Space-age back healing

September 28, 2009 3:12:01 PM PDT
Chiropractors aren't just for adults anymore. Nearly 2 million kids in the United States saw a chiropractor last year, looking for help with everything from back pain to asthma. Now, space age technology is creating a new twist on treatments for smaller patients. It sounds like fun and games, but playtime turned painful for seven-year-old Hannah Smith. With a strained neck, Hannah's parents took her to a chiropractor.

Instead of the typical twisting and turning, Matthew Mendillo, D.C., of the Center for Chiropractic and Wellness in East Greenwich, R.I., uses a device originally created to assess wear and tear on space shuttles.

A sensor designed to find the problem spots on a shuttle is used to find the problem spots in the spine. A computer tells the chiropractor where to work. The device then gently taps on the specific areas.

"Have you ever seen a woodpecker pecking at a tree? It doesn't look likes it's doing anything, and then all of a sudden, there's a hole in the tree," Dr. Mendillo said.

The computer calculates the force needed for each tap, relieving pressure on the nerve.

Chiropractors say it's more consistent than traditional therapy, where experts rely on their own judgment on where and how much pressure to apply.

There's mixed opinions on whether children should see a chiropractor. The American Academy of Pediatrics says there's not enough evidence that it works for kids, and they caution parents not to rely on chiropractors for primary treatment of serious conditions.

For Hannah, it worked, and the pain in her neck is gone. She's learning how to enjoy play time that's a little calmer.

The treatment does not involve rotation of the spine, which, according to the Journal of Pediatrics, can cause serious injuries in kids.

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