially when these interventions involve the spine and nervous system. Although osteopaths, traditional chiropractors, and structural chiropractors all have some small variation in how they take care of the spine, there are still more commonalities than differences when it comes to how the interventions work.

But enough about that. Let’s talk about the meat of this study.

Infants and Spinal Manipulation

The use of spinal manipulation on children is a controversial issue amongst doctors using manual therapies, insurance companies, and policy makers. Insurance companies have recently taken a pretty hard stance that any manipulative therapy applied to a child is considered experimental and will generally be denied reimbursement.

If spinal manipulation of children is controversial, than using manipulation on infants is borderline taboo. Parents often cringe at the thought of having their baby’s tiny neck manipulated and risking terrible bodily harm to their new baby.

The truth is that there are thousands of chiropractors around the country that focus their entire practice on seeing children, infants, and maternity patients. An adjustment for a child and infant is WAY different than one for an adult in most cases. Infant spinal adjustments and manipulations are very gentle and can barely be felt. There is no forceful turning, twisting, popping, and turning as a child’s spine is still heavily in cartilage rather than bone.

So osteopaths decided to not just study manipulation on infants, but infants that were born pre-term and required monitoring in a neo-natal intensive care unit. Suffice to say, doctors and hospital staff are the MOST careful with the care of these babies.

What’d they Do? They divided 110 pre-term infants into 4 groups:

  1. Manipulation within 4 days of birth
  2. Manipulation within 9 days of birth
  3. Manipulation within 14 days of birth
  4. Usual pediatric NICU care (Control Group)

What’d they find?

  1. All manipulation groups had a statistically significant reduction in hospital stay
  2. The infants that got earlier access to manipulation had the shortest hospital stay
  3. Manipulative intervention provided a net savings of 790 euros per case. Somehow or other there was a dysfunction in the spine that was fixed through manipulative means.

Should my child be checked?

When most people think about seeing a chiropractor or any doctor that uses a manual form of treatment, they automatically assume that the case has to be related to back and neck pain. It’s hard to fathom that children and infants could benefit from chiropractic.

Then you take some time to realize that birth can be quite an ordeal for an infant’s spine. Couple that with any falls or uterus constraint issues, and there’s a recipe for the head and neck of a baby can shift out of place. This shifting doesn’t necesarily cause pain, but there are numerous reasons why so many parents take their kids to a chiropractor who is pediatric trained. Including:

  1. Ear aches
  2. Difficulty feeding
  3. Torticollis
  4. Breathing problems
  5. Colic

These shifts of the spine compromise the nervous system and prevent the maximum expression of health and healing in the body.

I’ve checked numerous babies and infants days after birth, and even right after birth to reduce any of these subtle structural shifts before they become a chronic problem.

The key is to find doctors with experience and training in pediatric care. A comprehensive list can be found through the International Chiropractic Pediatric Association. Not surprisingly, you’ll find my name on that list as the health of children is a big passion of mine.

Did you like this article? Feel free to share it with the people you care about and see if a Complimentary Consultation is the next step to regain their health. Dr. Chung is a practicing Structural Chiropractor in the West Palm Beach area. He has been published in peer reviewed scientific journals and is a sought after speaker in health and wellness. Follow his blog at or find him on twitter at @drjonathanchung


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