ARLINGTON, Va. -- Ear problems can be excruciatingly painful, especially in children. With 10 million new cases every year, ear infections are the most common illness affecting babies and young children and the number one reason for visits to the pediatrician -- accounting for more than 35 percent of all pediatric visits.
Before yet another round of "maybe-they'll-work-and-maybe-they-won't" antibiotics or the drastic step of surgery, more parents are considering chiropractic to help children with chronic ear infections, according to the American Chiropractic Association (ACA).
Dr. Joan Fallon, a doctor of chiropractic who practices in Yonkers, N.Y., has published research showing that, after receiving a series of chiropractic adjustments, nearly 80 percent of the children treated were free of ear infections for at least the six-month period following their initial visits (a period that also included maintenance treatments every four to six weeks).
"Chiropractic mobilizes drainage of the ear in children, and if they can continue to drain without a buildup of fluid and subsequent infection, they build up their own antibodies and recover more quickly," explains Fallon. She would like to see her pilot study used as a basis for larger-scale trials of chiropractic as a therapeutic modality for ear infections.
When treating children with ear infections, Fallon focuses on the back of the skull and the first vertebra in the neck. After an adjustment to these areas, which helps the fluid in the ears to drain -- and depending on how chronic the problem is and where they are in their cycle of antibiotics -- children can generally fight the infection off themselves. That means, for the average child, between six and eight treatments.
If a child's case is acute, Fallon will check the ear every day, measuring the ear and tracking the movement of the eardrum to make sure that it's draining. "I'll do adjustments every day or every other day for a couple of days if they're acute, and then decrease frequency over time," Fallon says.
Fallon often sees great success when she treats a child for an ear infection. "Once they fight it themselves, kids tend to do very well and stay away from ear infections completely. Unless there are environmental factors like smoking in the house, an abnormally shaped Eustachian tube, or something like that, they do very well," she says. "I have two large pediatric groups that refer to me on a regular basis. In the winter, when ear infections are most prevalent, I see five or six new children each week from each group," Fallon adds. "It's safe and effective and something that parents should try, certainly before inserting tubes in their children's ears."
Source: American Chiropractic Association