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PLoS One. 2019 Jun 25;14(6):e0218940. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0218940. eCollection 2019.

Spinal manual therapy in infants, children and adolescents: A systematic review and meta-analysis on treatment indication, technique and outcomes.

Author information

1
IQ Healthcare, Radboud Institute for Health Sciences, Radboud University Medical Center, Nijmegen, the Netherlands.
2
Caphri Research School, Department of Epidemiology, Maastricht University, Maastricht, the Netherlands.
3
Research Group Musculoskeletal Rehabilitation, HAN University of Applied Sciences, Nijmegen, the Netherlands.

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

Studies on effectiveness and safety of specific spinal manual therapy (SMT) techniques in children, which distinguish between age groups, are lacking.

OBJECTIVE:

To conduct a systematic review of the evidence for effectiveness and harms of specific SMT techniques for infants, children and adolescents.

METHODS:

PubMed, Index to Chiropractic Literature, Embase, CINAHL and Cochrane Library were searched up to December 2017. Controlled studies, describing primary SMT treatment in infants (<1 year) and children/adolescents (1-18 years), were included to determine effectiveness. Controlled and observational studies and case reports were included to examine harms. One author screened titles and abstracts and two authors independently screened the full text of potentially eligible studies for inclusion. Two authors assessed risk of bias of included studies and quality of the body of evidence using the GRADE methodology. Data were described according to PRISMA guidelines and CONSORT and TIDieR checklists. If appropriate, random-effects meta-analysis was performed.

RESULTS:

Of the 1,236 identified studies, 26 studies were eligible. Infants and children/adolescents were treated for various (non-)musculoskeletal indications, hypothesized to be related to spinal joint dysfunction. Studies examining the same population, indication and treatment comparison were scarce. Due to very low quality evidence, it is uncertain whether gentle, low-velocity mobilizations reduce complaints in infants with colic or torticollis, and whether high-velocity, low-amplitude manipulations reduce complaints in children/adolescents with autism, asthma, nocturnal enuresis, headache or idiopathic scoliosis. Five case reports described severe harms after HVLA manipulations in four infants and one child. Mild, transient harms were reported after gentle spinal mobilizations in infants and children, and could be interpreted as side effect of treatment.

CONCLUSIONS:

Based on GRADE methodology, we found the evidence was of very low quality; this prevented us from drawing conclusions about the effectiveness of specific SMT techniques in infants, children and adolescents. Outcomes in the included studies were mostly parent or patient-reported; studies did not report on intermediate outcomes to assess the effectiveness of SMT techniques in relation to the hypothesized spinal dysfunction. Severe harms were relatively scarce, poorly described and likely to be associated with underlying missed pathology. Gentle, low-velocity spinal mobilizations seem to be a safe treatment technique in infants, children and adolescents. We encourage future research to describe effectiveness and safety of specific SMT techniques instead of SMT as a general treatment approach.

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