Chicken Little Down Under
The famed children’s story Chicken Little made fun of a ridiculous notion by a nervous chicken that ran hysterically around the barnyard screaming “the sky is falling, the sky is falling” after an acorn fell on its head. Of course, everyone knew the sky wasn’t falling, and the point of this story was to make light of a paranoid idea that may lead to mass hysteria.
Apparently some members in the media in Australia have now resorted to similar Chicken Little hysteria to attack chiropractic care. We witness this a few years ago when inflammatory articles in the U.K. and U.S. cried out, “Chiropractic causes strokes, chiropractic causes strokes.” Upon review, however, this accusation was later disproven by reputable research, but the damage to the chiropractors’ public image was fait accompli with this hit-and-run yellow journalism that gave no equal quarter to the chiropractic profession to defend itself at the time.
“The stroke question is basically resolved,” neurologist Scott Haldeman, MD, DC, PhD, and Associate Professor of Neurology at the University of California, said in a recent TIME article. Citing research that shows the risk of suffering a stroke following a chiropractic visit is extremely low, Haldeman’s own research turned up only 23 such cases among more than 134 million chiropractic manipulations. This is equivalent to one in 5.85 million office visits, which is less often than having a stroke while visiting a dentist, a hair salon, or being hit by lightning. In other words, chiropractic care was shown to be very safe in comparison to medical care, a fact never told to the public by Chicken Little journalists.
On April 22, 2016, Chicken Little raised her head again Down Under with a new attack on a DC adjusting infants for colic, “Doctors speak out against chiropractors treating children,” by Ann Arnold from the program “RN” on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation network.
According to the station’s website:
“With 60 distinct programs each week, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s RN is unique. It has become known as the Ideas Network, where people can hear the latest in science, books and publishing, religion, social history, the arts and current affairs…All programs are thoroughly researched and lovingly presented by some of Australia’s leading broadcasters.”
Despite this glowing description of “RN”, it was obvious Ann Arnold had not “thoroughly researched” nor “lovingly presented” this issue of chiropractic care for colicky babies. Instead, as Chicken Little is prone to do, Ann Arnold appeared hysterical with her comment, “Chiropractic treatment is claimed as a fix for everything from ear infections to tongue-tie.”
Just where is the “thoroughly researched” proof for her hyperbolic accusation?
Obviously this new Chicken Little is running around the media barnyard yelling another unproven allegation, “Chiropractic treatment is a fix for everything, chiropractic treatment is a fix for everything!” Indeed, what is her source or is this merely the imagination of Chicken Little?
In her article about colicky babies, it should be noted there was no victim in this case, no complaints by the parents nor were there any charges brought against the treating chiropractor. Anyone watching this YouTube video realizes it is an introduction how chiropractic care may help a common problem facing many families.
In fact, research now substantiates that chiropractic can help colicky babies. If this RN reporter had “thoroughly researched” this topic about pediatric chiropractic care, a simple Google search would have discovered articles on PubMed in support of chiropractic care for colicky babies, such as:
- The Chiropractic Care Of Infants With Colic: A Systematic Review Of The Literature.
- RESULTS: Our findings reveal that chiropractic care is a viable alternative to the care of infantile colic and congruent with evidence-based practice, particularly when one considers that medical care options are no better than placebo or have associated adverse events.
- Efficacy of Chiropractic Manual Therapy on Infant Colic: A Pragmatic Single-Blind, Randomized Controlled Trial.
- CONCLUSIONS: In this study, chiropractic manual therapy improved crying behavior in infants with colic.
- Manipulative therapies for infantile colic.
- CONCLUSION: The majority of the included trials appeared to indicate that the parents of infants receiving manipulative therapies reported fewer hours crying per day than parents whose infants did not, based on contemporaneous crying diaries, and this difference was statistically significant.
With this research in mind, Ms. Arnold’s article appears to be nothing more than an unsubstantiated witch hunt to cast aspersion at the idea of pediatric chiropractic care. Ms. Arnold clearly failed to do her homework on this issue, instead choosing to partake in fear-mongering with the assistance of Dr. John Cunningham, a spine surgeon, not a pediatrician, who ridiculed the concept that chiropractic care helps colic:
“Melbourne surgeon John Cunningham, who specialises in spines, watched that YouTube video [featuring chiropractor Ian Rossborough], and says he cannot fathom why a chiropractor would adjust the spine of a newborn.
“’There’s not many things that make an orthopedic surgeon emotional, but when you see a premature baby having its back cracked, it literally makes my eyes water,’ he says.
“’There would be risks of harm. There would be risks that the child could suffer some sort of fracture. Why would you do it? This is the thing that goes through my mind when I watch that video. Why on earth would you do that to a newborn?’”
Dr. Cunningham’s choice of words clearly indicates his bias – “back cracked” is a derogatory term that implies spinal fracture, which did not happen yet his comment is designed to frighten unaware readers. He also mentions “There would be risks of harm,” yet he offered no proof of any harm. He simply took a cheap shot at a very credible treatment by a rival professional about which he obviously knows nothing.
Now we see both a Chicken Little hen and her Chicken Little rooster in the barnyard acting hysterically about a topic neither know well. His comments were sheer slander without scientific support aimed solely to defame chiropractors. The adjustment of the infant’s spine by Dr. Rossborough on the YouTube video was safe, gentle and effective. What was obviously a helpful treatment supported by grateful parents was unjustifiably sullied by Dr. Cunningham’s unfounded and biased remarks.
Turnabout is Fair Play
On the other hand, if Dr. Cunningham wanted to scare the public about pediatric spine care, he might have turned his attention to the actual problems caused to infants by his medical colleagues as shown in a YouTube instruction video, FORCEPS DELIVERIES – PIPER FORCEPS | Medical Training Film.
Spoiler alert: Don’t be shocked on the use of forceps delivery where the OB-GYN uses an instrument shaped like a pair of large spoons or salad tongs that grabs the baby’s head to pull the baby out of the birth canal.
In another YouTube video, a news article reported a baby allegedly died after its head was crushed in a forceps delivery.
If the gentle spinal adjustment on an infant cradled in the lap of a caring chiropractor brings tears to Dr. Cunningham’s eyes as he said, these two videos should make him scream in disgust.
According to the Mayo Clinic:
Possible risks include:
- Minor facial injuries due to the pressure of the forceps
- Temporary weakness in the facial muscles (facial palsy)
- Minor external eye trauma
- Skull fracture
- Bleeding within the skull
- Bruising or lacerations to the baby’s head
- Bruising or lacerations to the cervix or vagina
- Facial nerve palsy
- Skull fracture
- Brain damage
- Intracranial hemorrhage
- Developmental delays
- Cerebral palsy
- Brachial plexus injuries
This list of injuries caused by forceps delivery suggests the numerous reasons why chiropractic care for infants is necessary.
Dr. Cunningham asked, “Why on earth would you do that to a newborn?” So let me give him a good answer. Quite often the need for chiropractic spinal care for infants stems after a traumatic birthing such as forceps delivery causing harm to the infant’s cervical spine.
Clearly there is research evidence that chiropractic care may help infants with colic as well as evidence from Mayo claiming medical care using forceps may badly damage infants at birth, facts Ann Arnold failed to discover as a journalist and Dr. Cunningham was unaware since he is a spine surgeon, not a pediatrician. It is obvious their main goal was to bash chiropractors even though his argument was unfounded in fact.
Indeed, turnabout is fair play. If Ms. Arnold and Dr. Cunningham were sincerely concerned about infant safety, where is their outcry about forceps delivery that is a more serious real threat than anything a chiropractor has ever done to an infant?
If Ann Arnold wants to expose real dangers to infants, instead of parroting Chicken Little journalism at the encouragement of Dr. Cunningham, she should have done her homework rather than accepting his opinion as medical scripture. Not only did she commit a huge disservice to the chiropractic profession, but she also added to the misery of those sleep-deprived families with colicky babies who might be helped with chiropractic care.
More Good Ideas
Since the program RN claims to be the “Ideas Network”, let me suggest the novel idea of a “fair and balanced” rebuttal to this biased article by allowing the chiropractors Down Under to defend themselves with another RN program on the benefits chiropractic care offers.
Perhaps in reparation for her assault on pediatric chiropractors, Ann Arnold could “lovingly present” in a non-hysterical manner to the Australian public advice how nondrug chiropractic care can help children of all ages.
Another program of great importance nowadays in this era of prescription opioid painkiller abuse for chronic pain would discuss how chiropractic can help adults with the No. 1 disabling condition in the nation, the workplace, and in the military—low back pain.
A recent controversial article in the MJA InSight newsletter of The Medical Journal of Australia, “Spinal fusion surgeries questioned,” is a topic that Dr. Cunningham actually has some expertise as a spine surgeon, although I daresay he most likely will disagree with the article that suggests, “Spinal fusion surgeries for chronic low back pain are on the rise, despite the lack of research to back their efficacy, and experts are now calling for tighter guidelines, including a waiting period.”
It would be interesting to put him back on his heels to defend the tsunami of unnecessary back surgeries done annually that have made him a wealthy man. After all, what’s good for the goose is good for the gander!
Imagine that—a nondrug approach to chronic back rather than spine surgery and the dangerous opioid painkillers patients are now forced to swallow by the medical society and Big Pharma.
Indeed, that would be a great idea for another program!
JC Smith, MA, DC
Chiropractors for Fair Journalism
 You Asked: Are Chiropractors Legitimate? Markham Heid @markhamh, TIME, April 6, 2016
 Charlotte Mitchell, Spinal fusion surgeries questioned, MJA InSight, 26 April, 2016