MD, PhD, MAE, FMedSci, FRSB, FRCP, FRCPEd.

We have recently heard much about spinal manipulations for kids. It might therefore be relevant to learn about an international taskforce of clinician-scientists formed by specialty groups of World Physiotherapy – International Federation of Orthopaedic Manipulative Physical Therapists (IFOMPT) & International Organisation of Physiotherapists in Paediatrics (IOPTP) – to develop evidence-based practice position statements directing physiotherapists clinical reasoning for the safe and effective use of spinal manipulation and mobilisation for paediatric populations (<18 years) with varied musculoskeletal or non-musculoskeletal conditions.

A three-stage guideline process using validated methodology was completed: 1. Literature review stage (one scoping review, two reviews exploring psychometric properties); 2. Delphi stage (one 3-Round expert Delphi survey); and 3. Refinement stage (evidence-to-decision summative analysis, position statement development, evidence gap map analyses, and multilayer review processes).

Evidence-based practice position statements were developed to guide the appropriate use of spinal manipulation and mobilisation for paediatric populations. All were predicated on clinicians using biopsychosocial clinical reasoning to determine when the intervention is appropriate.

1. It is not recommended to perform:

• Spinal manipulation and mobilisation on infants.

• Cervical and lumbar spine manipulation on children.

•Spinal manipulation and mobilisation on infants, children, and adolescents for non-musculoskeletal paediatric conditions including asthma, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, autism spectrum disorder, breastfeeding difficulties, cerebral palsy, infantile colic, nocturnal enuresis, and otitis media.

2. It may be appropriate to treat musculoskeletal conditions including spinal mobility impairments associated with neck-back pain and neck pain with headache utilising:

• Spinal mobilisation and manipulation on adolescents;

• Spinal mobilisation on children; or

• Thoracic manipulation on children for neck-back pain only.

3. No high certainty evidence to recommend these interventions was available.

Reports of mild to severe harms exist; however, risk rates could not be determined.

It was concluded that specific directives to guide physiotherapists’ clinical reasoning on the appropriate use of spinal manipulation or mobilisation were identified. Future research should focus on trials for priority conditions (neck-back pain) in children and adolescents, psychometric properties of key outcome measures, knowledge translation, and harms.

Whether one agrees with these directions or not (and I am not sure I fully do), I have always thought that people who, despite the largely lacking or flimsy evidence for spinal manipulations, insist on having manual therapy should consult a physiotherapist, rather than a chiropractor or osteopath.

Why?

Because, in my experience, physiotherapist:

  • display less cult-dependent behaviours,
  • do not follow the gospel of charlatans, like Palmer and Still,
  • do not believe in the fiction of subluxation,
  • are not so money-minded,
  • less prone to use un- or disproven methods, like applied kinesiology, homeopathy, cranial osteopathy, etc.,
  • unlikely to try to sell you useless dietary supplements,
  • tend to judge better their limits of professional competence,
  • are far less likely to try to persuade you of BS related to anti-vax, anti-drug, anti-science, anti-EBM, etc.

2 Responses to And again: spinal manipulation and mobilisation in paediatrics

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