Doctors Divided Over Infant Chiropractic Care
Life is still about "firsts" for 8-month-old Maria Underhill of Canal Winchester.
The infant is learning to walk and beginning to speak her very first words.
For first-time parents Russ and Jessica Underhill, a new baby comes with new worries.
"You don't know what to expect, because it's your first baby," said Jessica Underhill.
"Being a new mom you're so nervous about everything your new baby is going through."
Six months ago, Underhill noticed Maria clicking her jaw and vomiting. The new mother discussed the problem with church member and chiropractor Dr. Chris Stevenson.
"We actually talked to Dr. Chris before we talked to our pediatrician," said Underhill. "Random times she (Maria) would vomit. I would move her a certain way. I would finish feeding her, she would vomit."
Stevenson suggested the couple consider an infant chiropractic checkup.
"The biggest problems we see are ear infections, colic or acid reflux," Stevenson said.
Stevenson has been treating babies for nine years and says at least 50 babies visit Gahanna Family Chiropractic during a six month period. According to Stevenson, subtle signs sometimes indicate larger problems.
"If they notice a baby will only breast feed on one side more than the other, or the baby likes to lay with its head in one direction and hardly ever turns it back the other direction," said Stevenson. "Spitting up, ear aches, notice the baby pulling on its ears all the time, that's actually a sign right away, hey there is something wrong.''
Vivianna Asbury, who is 2 1/2 months old, visited the chiropractor for the first time in April.
By applying 2 to 5 pounds of pressure, Stevenson said he could help balance Vivianna's spine using a technique called Logan's basic.
The technique can be used on adults and helps release tension by treating muscles that control spinal balance. Children from birth to age 2 are briefly held upside down to check for problems with their spines. According to Stevenson, "a couple of vertebra that are out of position" in the back can lead to a spitting up problem.
"We are able to push those bones back into place where they are supposed to be. It happens almost instantaneously for children," Stevenson said.
The Underhills said they noticed an immediate change in Maria.
"It was instant. She stopped vomiting. She stopped screaming," Jessica Underhill said.
Still, doctors are divided about the use of chiropractic care for infants.
"If we are dealing with an issue that is going to resolve anyway, why subject babies to something that may cause harm?" Dr. Wendy Anderson-Willis of Nationwide Children's Hospital said.
According to Anderson-Willis, issues like spitting up are common for babies, and some procedures that are OK for adults are not always recommended for children under the age of 18.
"There are parents that are still interested in alternative medicine and parents who use alternative medicine themselves," said Anderson-Willis. "I would say that I would not recommend that my parents take their infants to the chiropractor. I don't have any evidence that it really is going to be effective. I don't have any evidence that it's safe."
Stevenson shared a different perspective.
"We look for more function because once function stops, then that's when disease sets in," said Stevenson. "A lot of people think that when we are adjusting a little baby, we're going to do the exact same thing we do to (adults). That's impossible. My hands are way too big. This is more of a light-force adjusting and you don't want to mess with it if you don't know how to do it."
Parent Brad Asbury expressed his biggest concern about chiropractic care for his daughter Vivianna.
"My biggest concern was, Don't hurt my baby!'" said the father of two. "Natural parent instinct. They assured me, 'No, no, no, it's just a mild adjustment.'"
It has been six weeks since Vivianna Asbury first visited the chiropractor.
Her father said she is doing well and the family has not noticed any problems.
When asked if he would consider infant chiropractic care again, Asbury said yes.
For now, the conversation surrounding infant chiropractic care will continue.
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