Paediatric osteopaths continue to think they can treat a wide range of serious health conditions: This is a risk to the public

Much like paediatric chiropractic, there are many and serious issues with paediatric osteopathy including inappropriate treatment of babies as well as attempting to treat serious health conditions like asthma. The Osteopathic Centre for Children in London, UK, has recently announced a new course for osteopaths. Reading through this I was alarmed by many serious issues, not least of which is that these osteopaths appear to believe that they are doctors. UK osteopaths are not doctors and are instead musculoskeletal therapists very similar to chiropractors. They are not qualified to treat outside of musculoskeletal areas (e.g. back or neck pain) and certainly have no business handling prematurity, maternal mental health or (their words) “the seriously sick child”. The risk of an unqualified person addressing these sorts of serious health conditions cannot be understated. Let’s have a look at this course in more detail.

Course pre-requisites

The only pre-requisite for this course is “Osteopathy in the Cranial Field”. Cranial osteopathy is complete nonsense, conflicts with a modern understanding of the human body and there is no way it could possibly have any health benefit. I am honestly amazed that both osteopaths and the regulator allow cranial osteopathy to continue to be used as a treatment approach. Any course that builds on cranial osteopathy is, by definition, going to be mired in pseudoscience, misleading information and nonsense.

Obstetrics and paediatrics

In medicine, there is a good reason why there are separate specialists in obstetrics and paediatrics. They are very different things, each requiring specialist skills and knowledge. It isn’t reasonable for a single person to be a specialist in both of these areas of medicine. Osteopaths have a different view of this. They seem to think they can become skilled in both obstetrics and paediatrics as the course claims that it will enable osteopaths to develop their “obstetric and paediatric clinical skills”. This is the Dunning-Kruger effect at its finest. These osteopaths understand so little about these areas of medicine that they just don’t realise how little they actually know.

Birth trauma

Osteopaths and chiropractors who treat babies (almost?) always claim that they are treating “birth trauma”. We see this misconception repeated in the description of this course with training being included on “mechanical assisted birth interventions & strains”. In reality, this “birth trauma” is something that chiropractors and osteopaths have literally made up in order to try and justify their treatments. There is no such thing.

Conditions treated

The list of conditions that osteopaths will be learning about on this course is particularly alarming and includes:

  • Plagiocephaly (flat head syndrome)
  • Feeding issues
  • Sleep
  • Maternal mental health
  • Prematurity
  • Behavioural issues
  • The seriously sick child (their wording)
  • Enuresis (bed wetting)
  • Immunity and vaccination
  • Orthodontics

Osteopathy, including cranial osteopathy, is not effective for any of these conditions and UK osteopaths (like chiropractors) do not have the specialist expertise required to manage any of these things. In the case of things like immunity and vaccination, all an osteopath needs to know is that they should refer any questions or concerns about this to a qualified medical professional (e.g. GP).

If the idea of osteopaths treating these serious health issues doesn’t cause alarm, how about the idea of osteopaths treating newborn babies in a neonatal ward? Yes, apparently osteopaths on this course will get the opportunity to “treat babies in the Starlight neonatal ward in Barnet Hospital”! I do wonder if Barnet Hospital realise the level of pseudoscientific nonsense they are allowing to be used on newborn babies.


Like paediatric chiropractic, paediatric osteopathy is full of pseudoscience, false beliefs and misleading claims. In this course, UK osteopaths are learning to treat conditions that are far outside of their expertise. The idea of them treating prematurity, newborn babies and “the seriously sick child” is, quite frankly, frightening. The risk that this presents to unsuspecting members of the public cannot be understated. I think that the UK osteopathic and chiropractic regulators need to step in and set a minimum age limit for osteopathy and chiropractic treatment.

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