Calls grow to ban a chiro treatment on babies after 'horrifying' video

A disturbing Facebook video of a Melbourne chiropractor performing a controversial treatment on an infant has resulted ...
A disturbing Facebook video of a Melbourne chiropractor performing a controversial treatment on an infant has resulted in him being referred to regulators as medical groups denounce the practice. Photo: Facebook

Calls are growing to ban spinal manipulation of infants across the nation after "horrifying" footage emerged of a Melbourne chiropractor performing the controversial treatment on a two-week-old.

The video, posted to Cranbourne Family Chiropractic's Facebook page in August, shows the chiropractor hanging the baby, believed to be two weeks old, upside down and applying spinal and neck manipulation treatments.

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 labelled it 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 OK to perform this treatment on a baby."

Victorian Health Minister Jenny Mikakos said the video of the infant's treatment was "extremely disturbing".

"I was very upset after watching," she said on Wednesday.

She has referred the practitioner to the Chiropractic Board of Australia and the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency, asking that the matter being investigated.

The board has the power to issue industry standards, while the agency can discipline the practitioner, including banning him.

Ms Mikakos is yet to hear back from the two regulators about their next steps.

In the meantime, she's urging parents considering chiropractic treatment for their babies to think again.

"There is no credible evidence the manipulation of an infant's spine can cure things like infant colic or sleep issues," she said.

"It is important parents are aware that spinal manipulation on an infant and the potential injuries on that infant may not manifest themselves for many years."

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews described the video images as "quite confronting" and backed his minister's referrals, while Opposition Leader Michael O'Brien also believes the practitioner should be investigated.

"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 take them to a chiropractor," Mr O'Brien told reporters.

Peak expert groups – including the Royal Australian College of Physicians and other similar groups overseas – have cautioned against spinal manipulation in infants.

The Victorian branch of the Australian Medical Association is "alarmed" and wants a thorough investigation.

"The whole concept of spinal manipulation in infants is a dangerous one," Victorian AMA president Julian Rait said.

"This is a potentially a risky thing to do and yet there's no evidence of any benefits."

Associate Professor Rait said previous studies into the infant manipulation practice showed no statistical proof of any benefits, and adverse effects included paraplegia and bleeding on the brain.

The Chiropractic Board of Australia said it was aware of the videos and was assessing the concerns raised.

"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 for chiropractors," a spokeswoman said.

The board has previously acted against chiropractors who failed to meet expected standards by limiting their registration, the spokeswoman said.

With Kaitlyn Offer and Benita Kolovos