Calls are growing to ban spinal manipulation of infants in Australia after “horrifying” footage emerged of a Melbourne chiropractor performing the controversial treatment on a two-week-old.
A video posted on Facebook shows the baby being dangled upside down, tapped on the head and undergoing manipulation of its spine and neck.
The chiropractor also uses an activator – a small spring-loaded instrument – to deliver a controlled impulse to the spine, causing the baby to cry.
The unproven treatment is touted as a method to relieve colic, digestive issues, ear infections and sleeping troubles in infants.
But Royal Australian College of General Practitioners president Harry Nespolon said it was unnecessary and unacceptable.
“There is absolutely no evidence that it helps with things like colic or to settle babies,” Dr Nespolon said on Wednesday.
“These things are quite normal and most babies will recover with no treatment at all. There’s just no need.”
Dr Nespolon called on the Victorian government, and others, to ban the practice.
“The concept of manipulating a baby’s back is just horrifying,” he said.
“The government must start looking at this very carefully and decide whether or not they think it is okay to perform this treatment on a baby.”
Watch the video below
Victorian Health Minister Jenny Mikakos said the video was “extremely disturbing”.
“It’s appalling that young children and infants are being exposed to potential harm,” Ms Mikakos said.
She has referred the practitioner to the Chiropractic Board of Australia and the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency, asking for an investigation and action.
The board has oversight of industry standards, while AHPRA takes disciplinary action. Ms Mikakos is yet to hear back from the two regulators on their next steps.
The chiropractor’s practice has been contacted by AAP and asked for a response. The video and the practice’s Facebook page were wiped on Wednesday.
In 2016 another Melbourne chiropractor was temporarily banned by the AHPRA from treating children after he was filmed cracking the back of a four-day-old baby.
Premier Daniel Andrews described the latest video as “confronting”. He and Victorian Opposition Leader Michael O’Brien agreed it should be looked at.
“If I had a two-week-old baby who I was worried about their health, I would take them to a doctor or a maternal child nurse before I’d take them to a chiropractor,” Mr O’Brien said.
The Royal Australian College of Physicians and the Australian Medical Association also cautioned against the practice.
“The whole concept of spinal manipulation in infants is a dangerous one,” AMA Victorian president Julian Rait said.
“This is a potentially risky thing to do and yet there’s no evidence of any benefits.”
Associate Professor Rait said previous studies showed there could be adverse impacts, including paraplegia and bleeding on the brain.
The Chiropractic Board of Australia said it was aware of the videos.
“The board has made a strong statement about the care of children and has written to every chiropractor in Australia to warn them to comply with their professional and ethical obligations, which are clearly outlined in the board’s code of conduct,” a spokeswoman said.
The board had previously acted against chiropractors who failed to meet expected standards by limiting their registration, she added.