This study aimed to evaluate the number of craniosacral therapy sessions that can be helpful to obtain a resolution of the symptoms of infantile colic and to observe if there are any differences in the evolution obtained by the groups that received a different number of Craniosacral Therapy sessions at 24 days of treatment, compared with the control group which did not received any treatment.
Fifty-eight infants with colic were randomized into two groups:
- 29 babies in the control group received no treatment;
- babies in the experimental group received 1-3 sessions of craniosacral therapy (CST) until symptoms were resolved.
Evaluations were performed until day 24 of the study. Crying hours served as the primary outcome measure. The secondary outcome measures were the hours of sleep and the severity, measured by an Infantile Colic Severity Questionnaire (ICSQ).
Statistically significant differences were observed in favor of the experimental group compared to the control group on day 24 in all outcome measures:
- crying hours (mean difference = 2.94, at 95 %CI = 2.30-3.58; p < 0.001);
- hours of sleep (mean difference = 2.80; at 95 %CI = – 3.85 to – 1.73; p < 0.001);
- colic severity (mean difference = 17.24; at 95 %CI = 14.42-20.05; p < 0.001).
Also, the differences between the groups ≤ 2 CST sessions (n = 19), 3 CST sessions (n = 10), and control (n = 25) were statistically significant on day 24 of the treatment for crying, sleep and colic severity outcomes (p < 0.001).
The authors concluded that babies with infantile colic may obtain a complete resolution of symptoms on day 24 by receiving 2 or 3 CST sessions compared to the control group, which did not receive any treatment.
Why do SCAM researchers so often have no problem leaving the control group of patients in clinical trials without any treatment at all, while shying away from administering a placebo? Is it because they enjoy being the laughingstock of the science community? Probably not.
I suspect the reason might be that often they know that their treatments are placebos and that their trials would otherwise generate negative findings. Whatever the reasons, this new study demonstrates three things many of us already knew:
- Colic in babies always resolves on its own but can be helped by a placebo response (e.g. via the non-blinded parents), by holding the infant, and by paying attention to the child.
- Flawed trials lend themselves to drawing the wrong conclusions.
- Craniosacral therapy is not biologically plausible and most likely not effective beyond placebo.
I recently came across the ‘Sutherland Cranial College of Osteopathy’.
Sutherland Cranial College of Osteopathy?
I know what osteopathy is but what exactly is a ‘cranial college’?
Perhaps they mean ‘Sutherland College of Cranial Osteopathy’?
Anyway, they explain on their website that:
Cranial Osteopathy uses the same osteopathic principles that were described by Andrew Taylor Still, the founder of Osteopathy. Cranial osteopaths develop a very highly developed sense of palpation that enables them to feel subtle movements and imbalances in body tissues and to very gently support the body to release and re-balance itself. Treatment is so gentle that often patients are quite unaware that anything is happening. But the results of this subtle treatment can be dramatic, and it can benefit whole body health.
I am sure you are now keen to become an expert in cranial osteopathy. The good news is that the college offers a course where this can be achieved in just 2 days! Here are the details:
This will be a spacious exploration of the nervous system. Neurological dysfunction and conditions feature greatly in our clinical work and this is especially the case in paediatric practice. The focus of this course is how to approach the nervous system in a fundamental way with reference to both current and historical ideas of neurological function. The following areas will be considered:
- Attaining stillness and grounding during palpation of the nervous system. It is within stillness that potency resides and when the treatment happens. The placement of attention.
- The pineal and its relationship to the tent, the pineal shift.
- The relations of the clivus and the central importance of the SBS, How do we assess and treat compression?
- The electromagnetic field and potency.
- The suspension of the cord within the spinal canal, the cervical and lumbar expansions.
- Listening posts for the central autonomic network.
Hawkwood College accommodation
Please be aware that accommodation at Hawkwood will be in shared rooms (single sex). Some single rooms are available on a first-come-first-served basis and will carry a supplement. Requesting a single room is not a guarantee that one will be provided.
£390.00 – £490.00
29 – 30 APRIL 2023 STROUD, UK
This will be a spacious exploration of the nervous system. Neurological dysfunction and conditions feature greatly in our clinical work and this is especially the case in pediatric practice.
You see, not even expensive!
Go for it!!!
Oh, I see, you want to know what evidence there is that cranial osteopathy does more good than harm?
Right! Here is what I wrote in my recent book about it:
Craniosacral therapy (or craniosacral osteopathy) is a manual treatment developed by the US osteopath William Sutherland (1873–1953) and further refined by the US osteopath John Upledger (1932–2012) in the 1970s. The treatment consists of gentle touch and palpation of the synarthrodial joints of the skull and sacrum. Practitioners believe that these joints allow enough movement to regulate the pulsation of the cerebrospinal fluid which, in turn, improves what they call ‘primary respiration’. The notion of ‘primary respiration’ is based on the following 5 assumptions:
- inherent motility of the central nervous system
- fluctuation of the cerebrospinal fluid
- mobility of the intracranial and intraspinal dural membranes
- mobility of the cranial bones
- involuntary motion of the sacral bones.
A further assumption is that palpation of the cranium can detect a rhythmic movement of the cranial bones. Gentle pressure is used by the therapist to manipulate the cranial bones to achieve a therapeutic result. The degree of mobility and compliance of the cranial bones is minimal, and therefore, most of these assumptions lack plausibility.
The therapeutic claims made for craniosacral therapy are not supported by sound evidence. A systematic review of all 6 trials of craniosacral therapy concluded that “the notion that CST is associated with more than non‐specific effects is not based on evidence from rigorous RCTs.” Some studies seem to indicate otherwise, but they are of lamentable methodological quality and thus not reliable.
Being such a gentle treatment, craniosacral therapy is particularly popular for infants. But here too, the evidence fails to show effectiveness. A study concluded that “healthy preterm infants undergoing an intervention with craniosacral therapy showed no significant changes in general movements compared to preterm infants without intervention.”
The costs for craniosacral therapy are usually modest but, if the treatment is employed regularly, they can be substantial.
As the college states “often patients are quite unaware that anything is happening”. Is it because nothing is happening? According to the evidence, the answer is YES.
So, on second thought, maybe you give the above course a miss?
The Center for Inquiry (CFI) is a charitable nonprofit organization dedicated to defending science and critical thinking. CFI’s vision is a world in which evidence, science, and compassion—rather than superstition, pseudoscience, or prejudice—guide public policy.
It has been reported that the CFI, through its Office of Consumer Protection from Pseudoscience, warned Amazon.com that the marketing and sale of unapproved homeopathic drugs betrays consumers’ trust and runs afoul of federal law. In a letter sent to the world’s largest online retailer, attorneys for CFI charged that Amazon has legal and moral obligations to end its trade in the prohibited items and urged the company to immediately cease the sale of unapproved drugs marketed as medicine for babies, infants, and children.
In Amazon’s Health Care Products department, a search for “homeopathic” returns more than 10,000 product results–each claiming to treat a host of health issues, ranging from “nerve pain” and “fever” to “surgical wounds” and “fibroids and ovarian cysts.” Marketed with names such as “Boiron RhinAllergy Kids” and “Hyland’s 4Kids Pain Relief,” many items are explicitly sold as medicine for children. However, not one homeopathic drug has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as required by the federal Food, Drug & Cosmetic Act.
“Amazon built its business and public reputation on assurances it prioritizes consumer trust above all else,” says CFI Vice President and General Counsel Nick Little. “It’s impossible to be ‘Earth’s most customer-centric company’ while aggressively promoting thousands of snake oil products to parents. If Amazon truly wants to put its customers first, the company should be protecting them from sellers of sham treatments and faux medicine, not profiting from it.”
The FDA recently issued a warning letter to Amazon over the platform’s prohibited sale of mole and skin tag removal products that lack FDA approval. CFI makes clear that the same prohibitions apply to homeopathic drugs sold on Amazon.com. The letter also highlights deceptive marketing practices used to sell the products, noting that the industry’s own figures found 85 percent of those who purchased a brand of homeopathic product were not aware the item was actually homeopathic.
“Amazon recently announced partnerships to help crack-down on phony wrestling memorabilia,” Little notes. “We think protecting children against harmful homeopathic drugs is a bit more deserving of the company’s attention and hope Amazon accepts our offer to help identify these particularly problematic products for removal.”
You can read CFI’s letter to Amazon here.
An article in THE TIMES seems worth mentioning. Here are some excerpts:
… Maternity care at Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust (NUH) is the subject of an inquiry, prompted by dozens of baby deaths. More than 450 families have now come forward to take part in the review, led by the expert midwife Donna Ockenden. The trust now faces further scrutiny over its use of aromatherapy, after experts branded guidelines at the trust “shocking” and not backed by evidence. Several bereaved families have said they recall aromatherapy being heavily promoted at the trust’s maternity units.
It is being prosecuted over the death of baby Wynter Andrews just 23 minutes after she was born in September 2019. Her mother Sarah Andrews wrote on Twitter that she remembered aromatherapy being seen as “the answer to everything”. Internal guidelines, first highlighted by the maternity commentator Catherine Roy, suggest using essential oils if the placenta does not follow the baby out of the womb quickly enough… the NUH guidelines say aromatherapy can help expel the placenta, and suggest midwives ask women to inhale oils such as clary sage, jasmine, lavender or basil, while applying others as an abdominal compress. They also describe the oils as “extremely effective for the prevention of and, in some cases, the treatment of infection”. The guidelines also suggest essential oils to help women suffering from cystitis, or as a compress on a caesarean section wound. Nice guidelines for those situations do not recommend aromatherapy…
The NUH adds frankincense “may calm hysteria” and is “recommended in situations of maternal panic”. Roy said: “It is shocking that dangerous advice seemed to have been approved by a team of healthcare professionals at NUH. There is a high tolerance for pseudoscience in NHS maternity care … and it needs to stop. Women deserve high quality care, not dangerous quackery.” …
The journalist who wrote the article also asked me for a comment, and I emailed her this quote: “Aromatherapy is little more than a bit of pampering; no doubt it is enjoyable but it is not an effective therapy for anything. To use it in medical emergencies seems irresponsible to say the least.” The Times evidently decided not to include my thoughts.
Having now read the article, I checked again and failed to find good evidence for aromatherapy for any of the mentioned conditions. However, I did find an article and an announcement both of which are quite worrying, in my view:
Aromatherapy is often misunderstood and consequently somewhat marginalized. Because of a basic misinterpretation, the integration of aromatherapy into UK hospitals is not moving forward as quickly as it might. Aromatherapy in UK is primarily aimed at enhancing patient care or improving patient satisfaction, and it is frequently mixed with massage. Little focus is given to the real clinical potential, except for a few pockets such as the Micap/South Manchester University initiative which led to a Phase 1 clinical trial into the effects of aromatherapy on infection carried out in the Burns Unit of Wythenshawe Hospital. This article discusses the expansion of aromatherapy within the US and follows 10 years of developing protocols and policies that led to pilot studies on radiation burns, chemo-induced nausea, slow-healing wounds, Alzheimers and end-of-life agitation. The article poses two questions: should nursing take aromatherapy more seriously and do nurses really need 60 hours of massage to use aromatherapy as part of nursing practice?
My own views on aromatherapy are expressed in our now not entirely up-to-date review:
Aromatherapy is the therapeutic use of essential oil from herbs, flowers, and other plants. The aim of this overview was to provide an overview of systematic reviews evaluating the effectiveness of aromatherapy. We searched 12 electronic databases and our departmental files without restrictions of time or language. The methodological quality of all systematic reviews was evaluated independently by two authors. Of 201 potentially relevant publications, 10 met our inclusion criteria. Most of the systematic reviews were of poor methodological quality. The clinical subject areas were hypertension, depression, anxiety, pain relief, and dementia. For none of the conditions was the evidence convincing. Several SRs of aromatherapy have recently been published. Due to a number of caveats, the evidence is not sufficiently convincing that aromatherapy is an effective therapy for any condition.
In this context, it might also be worth mentioning that we warned about the frequent usage of quackery in midwifery years ago. Here is our systematic review of 2012 published in a leading midwifery journal:
Background: in recent years, several surveys have suggested that many midwives use some form of complementary/alternative therapy (CAT), often without the knowledge of obstetricians.
Objective: to systematically review all surveys of CAT use by midwives.
Search strategy: six electronic databases were searched using text terms and MeSH for CAT and midwifery.
Selection criteria: surveys were included if they reported quantitative data on the prevalence of CAT use by midwives.
Data collection and analysis: full-text articles of all relevant surveys were obtained. Data were extracted according to pre-defined criteria.
Main results: 19 surveys met the inclusion criteria. Most were recent and from the USA. Prevalence data varied but were usually high, often close to 100%. Much use of CATs does not seem to be supported by strong evidence for efficacy.
Conclusion: most midwives seem to use CATs. As not all CATs are without risks, the issue should be debated openly.
I am tired of saying ‘I TOLD YOU SO!’ but nevertheless find it a pity that our warning remained (yet again) unheeded!
Despite considerable doubts about its effectiveness, osteopathic manipulative treatment (OMT) continues to be used for a range of pediatric conditions. Here is just one example of many osteopaths advertising their services:
I qualified as an Osteopath in 2009 after 4 years of intensive training from the British College of Osteopathic medicine, where I received a distinction for my efforts. After having two children I decided to do a 2-year Postgraduate training in Pediatric Osteopathy from the Osteopathic Centre for Children in London. Whilst at the centre I was lucky enough to meet a wide variety of children from premature babies in a Neonate Hospital ward to children with developmental issues and disabilities, children on the Autistic spectrum, to kids doing exams or experiencing high levels of stress. We also saw lots of children with normal coughs, colds, lumps and bumps.
And the ‘Institute of Osteopathy states this:
Parents visit osteopaths for a range of reasons to support their child’s health. Children, like adults, can be affected by general joint and muscle issues, which is one of the reasons people visit an osteopath. Parents will also take their children to visit an osteopath for a variety of other health reasons that may benefit from osteopathic care.
As osteopathic care is based on the individual needs of the patient, it will vary depending on your child’s age and the diagnosis. Osteopaths generally use a wide range of gentle hands-on techniques that focus on releasing tension, improving mobility and optimising function. This is often used together with exercise and helpful advice. Some osteopaths have been trained in very gentle techniques which are particularly suitable to assess and treat very young children, including new-borns. You do not need to consult your GP before you visit an osteopath, although you may wish to do so.
So, how good or bad is osteopathy for kids? Our systematic review wanted to find out. Specifically, the aim of this paper is to update our previous systematic review (SR) initially published in 2013 by critically evaluating the evidence for or against this treatment.
Eleven databases were searched (January 2012 to November 2021). Only randomized clinical trials (RCTs) of OMT in pediatric patients compared with any type of controls were considered. The Cochrane risk-of-bias tool was used. In addition, the quality of the evidence was rated using Grading of Recommendations, Assessment, Development and Evaluation (GRADE) criteria, as recommended by the Cochrane Collaboration.
Thirteen trials met the eligibility criteria, of which four could be subjected to a meta-analysis. The findings show that, in preterm infants, OMT has little or no effect on reducing the length of hospital stay (standardized mean difference (SMD) -0.03; 95% confidence interval (CI) -0.44 to 0.39; very low certainty of the evidence) when compared with usual care alone. Only one study (8.3%) was judged to have a low risk of bias and showed no effects of OMT on improving exclusive breastfeeding at one month. The methodological quality of RCTs published since 2013 has improved. However, adverse effects remain poorly reported.
We concluded that the quality of the primary trials of OMT has improved during recent years. However, the quality of the totality of the evidence remains low or very low. Therefore, the effectiveness of OMT for selected pediatric populations remains unproven.
These days, it is not often that I am the co-author of a systematic review. So, allow me to discuss one of my own papers for a change by making a few very brief points:
- Considering how many osteopaths treat children, the fact that only 13 trials exist is shameful. To me, it suggests that the osteopathic profession has little interest in research.
- The finding that adverse effects are poorly reported is even more shameful, in my view. It suggests that the few osteopaths who do some research don’t mind violating research ethics.
- The fact that overall our review fails to yield good evidence that osteopathy is effective for any pediatric condition is the most shameful finding of them all. It means that osteopaths are either not informed about the evidence for their own approach, or that they are informed but don’t give a hoot and treat kids regardless. In both cases, they behave unethically.
Trevor Zierke is a D.C. who published several videos that have gone viral after saying that “literally 99% of my profession” is a scam. “When I say almost all the usual lines chiropractors tell you are lies, I mean almost all of them,” he stated. Zierke then went on to give examples of issues chiropractors allegedly make up, including someone’s spine being “misaligned,” tension on nerves causing health problems, and someone having back pain because their hips are off-center. “Almost all of these aren’t true,” he concluded.
In a follow-up video, he claimed that the reasons most people are told they need to go to a chiropractor are “overblown or just flat out lies proven wrong by research.” He also noted that, while there are many scams, that “doesn’t mean you can’t get help from a chiropractor.”
In a third TikTok video, Zierke offered some valid reasons to see a chiropractor. He said that one can seek help from a chiropractor if one has musculoskeletal pain that has been ongoing for more than one to two days, and that’s about it. He stated that issues that a chiropractor couldn’t really fix include “GI pain, hormonal issues, nutrition,” among others.
In comments, users were largely supportive of Zierke’s message.
One said: “As a physiotherapist, I’ve been trying to tell this but I don’t want to like offend any chiropractor in doing so,” a commenter shared.
“Working in a chiropractic office, this is fair,” a further user wrote. “I have issues that I know an adjustment will help & other pain that would be better stretched/released.”
In an email, Zierke reiterated the intention of his videos: “I would just like to clarify that chiropractors, in general, are not a scam or are inherently scammers (I myself am a practicing chiropractor), but rather a lot of very popular sales tactics, phrases, and wording used to imply patients need treatment, and methods of treatment, have never been proven to be true,” he explained. “When chiropractors say & use these methods stating things that are not factually true—I believe it’s scammy behavior and practices. There are still a lot of very good, honest, and integral chiropractors out there,” he concluded. “They can provide a lot of help and relief to patients. But that’s unfortunately not the majority, and I’ve heard too many stories of people falling victim to some of these scam-like tactics from bad apple chiropractors.”
None of what DC Zierke said can surprise those who have been following my blog. On the contrary, I could add a few recent posts to his criticism of chiropractic, for example:
- Pediatric chiropractic seems to be on the rise
- Catastrophic injuries after chiropractic treatment
- Chiropractic: “a safe form of treatment”?
- Malpractice Litigation Involving Chiropractic Spinal Manipulation
- Best Practices for the Chiropractic Care of Children
- No effect from adding chiropractic manipulations to exercises for neck pain
- Hurray! The new professional standard by the General Chiropractic Council protects UK chiropractors
- Manual therapy (mainly chiropractic and osteopathy) does not have clinically relevant effects on back pain compared with sham treatment
- Chiropractic Paediatric Courses … it is high time to stop this dangerous nonsense
- Chiropractic ‘subluxation’ is by no means a notion of the past
- Another indirect risk of chiropractic
- And again: chiropractic for infant colic
- Chiropractic misinformation during the COVID-19 pandemic
- The lack of chiropractic ethics: “valid consent was not obtained in a single case”
I rest my case.
It has been reported that a recent inspection from the Care Quality Commission (CQC) found that the diagnostic imaging service at AECC University College in Parkwood Road, Bournemouth, requires improvement in three out of four areas – including patient safety. This is surprising not least because the AECC prides itself on being “a leading higher education institution in healthcare disciplines, nationally and internationally recognised for quality and excellence.”
The unannounced inspection in May this year resulted in several demands for the service to improve upon. For example, the CQC report said staff “did not receive all of the training they needed to keep patients safe” and that patient chaperones “did not receive chaperone training”. Moreover, managers were reported as not always ensuring staff were competent to operate certain equipment. In fact, there was no record of staff competencies which meant inspectors “could not tell if staff had been trained to use equipment”. General cleanliness was also found lacking in relation to certain procedures, namely no sink in any of the site’s nine ultrasound rooms (including those for transvaginal scans) – meaning staff carrying out ultrasound scanning did not have access to a clinical handwashing facility.
The CQC states on its website that it “is the independent regulator of health and adult social care in England. We make sure health and social care services provide people with safe, effective, compassionate, high-quality care and we encourage care services to improve. We monitor, inspect and regulate services. Then we publish what we find, including performance ratings, to help people choose care. Where we find poor care, we will use our powers to take action.”
No doubt, these are laudable aims. What I find, however, disappointing is that the CQC’s inspection of the AECC did not question the nature of some of the courses taught by the AECC. Earlier this year, I reported in a blog post that the AECC has announced a new MSc ‘Musculoskeletal Paediatric Health‘. This motivated me to look into the evidence for such a course. This is what I found with several Medline searches (date of the review on chiropractic for any pediatric conditions, followed by its conclusion + link [so that the reader can look up the evidence]):
Previous research has shown that professional chiropractic organisations ‘make claims for the clinical art of chiropractic that are not currently available scientific evidence…’. The claim to effectively treat otitis seems to
be one of them. It is time now, I think, that chiropractors either produce the evidence or abandon the claim.
Although the major reason for pediatric patients to attend a chiropractor is spinal pain, no adequate studies have been performed in this area. It is time for the chiropractic profession to take responsibility and systematically investigate the efficiency of joint manipulation of problems relating to the developing musculoskeletal system.
What seems to emerge is rather disappointing:
- There are no really new reviews.
- Most of the existing reviews are not on musculoskeletal conditions.
- All of the reviews cast considerable doubt on the notion that chiropractors should go anywhere near children.
But perhaps I was too ambitious. Perhaps there are some new rigorous clinical trials of chiropractic for musculoskeletal conditions. A few further searches found this (again year and conclusion):
We found that children with long duration of spinal pain or co-occurring musculoskeletal pain prior to inclusion as well as low quality of life at baseline tended to benefit from manipulative therapy over non-manipulative therapy, whereas the opposite was seen for children reporting high intensity of pain. However, most results were statistically insignificant.
Adding manipulative therapy to other conservative care in school children with spinal pain did not result in fewer recurrent episodes. The choice of treatment-if any-for spinal pain in children therefore relies on personal preferences, and could include conservative care with and without manipulative therapy. Participants in this trial may differ from a normal care-seeking population.
I might have missed one or two trials because I only conducted rather ‘rough and ready’ searches, but even if I did: would this amount to convincing evidence? Would it be good science?
No! and No!
So, why does the AECC offer a Master of Science in ‘Musculoskeletal Paediatric Health’?
Isn’t that a question the CQC should have asked?
The ‘My Resilience in Adolescence (MYRIAD) Trial’evaluated the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of SBMT compared with teaching-as-usual (TAU).
MYRIAD was a parallel group, cluster-randomised controlled trial. Eighty-five eligible schools consented and were randomized 1:1 to TAU (43 schools, 4232 students) or SBMT (42 schools, 4144 students), stratified by school size, quality, type, deprivation, and region. Schools and students (mean (SD); age range=12.2 (0.6); 11–14 years) were broadly UK population-representative. Forty-three schools (n=3678 pupils; 86.9%) delivering SBMT, and 41 schools (n=3572; 86.2%) delivering TAU, provided primary end-point data. SBMT comprised 10 lessons of psychoeducation and mindfulness practices. TAU comprised standard social-emotional teaching. Participant-level risk for depression, social-emotional-behavioural functioning and well-being at 1 year follow-up were the co-primary outcomes. Secondary and economic outcomes were included.
An analysis of the data from 84 schools (n=8376 participants) found no evidence that SBMT was superior to TAU at 1 year. Standardised mean differences (intervention minus control) were: 0.005 (95% CI −0.05 to 0.06) for risk for depression; 0.02 (−0.02 to 0.07) for social-emotional-behavioural functioning; and 0.02 (−0.03 to 0.07) for well-being. SBMT had a high probability of cost-effectiveness (83%) at a willingness-to-pay threshold of £20 000 per quality-adjusted life year. No intervention-related adverse events were observed.
The authors concluded that the findings do not support the superiority of SBMT over TAU in promoting mental health in adolescence.
Even though the results are negative, MYRIAD must be praised for its scale and rigor, and for highlighting the importance of large, well-designed studies before implementing measures of this kind on a population basis. Co-author Tim Dalgliesh, director of the Cambridge Centre for Affective Disorders, said: “For policymakers, it’s not just about coming up with a great intervention to teach young people skills to deal with their stress. You also have to think about where that stress is coming from in the first place.”
“There had been some hope for an easy solution, especially for those who might develop depression,” says Til Wykes, head of the School of Mental Health and Psychological Sciences at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology, and Neuroscience, King’s College London. “There may be lots of reasons for developing depression, and these are probably not helped by mindfulness,” she says. “We need more research on other potential factors that might be modified, and perhaps this would provide a more targeted solution to this problem.”
Personally, I feel that mindfulness has been hyped in recent years. Much of the research that seemed to support it was less than rigorous. What is now needed is a realistic approach based on sound evidence and critical thinking.
I have been warning the public about the indirect dangers of so-called alternative medicine (SCAM) for a very long time. It is now 25 years ago, for instance, that I published an article in the ‘European Journal of Pediatrics’ entitled “The attitude against immunisation within some branches of complementary medicine“. Here is the discussion section of this paper:
… certain groupings within COMPLEMENTARY MEDICINE (CM) may advise their patients against immunisation. Within these groupings, there is, of course, a considerable diversity of attitudes towards immunisation. Therefore
generalisations are difficult and more detailed investigations are required to clarify the issue.
The question arises whether the level of advice against immunisation as it exists today represents a real or only a potential risk. One study from the U.K. demonstrates homoeopathy to be the most prevalent reason for non-compliance with immunisation . The problem may not be confined to naturopathy, chiropractic and homoeopathy. Books relating to CM in general [e.g. 19] also strongly advise against immunisation: “Vaccination may provoke the illness which it is supposed to prevent. People who are vaccinated can transmit the illness, even if they are not ill themselves. The vaccine can make the person more susceptible to the illness … The vaccinated child is a contaminated child”.
At present, our data is insufficient to de®ne which proportion of which complementary practitioners share this
attitude. The origin of this stance against vaccination is largely unknown. For instance, there is nothing in Hahnemann’s writings against immunisation . It may therefore stem from a general antipathy toward modern medicine which seems to be prevalent within CM [7, 19, 23]. A more specific reason is that immunisation is viewed as detrimental, burdened with long-term side effects. It is also felt that it is not fully effective and unnecessary because
better methods of protection exist within CM .
Anti-immunisation activists are often unable to argue their case rationally, yet they place advertisements in the daily press warning about immunisation. In Britain, one tragic case has recently been publicised. A physician advised parents against measles vaccination for their child who was suspected of suffering from convulsions. Five years later, the child suffered severe brain damage after contracting measles. The doctor was sued by the parents and found guilty of negligence and ordered to pay £825,000 in damages .
In medicine we must, of course, always be vigilant about the risks of our interventions. Each form of immunisation should therefore be continuously scrutinised for its possible risks and benefits. Most forms of immunisation are clearly not entirely free of risk [e.g. 22] – in fact, no effective intervention will ever be entirely risk-free. Therefore the risks have to be discounted against the benefits. It follows that any blanket rejection of immunisation, in general, must be misleading. It endangers not only the individual patient but (if prevalent) also the herd immunity of the community at large. Such unreflected rejection of immunisation, in general, will inevitably do more harm than good.
It is concluded that the advice of some, by no means all complementary practitioners in relation to immunisation represents an area for concern, which requires further research. Complementary practitioners and patients alike should be educated about the risks and benefits of immunisation. Paediatricians should be informed about the present negative attitude of some complementary practitioners and discuss the issue openly with their patients.
I suspect that, had we heeded my caution, researched the subject more thoroughly, and taken appropriate action, the current pandemic might have produced fewer and less vocal anti-vaxxers, and fewer patients might have died.
I recently looked at the list of best-sellers in homeopathy on Amazon. To my surprise, there were several books that were specifically focused on the homeopathic treatment of children. Since we had, several years ago, published a systematic review of this subject, these books interested me. Here is what Amazon tells us about them:
Homeopathic remedies are increasingly being used to treat common childhood ailments. They are safe, have no side effects or allergic reactions, are inexpensive and, above all, effective. In this guide, Dana Ullman explains what homeopathy is, how it works and how you can use it correctly to enhance your child’s health. He recommends remedies for more than 75 physical and emotional conditions, including: allergies, grief, anxiety, headaches, asthma, measles, bedwetting, nappy rash, bites and stings, shock, burns, sunburn, colic, teething, coughs and colds and travel sickness
Without doubt, this is the most comprehensive book on homeopathic pediatrics. Included is a complete guide to the correct use of homeopathy, recommended remedies for the treatment of more than seventy-five common physical, emotional, and behavioral conditions, and valuable information on the essential medicines that all parents should have in their home medicine kits
Tricia Allen, a qualified homeopath, offers a host of practical advice on how to treat illness using natural, homeopathic remedies. Homeopathy differs from conventional medicine in that it does not only alleviate the individual symptoms of an illness, but treats the underlying state to ensure that the disease does not return, something which rarely occurs when using traditional remedies. This guide gives you advice on; what homeopathy is and how to use it; each stage of childhood and how to deal with the complaints that occur at that time of a child’s development; the most common childhood illnesses, how to take your own steps to treating them, which homeopathic remedies to use and when to seek medical help and first aid.
The Homeopathic Treatment of Children is indispensible at giving both a clear overall impression of the various major constitutional types, and also a detailed outline for reference at the end of each chapter. Not only does Paul Herscu draw from various sources (repertories and materia medica), he also adds indispensable original information from his successful practice.
The fact that such books exist is perhaps not all that surprising. Yet, I do find the fact that they are among the best-selling books on homeopathy surprising – or to be more precise, I find it concerning.
Simple: children cannot give informed consent to the treatments they receive. Thus, consent is given for them by their parents or (I suspect often) not at all. This renders homeopathic treatment of children more problematic than that of fully competent adults.
Homeopathy has not been shown to be effective for any pediatric condition. I know Dana Ullman disagrees and claims it works for children’s allergies, grief, anxiety, headaches, asthma, measles, bedwetting, nappy rash, bites and stings, shock, burns, sunburn, colic, teething, coughs and colds, and travel sickness. Yet, these claims are not based on anything faintly resembling sound evidence! Our above-mentioned systematic review reached the following conclusion: “The evidence from rigorous clinical trials of any type of therapeutic or preventive intervention testing homeopathy for childhood and adolescence ailments is not convincing enough for recommendations in any condition.”
And what follows from this state of affairs?
I am afraid it is this:
Treating sick children with homeopathy amounts to child abuse.